“It was not my sword, Mondego, but your past that disarmed you!”
During the time of Napoleon’s exile, a falsely accused sailor (Robert Donat) escapes from a dungeon with the help of his secret cellmate (O.P. Heggle), who tells him about hidden treasure on the deserted island of Monte Cristo. Donat emerges under a new identity as a count, eager to reconnect with his fiancee (Elissa Landi), who — thinking Donat dead — has married one of the men (Sidney Blackmer) responsible for Donat’s imprisonment. Soon Donat begins his calculated plan for the downfall of Blackmer, the corrupt city magistrate (Louis Calhern), and a greedy officer (Raymond Walburn).
This first sound adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ beloved classic is cited by many as one of the best, and it remains a rousing, finely told adventure tale. In his Hollywood debut, Donat is convincingly determined in his efforts, and suitably noble when events take an unexpected turn in the final portion of the screenplay. There is undeniable satisfaction to be had as each of the self-serving men who have gravely wronged Donat (indeed, sent him to his supposed death without concern) get their come-uppance in a fashion exactly suited to their temperament; while the saintly Heggle may worry about Donat’s feverish resentment getting the better of him, Donat makes it clear that his vengeance is not just specific to his own cause but symbolic, meant to rid the world of at least a few sources of unmitigated corruption.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Robert Donat as Edmond Dantes
- Fine cinematography
No, but it’s recommended. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.