Saturday, 16 August 2014

Sunday 16 August 1964

We begin this week with the escaped Edmond Dantés, now brought ashore by his new shipmates, contemplating his reflection: no longer that of a ragged prisoner but of a shaven, coiffed gentleman.

Edmond's friend Jacopo helps him get to his destination: the isle of Monte Cristo, where lies, if the Abbé Faria wasn't just a raving madman, the greatest treasure in the world.  After the dingy prison sets that dominated the last couple of episodes, it's genuinely thrilling to see Alan Badel out in the open, climbing rocks and running over sand.  He perfectly communicates both Edmond's joy at being free and his steely, almost frightening, determination to reach his goal.

His quest bringing him close to desperation, Edmond eventually finds the right rock, and blows it up, revealing a cave wherein he finds a vast sea of gold and jewels.  He's quite happy about that.

The scene changes to the Rome branch of London bank Thompson and French, where Mr Thompson (Donald Eccles) is startled by a visit from a man styling himself "The Count of Monte Cristo" (he claims to have just received the title from the Pope), and followed by an entourage laden down with heavy chests.

The count wants a valuation of his possessions, and on seeing their quality, Thompson and his clerk Firbank (Arthur R Webb), are happy to oblige.  They agree to sell the lot for him, estimating it will raise 150 million livres.

Thompson, it emerges, was once the banker of Edmond Dantés' old employer Monsieur Morrel in Marseilles.  The Count learns from the banker that on Edmond's capture the shipowner did everything in his power to get the young captain released, ruining his own reputation in the process.

And, as if by magic, we're back at Morrel's office in France, where his son Maximilian (Edward de Souza) discovers him preparing to blow his own brains out.  The reason? The Pharaon, pride of Morrel's fleet (and Edmond's old ship) has sunk, leaving him a ruined man.  Maximilian's horrified but, chillingly, accepts that his father's suicide is the best way to salvage the family's reputation.

But, just before Morrel can redecorate his office with the contents of his skull, a most unlikely fairy godfather turns up in the form of Mr Thompson, who announces that the house of Morrel's money worries are over: a mysterious benefactor has given them a gift of 1 million livres (on the condition that his identity remains a secret).

The Count's next port of call is a tavern, which he visits in the guise of a priest.  It turns out that the owner of this hostelry is none other than his old friend Caderousse (who doesn't recognise him).  Claiming that Edmond died in prison, the priest produces an enormous diamond he claims Edmond wanted shared between Caderousse, Fernand, Danglars and Mercedes.  He draws from the innkeeper the story of how the happy-go-lucky sailor came to be imprisoned, including his own part in it, which he claims to have bitterly regretted ever since.

As the raddled publican bitterly relates the story of how Danglars became a millionaire banker and Fernand a titled military man (and husband to Mercedes), the camera focuses to great effect on Michael Robbins mouth, dribbling more wine with each angry revelation.  In Edmond's priestly disguise Alan Badel remains so solemn throughout the meeting that his sudden anger that suffuses his countenance on learning of Mercedes' marriage is electric.

The episode ends with the priest interceding on behalf of a poor wretch (Cyril Shaps) being dragged to prison by a pair of gendarmes (Walter Sparrow and Peter Thomas).

The man's crime was shouting out in the street that he was going to murder the state prosecutor, Monsieur de Villefort.  De Villefort, of course, being one of the chief targets of Edmond's revenge, the priest greets this information with a bloodcurdling laugh...

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