Saturday, 9 August 2014

Sunday 9 August 1964

Last week, Edmond Dantés was overjoyed to find a friend in the form of the Abbé Faria, a neighbouring prisoner at the Chateau d'If.  This week he's starting to fear he's in the company of a madman, as the Abbé claims that the first thing he intends to do upon his escape is to become the richest man in the world.

But Edmond is eventually convinced by the Abbé's insistence that he knows of a vast treasure hidden away on the isle of Monte Cristo.  After all, the Abbé is a marvellous man, having crafted a sundial to warn him when the guards are on their way to his cell and made pens out of fish cartilage (the ink is wine - which the prisoners are allowed on Sundays - with soot added).

The pair expect to escape the chateau within three or four years (Edmond's been in for 11, and the Abbé even longer, so this is just a drop in the ocean).  Edmond makes an impassioned plea that, when they're not tunnelling, the Abbé imparts some of his vast knowledge to his fellow prisoner, helping him to become a man of learning.

We're now brought up to speed with what's happened to Edmond's lost love.  In a brief, wordless scene beautifully directed and performed by Peter Hammond and Natasha Parry and Philip Madoc, we learn that Mercedes is now married to her cousin Fernand, and they have a baby.  And also that Mercedes is deeply unhappy.

The tunnelling out of the prison is shown not as a romantic endeavour but as an arduous and hugely unpleasant task, with Edmond almost buried beneath an avalanche of dirt.

The Abbé's developing Edmond's mind in more ways than just teaching him languages.  The old man uses logic to show Edmond just who betrayed him: suddenly it becomes clear that Danglars and Fernand are the fiends who condemned him to 11 years of hell.

And then there's the matter of de Villefort.  It turns out the Abbé knows the lawyer's revolutionary father, and so is able to suggest a reason why he had Edmond thrown in prison so hastily.

The Abbé warns Edmond of the dangers of seeking vengeance, but it's now become the main purpose of Edmond's existence.

The escape doesn't happen quite as planned: suddenly the Abbé falls ill, and quickly dies, but not before giving Edmond a scrap of paper that reveals the whereabouts of his fabulous treasure.

Edmond hits on an innovative plan to escape the Chateau d'If, substituting himself for the Abbé's shrouded body.  He wasn't quite banking on the force with which it would be flung from the battlements into the sea.

The shot of Edmond underwater, struggling to free himself from the shroud, is utterly thrilling, but looks like it must have been an absolute nightmare for poor Alan Badel to film.

The guards argue over whether they heard a scream when the body was tossed into the sea.  "Well, he's dead now," says one of them to settle the matter.

But he's wrong, of course.  Edmond is rescued by a ship named La Jeune Amelie, with a jolly first mate named Jacapo (David Calderisi, who's quite sexy in a big nosed sort of way, and whose bum we get a curiously lingering look at).

We're not given time to get over that before an extremely dashing extra takes centre stage at the wheel of the ship.  Hello sailor.

The appropriately named Captain Baldi (Michael Golden) seemingly has very specific ideas of the sort of young men he wants aboard his ship.  Nonetheless, when Edmond proves he can steer the ship better than any of the crew (not bad for a bloke who hasn't even seen the sea in 11 years), he's offered a place aboard the ship.

And much rejoicing was had by all!

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