This poster image is bad ass, isn't it? Robert's all like, "Yo my sword is sharper than yours!" Also colorization is quaint and good fun when it was contemporaneous to the film. (But so annoying when it's tacked on later!) They need you to know that his shirt is baby blue. Cool!
This movie has everything I could want: sword fighting, lost treasure, a prison break, elaborate revenge plots involving calf bound books and Robert Donat in a Regency era naval uniform. I've pretty much died and gone to heaven folks and they were playing Count of Monte Cristo.
It's well known that Robert Donat turned down the lead role in Captain Blood, leaving the door open for Errol Flynn to make his name synonymous with swashbuckling. But it wasn't until I watched the Count of Monte Cristo, that I saw why he was Hollywood's first choice for the part. Donat transforms from "unsophisticated" young Navy man, into a somewhat crazed prisoner with a HUGE beard, then into the sleek, calculating, seemingly-hard-hearted Count all within two hours.
Elissa Landi plays his lady love, who if not entirely faithful at least has the good sense to feel bad about marrying his rival after she believe Edmund dead. Landi has some great scenes when Donat returns to her life, first in silent recognition, then breaking down at his seeming indifference to her. I love scenes where people are emotionally gutted but they have to play it cool. Guess that's why I like Jane Austen adaptations so much. I'd previously only known Landi from the Cary Grant movie "Enter Madame" for which I've always had a soft spot. Donat and Landi also have some nice love scenes together up in a tree, a device entirely invented for the movie, I think. It's a great trick though, if you can get a girl in period costume up a tree she pretty much has to accept your proposal of marriage or face a really awkward time getting down.
There are some memorable supporting performances from perpetual villain Louis Calhern and O.P Heggie as the prisoner/scholar/saint Abbe Faria. Heggie had a whole career out of playing crazed hermit types, as he played the memorable Hermit in James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein.
On the whole, Count of Monte Cristo is good swashbuckling fun. It sticks pretty close to the novel and moves at an efficient pace. After a bit of googling I see that the movie was referenced in V for Vendetta. You'd think having a clip being shown in a disappointing adaptation of an Alan Moore comic would guarantee DVD sales, right? Apparently not, as this movie is mighty hard to find. (Thanks to awesome KDA who sent me a copy.) This film really deserves a big shiny, new DVD release and a big shiny new audience to appreciate it.
Bonus Eye Candy: That Diabolical Disguise
This still allows you to see the incredible disguise that Edmund Dantes worked out for his Count of Monte Cristo revenge plot: Gray hair and a mustache! Seeing Robert Donat here in regency era fancy man's clothes is really making me wish Jane Austen adaptations would have been more popular in the 1930s. Oh time machine, where are you when I need you!? Also this picture has gone straight to my boots and shirtsleeves screensaver. If you adjust the contrast you can see the boots, though, really you will loose the face detail. All this nattering just proves my earlier point that the movie needs a better DVD release so I can make screen caps.
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