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Series / The Count of Monte Cristo (1964)

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The Count of Monte Cristo is a 12-part 1964 BBC miniseries based on Alexandre Dumas' classic novel of the same name. It stars Alan Badel in the title role.

Edmond Dantes is a naive and amiable young sailor enjoying an upturn in his fortunes. He has just been promoted to captain, and is set to marry his pretty fiancee Mercedes. However, his successes arouse the jealousy of others, principally his love rival Fernand and shipping clerk Danglars, who anonymously denounce him as a spy for Napoléon Bonaparte. Edmond is arrested and brought before a prosecutor, Villefort (Michael Gough), who realises Dantes is innocent but for self-serving reasons still orders him incarcerated in the Hellhole Prison Chateau d'If.

While in prison, Dantes befriends an elderly inmate named Abbe Faria, an educated man who makes Dantes his pupil and helps him discover the truth of his imprisonment. Before dying, Faria also tells Dantes of a vast treasure hidden on the island of Monte Cristo. Dantes finally escapes, finds the treasure, and transforms himself into the mysterious and fabulously wealthy Count of Monte Cristo. Finding that his betrayers have all prospered in his absence, the Count sets about exacting a cruel and painful revenge on them.

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Tropes in this version of the story include:

  • Adaptation Deviation: This version is largely faithful to the book, though given the source novel is a 1000+ page Doorstopper, some plot lines and characters are inevitably omitted, notably the one involving Mme de Villefort poisoning her relatives.
  • Adapted Out: Villefort's father Noirtier and his young son Edouard are both omitted.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: Averted. Unlike many adaptations, the novel's original ending is retained and Dantes doesn't get back with Mercedes.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Averted; this TV miniseries from the 1960s is rather surprisingly among the very few adaptations that keeps the subtext between Eugenie and Louise intact.
  • The Alcatraz: The Chateau d'If is reputed to be inescapable, but Dantes manages it.
  • Anonymous Benefactor: Dantes is this to the Morrel family.
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  • Blackmail Backfire: Major Cavalcanti tries to blackmail Benedetto into keeping him around. It results in Benedetto killing him.
  • Bodybag Trick: How Dantes escapes from the Chateau d'If.
  • Canon Foreigner: The "Inspector of Prisons" who speaks to Dantes in the Chateau d'If has no counterpart in the novel.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: A recurring theme in Fernard's career. Besides falsely denouncing Edmond as a spy in order to steal his fiancee, he deserted the French for the British at Waterloo, fought for the French against his native Spanish and betrayed his patron Ali Pasha to the Turks.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: The Count excels at this, from casually paying 3 million Francs for a house to ludicrously overpaying for Mme Danglars' horses, then fitting them with diamond encrusted harnesses.
  • Death by Adaptation: Major Cavalcanti is murdered by Benedetto, whereas in the book he just returns to Italy and isn't heard from again.
  • Duel to the Death: Twice subverted. Albert challenges the Count to one for betraying his father, until Mercedes intervenes. Fernand himself then challenges the Count, but flees when he realises who the Count really is.
  • Every Man Has His Price: This is the Count's standard MO. It almost fails him when he encounters a scrupulously honest telegraph operator.
  • Flashback: There's one of Bertuccio discovering Villefort and Mme Danglars' illegitimate child.
  • Hellhole Prison: The Chateau d'If.
  • Historical Domain Character: Louis XVIII.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Fernand to Mercedes, until he gets rid of Dantes.
  • Hope Spot: Villefort is set to release Dantes, until he realises the intended recipient of the letter given to Dantes by Napoleon was Villefort's own father Noirtier.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Albert's adventures in Rome and the Count rescuing him from Luigi Vampa happen off screen. Albert just recounts them later.
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