Saturday, 23 August 2014

Sunday 23 August 1964

Last week the man formerly known as Edmond Dantés, now styling himself the Count of Monte Cristo, had disguised himself as a priest and confronted two gendarmes over their treatment of an unfortunate wretch who'd threatened to murder state prosecutor and pillar of the community M. de Villefort.  The Count manages to convince the men that their captive is in fact his servant, a little the worse for drink, and wrests him from their charge.

The Count then questions the man, named Bertuccio, about his apparent hatred of de Villefort.  Bertuccio reveals that it stems from de Villefort doing nothing to intercede in his brother's execution.  In flashback, we learn that, many years before, Bertuccio had followed the lawyer to the home of his mistress, intending to kill him.  Watching through the trees he saw him digging a hole.

Rosalie Crutchley is briefly glimpsed as the lady of the house, who has just given birth.

The baby is given to de Villefort, who, Bertuccio realises in horror, intends to bury it.  Bertuccio leaps upon the would-be murderer and there follows a dramatic fight scene shot from one of Peter Hammond's beloved high angles.  Bertuccio eventually gets the better of his opponent and, leaving him for dead, absconds with the baby boy.  The peasant tells the Count that he raised the child with his sister, but that his "bad blood" led him to grow up like a "mad dog", eventually robbing his foster family of their savings.  He was last known to be working in partnership with a dodgy character going by the name of Cavalcanti.

Keen to have someone as keen on revenge against de Villefort at his side, the Count welcomes Bertuccio into his service.  They head off, the Count leaving behind his massive diamond for the acquisitive Caderousse.

What with former shipmate Jacopo and his brother, Bertuccio, and twinkly banker Mr Thompson all now working for him, the Count's got quite the gang.  But there's one more member he's keen to add to it.

The Count heads off to Constantinople for an audience with Sultan Mahmoud (Henry Oscar).  He saves a mute Nubian (Roy Stewart) from having his hand amputated, and acquires the man as his slave.  He gets a belly dancer too.

But the object of the Count's visit is the Sultan's latest concubine, Haydée (Valerie Sarruf), daughter of the late potentate Ali Pasha.  As her father was slain by General de Morcerf, who helped condemn Edmond Dantés to years and prison and then stole his beloved, the Count thinks she'll make a most suitable instrument of vengeance.  The initially reluctant Sultan is persuaded to give Haydée up by the gift of an enormous emerald.

Director Peter Hammond seems particularly fascinated by Valerie Surruf's eyes, the camera almost filling the screen with them.

Talk of Edmond Dantés' beloved brings us to the woman herself, now the wife of her cousin the General and the mother of Albert (Sandor Eles).  Theirs is a worryingly close relationship, he speaking to her more like a lover than a mother.

Albert has some friends visiting to meet the man who saved his life a short while previously when he was set upon by bandits.  Bemonocled Lucien Debray (Gary Hope) is a politician and a lover of Madame Danglars, wife of the millionaire banker.  Raoul, Baron de Chateau-Renaud (Barry Boys), is an aristocrat and soldier.

During a recent campaign, Chateau-Renaud was helped out of a tricky spot by Maximilian Morrel, who he's brought along and who we met last week.  Lastly there's the principled journalist Beauchamp (Jerome Willis).

Albert's mysterious saviour is due to arrive on the stroke of 10.  He does, and his identity comes as little surprise...

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