28 December 2009 | dbdumonteil
The Dantès redemption
How many versions of the famous novel are there in the world?Even the "best movie of all time "(sic) ,according to the IMDb users ,"Shawshank redemption", owes a lot to Alexandre Dumas and his count: Andy is Dantès and Red is Faria.
Robert Vernay loved this novel so much he filmed two versions of it;the first one,reportedly the best (I have not seen it yet)was made in 1942 and featured two parts .So does this one :to see the whole ,the audience was requested to come back to the theater and pay again.One thing for sure,Jean Marais 's aristocratic look and his harsh face make him the perfect actor for this Nemesis role .The fifties version was in color , then something rare in the French cinema ,and was made with care and respect for the public.From start to finish ,Robert Vernay holds his audience spellbound because he knew to tell a story,a thing the N.W. used to ignore,with a few exceptions of course.
Part 1: Betrayal Once again,Dumas combined history with fiction with talent.It begins in 1815,when king Louis the Eighteenth was on the throne and Napoleon was about to come back (Les Cents Jours).More than an innocent's plight,it's the opportunism of the magistrates ,waiting to see where the wind blows which is masterfully shown.On the king 's desk,there's a music box with a bird singing an old nursery rhyme which goes like this:
"J'Ai Un Beau Château Ma Tantirelire ..................... Nous Le Détruirons Ma Tantirelirelo" (I 've got a beautiful château .............................. We shall raze it to the ground..)
When Napoleon arrives ,for a short while ,just before Waterloo,the first thing he does in the king's office is to play the little tune.
The sinister Château D'If and its dark spooky dungeons ,the meeting with L'Abbé Faria ,and the escape are depicted brilliantly.
Part 2: Revenge (is a dish best eaten cold)
Generally ,in these movies in two parts (the French used to say "Epoques"= eras ),there was a summary (for people who could not have seen the first part);sometimes lines on the screen, more often a voice-over.Here Robert Vernay found a more interesting way: the hero tells his story to his henchman .The plot becomes very melodramatic with plenty of new characters and the story is not always as clear as in "betrayal" .There's even a touch of "Oliver Twist",written seven years before "Monte Cristo" .Marais is as impressive as the statue of the Commendatore and he 's got his duel in the end ,finally!
All in all,if you like a good story,told with gusto and panache,this version of the famous novel was made for you