Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sunday 26 July 1964

Right, time to settle yourself down for the second instalment of the BBC's Sunday evening classic serial (or, to be more accurate, me telling you about it).

We begin with a recap of Fernand, jealous cousin of Edmond Dantés' beauteous fiancée Mercedes (just to clarify, it's her he wants to marry, not him), retrieving the discarded letter the despicable Danglars wrote to expose Edmond as a Bonapartist messenger.

We move now to a new scene, the home of ambitious lawyer de Villefort (Michael Gough), and his beautiful new bride Renée (a very young Alexandra Bastedo).  De Villefort's at pains to assure his aristocratic in-laws (George Curzon and Valerie Taylor) that he doesn't share the political views of his father, a notorious revolutionist: he's even changed his name to distance himself from the old man.

All the characters we met last week, meanwhile, are having a jolly knees-up at Edmond and Mercedes' wedding feast.  Planning that they'll wed that very evening, Edmond, as is the form on these occasions, declares himself the happiest man alive: "A man can win his heart's desire without having despair and bitterness," he exclaims, which proves to be a spectacular example of tempting fate..., before you know it, there's a magistrate at the door to arrest Edmond.  There's a brilliantly effective crash zoom down to the bewildered couple here.

De Villefort, chosen to defend Edmond, confronts him with the charges against him (chiding him for his disbelief that someone would denounce him he utters another heavily portentous line: "In this world, one cannot afford not to know one's enemies").  When Edmond professes his ignorance of any wrongdoing in simply carrying out the dying wish of his captain, the kindly de Villefort is inclined to believe him.  But, when he happily hands over the letter he was given to deliver, Edmond unwittingly seals his fate by mentioning who he was meant to deliver it to: a Monsieur Noirtier - who is, unknown to him, de Villefort's troublesome father.

The camera gets uncomfortably close to Villefort's terrified face as this information sinks in.  Eventually rousing himself, he assures Edmond that all will be well, but that the first thing to do is destroy the letter.  Which he does.

He then hands the totally confused Edmond over to a stern pair of gendarmes (familiar bit part players Gertan Klauber and Artro Morris), who carry him off to a remote place where he's greeted by the discomfiting sight of a burly man sanding down a coffin.

Edmond's warders hustle him aboard a rowing boat, where the realisation of where they're heading sinks in: the forbidding rock that houses notoriously inescapable prison the Chateau d'If (the close-up of Alan Badel's face as he figures out his destination is tremendously effective).

As Edmond disbelievingly takes in the surroundings where he seems destined to take in the rest of his days, a distraught Mercedes tries to persuade Villefort to intercede on her betrothed's behalf.  Not surprisingly, there's nothing doing.

Edmond demands to see the prison governor.  His jailer (Michael Miller) suggests that if he behaves himself he might get the opportunity within a few years.  Unable to take any more of this treatment, Edmond snaps and tries to strangle the man.  The jailer's saved by some of his colleagues, who decide, based on this display, that Edmond must be a lunatic, and it seems there's some especially unpleasant treatment in store for him...

...and you can find out what it might be next week. 

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