Evidently, I am failing in my mission to report on movies.
I am covered in shame.
(And powdered sugar, too, evidently.)
Okay, so we've got one of the great adventure stories of all
time, The Count of Monte Cristo, originally written
in book form by Alexandre Dumas. Even though that part's French,
and the movie takes place in France, and people drink wine out
of big brown bottles and write with quills and wear shirts with
frills, this movie still makes a good adventure flick. Not necessarily
a good action/adventure flick. The word "action" now either
means explosions (it got that meaning in the '80's) or people
on wires suspended in air kicking other helpless people in the
face in slow motion while the camera pans around them (it just
got that meaning recently). Not that I don't like action, I
do. It's just that there's no kung fu on wires and no high explosives
in this movie.
Okay, it's pretty long too: over two hours. And that part right
after the beginning, when our hero's in solitary confinement
at the prison of the Chateau d'If, it sort of drags. Still,
it's establishing mood. You may not appreciate it at the time,
but before you leave, you will.
See, there's this guy, Edmond Dantes, and he's a pretty innocent
character. Still, he and his friend, the noble-born Fernand
Mondego, have a reasonably swashbuckling time on a merchant
ship, and are good buddies, as the movie opens. They put in
at the island of Elba where the British have imprisoned Emperor
Napoleon. Edmond innocently suggested to go there when their
ship captain became deathly ill, he innocently takes a letter
from Napoleon to deliver, innocently gets promoted by the merchant
company chief to captain of the ship for his sheer guts to put
in at Elba, which allows him to innocently move his timetable
to get married to his true love up two whole years.
Of course, he's going down.
Still, it's interesting to see the transformation of the character
from a happy-go-lucky guy who gets betrayed by those whom he
thought he could put his trust in (his shipmates, his friend,
the law). Sixteen years can give a reasonably bright guy like
our hero time to cook up one hell of a revenge. When he alights
from his balloon (in his new identity as the Count of Monte
Cristo) at the party he's throwing for all his betrayers, you
look up at the screen and go, "Ooh, here comes the Devil!"
Truly great adventure. No big-big name actors, so the characters
have a little room to breathe. It's not too convoluted; apparently
there was some extensive re-telling of the story in order to
get it into movie form, but now I want to read the original
story, and that's saying something for a French author. Somewhat
melodramatic at times, but that's the price you pay for good
adventure. You can only have your hero brood for so long before
he's compelled to get up and crack some bones in the name of
righteous, white-hot revenge.
Good payoff, go see it.