Saturday, 20 September 2014

Sunday 20 September 1964

When we left the vengeance-seeking Count last week, he was interrupting the work of a telegraphist to offer a massive bribe for sending out a false communication.  The decent old man is appalled by the offer, but, as he's missed the real message anyway while they were talking, is left with little choice other than acceding to the Count's request.  "You shall have nectarines, and peaches, and plums, and all the rest," the Count reassuringly coos to the guilt-stricken operator.

At the house of Danglars, the Baroness is visited by her lover Lucien Debray, but his real purpose is in seeing the Baron, whose angry suspicions of the pair are rapidly soothed by an invaluable piece of information Debray has for him.

Debray informs Danglars that a telegram arrived on his desk at the ministry revealing that the imprisoned king of Spain has escaped back to his homeland.  This will have dire consequences for the Spanish bonds that make up the main part of Danglars' fortune, so Debray advises him to sell them before the information gets out, and make himself "ten times a millionaire".  Director Peter Hammond gives us his most brilliant effect yet by showing us Danglars' reaction to the news in the reflection of Debray's monocle.

Meanwhile the Count de Morcerf stands before a tribunal, accused of treachery.  His defence is that the lack of witnesses to his supposed actions is a good indication that they didn't really happen.  So he gets a nasty shock when the president of the tribunal (Lee Fox) announces that a mystery witness has suddenly arrived.

The woman is veiled, but we can already guess who she is.  There's another interesting effect as we see the courtroom from behind the veil before the witness takes it off to reveal herself as Haydée, daughter of Ali Pasha.

Morcerf, who seems strangely untroubled by her description of how he murdered her father, claims it's all lies and that he's never seen her before.  But she claims the palm of his hand still bears a terrible, livid scar from the incident, and he's forced to show that it does indeed.

At the Count's abode, a shocked Cavalcanti is thanked for his help in achieving the Count's vengeance, but informed he's now surplus to requirements and packed off back to Italy with 5000 livres to gamble away as he chooses.  But he's told that his "son" Benedetto "must remain on stage until the final curtain".

It's then off to the opera for the count, where the troubled features of Albert de Morcerf in the opposite box are of rather more interest to him than the performance.

A drunken Albert bursts into the Count's box with Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud, demanding satisfaction from the Count for the exposure of his father.  The Count accepts the challenge (himself plucking the glove from Albert's hand), and, once Albert has been hustled off by his friends, admits to Maximilian Morrel that he was behind the general's downfall, and that he will kill Albert at 10 the following morning.

Beauchamp returns to see the Count, who refuses his demands to know what his connection is to what happened in Janina: "I do what I please, M Beauchamp, and it is always well done."  The Count refuses to call off the duel, but allows Albert the choice of weapons, secure in the belief that whatever's chosen he will be the victor.

Mme Danglars goes to see de Villefort, whose researches into the Count's history have turned up nothing sinister.  The lawyer sees this in itself as troubling: the Count's too blameless for comfort.  He thinks there's "Some devil of destruction" in the Count.

Mercedes, Albert's mother and the lost love of Edmond Dantés has, until now, remained in the background of the action.  Now she bursts to the forefront, visiting the Count to reveal she knows who he is, and begging him not to kill her son.

The Count coldly informs Mercedes of his 14 years of imprisonment, and produces the letter with which her husband helped to bring them about.  "It is not a misfortune," he says of Fernand's conviction.  "It is punishment.  It is not I who have struck him down, it is providence."  And yet, he's shocked to find his steely resolve wavering in the face of the woman he loved so long ago.

His feelings toward Mercedes can't trump his need for revenge, but he agrees to spare Albert.  "Now you are exactly as I dreamed you were," breathes Mercedes, "As you always were".  But she's not getting away with it that easily: the Count calmly explains that Albert's insult toward him was too great simply to be ignored, and if Albert isn't going to die, he will have to.

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