In his Emmy-nominated portrayal of “Edmond Dantès,” Richard Chamberlain demonstrates the utmost self-control and patience in his epic quest for revenge and redemption in the 1975 version of The Count of Monte Cristo.
The film begins in the French port of Marseille, where we see the main characters awaiting the arrival of Dantès’ ship. The beautiful Mercédès is Dantès’ fiancèe. Count Mondego is Dantès’ rival, who covets Mercédès. Caderousse desires Dantès’ position as captain. Finally, Danglar is an accountant and financier who does not appreciate Dantès’ honest accounting.
Mondego, Caderousse, and Danglar bring a false accusation against Dantès regarding a letter given to him by his dying captain. The local prosecutor, de Villefort, demands to read the letter. In it, he finds incriminating evidence involving his father and Napoleon Bonaparte that will ruin his political ambitions. He immediately destroys the letter and declares Dantès innocent of the charges brought against him.
The next day, however, as Mercédès and Dantès are rehearsing for their upcoming nuptials, Dantès is bound and carried away without any explanation. He awakens on his wedding day to find himself imprisoned on an island at the Chateau d’If, where he wastes away, nearly going mad. Until one day his solitude is interrupted by a scratching sound under the floor of his cell. Up climbs the Abbé Faria, who has been digging a tunnel to the sea wall of the Chateau d’If for three years. A priest and learned man, he has made his own tools from the few items he has in his cell. Dantès wants to learn everything he can from the elderly Faria.
As time passes, a special friendship grows between Dantès and Faria. Up until this time, Dantès has been sure there was some kind of mistake regarding his arrest, never thinking ill of de Villefort. As they work in their tunnel, Faria decides to help Dantès figure out who could possibly be behind his unjust imprisonment. Once Dantès and Faria make the connections between Danglar, Caderousse, de Villefort, and Mondego, Dantès begins to chant their names, the hunger for revenge energizing him as he chips away at the rock.
Early one morning, a near-death Faria rushes to Dantès to tell him the location of a vast, immeasurable treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo. Faria hands over the map and gives Dantès a mandate to escape, find the treasure, and do good in this world. Dantès vows to find the treasure and do good with it, but only after he exacts his revenge on his enemies.
The death of Faria provides the perfect opportunity for Dantès’ escape. As a free man, Dantès first task is to sail to the Isle of Monte Cristo to fulfill his promise to Faria. He finds the treasure and declares himself the Count of Monte Cristo. Though he seems haunted by Faria’s admonishment to let go of his anger and allow God to repay the evil done to him (“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”), the Count is convinced that he is God’s chosen instrument of vengeance. One by one, and without directly harming his enemies, the Count brings to light the earlier crimes and terrible character flaws of Mondego, Caderousse, de Villefort, and Danglar.
There are notable differences between the 1975 movie and the 2002 version of The Count of Monte Cristo, starring Jim Caviezel.
First, one would think that a prisoner’s appearance would be quite altered after a terrible fifteen-year existence in the Chateau d’If. As portrayed in the 1975 version, Dantès is pale, a shadow of his former self, and very gray-haired. But in the 2002 version, the only thing changed about the appearance of Dantès is that he has a goatee. He still looks quite young and healthy. I found it hard to believe that the only person who recognized him was Mercédès.
Secondly, in the 2002 version, though Dantès does not know why he is imprisoned, he knows who is responsible. After his escape, he is directly involved in baiting the traps to ensnare all of his enemies. Dantès’ revenge has nothing to do with the evildoers’ previous crimes, such as the wrong done to the daughter of Ali Pasha and the horrible acts carried out by de Villefort.
Third, in the 2002 film version, the relationship between Dantès and Mercédès is more modern. They have premarital sex, which produces their son. The pregnancy causes her to go through with a hasty wedding to the philandering, alcoholic, gambling-addicted Mondego, whom she never loves. Upon Dantès’ return, she has an affair with him. Dantès kills Mondego and they live happily ever after. But in the 1975 version, Mercédès is a modest and mature woman. She does not feel forced into a marriage with Mondego. Rather, she seems to love and respect him, and is pained to see his downfall in the end. She refuses Dantès’ offer to come away with him because she realizes that the man she loved so many years ago no longer exists. Instead, she moves to Africa to support her son who has decided to go to war in order to restore honor to the family name. Dantès understands, affirms the truth and goodness of her decision, and they part ways.
Finally, the 2002 version includes more swordplay and bloodshed.
Both are very good film adaptations and will have you on the edge of your seat, but I prefer the 1975 version for its lack of sexual indiscretion. After seeing both of these movies and how very different they are, I definitely want to read the book (reviewed HERE by Lisa) to see which one remains truer to Dumas’ story.
Leslie Wiggins enjoys her life as SAHM to four children, two boys and two girls. She loves Jesus, family, and reading and writing. She blogs at Lux Venit and writes book reviews for The Discerning Reader.