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Somewhere in my dimly remembered past, probably in my late-teens, I watched the made-for-TV movie of The Count of Monte Cristo (1975) and fell in love with it. I mean, it had a pretty great cast — Richard Chamberlain as Edmund Dantes, Tony Curtis as Mondego, and Donald Pleasance as Danglars.
Half a lifetime later, I decided to revisit the movie for Snark Week and arrived at the conclusion that teenage Sarah was clearly delusional. In fact, I actually had to hit pause at one point to see if there were somehow two Count of Monte Cristo movies staring Richard Chamberlain, and I just happened to be watching the shittier version. Alas, there was only the one. All those bewildered looks I used to get when I’d enthusiastically sing the praises of this movie? They make total sense now.
Here’s the thing about this version of The Count of Monte Cristo — because there’s only, like, 8,000 versions out there — it comes SO CLOSE to being good in terms of the costuming, but at the last second veers away into crazy 1970s land. There are plenty of historical films that were made during the ’70s that don’t smear the decade like a grease stain over the entire production, but this one, I’m afraid, is not one of them. It doesn’t just look dated … It looks 1970s dated. Which, I might add, looked bad even a few scant years later in the 1980s. In fact, it lets you know immediately that this film was made in the ’70s, because in the very first scene you’re treated to this look:
And of course, it’s the women’s costumes, makeup, and hair that really reflect the sheer level of 1970s-ness happening in the movie.
The other downside about this movie is that it DRAGS FOREVER. Of course, when you take into account that this originally aired in several segments on television, it probably didn’t seem like it was plodding along derpily towards the big climactic sword fight between Dantes and Mondego. And if it had been moving at a glacial pace but had provided more opportunity to ogle Mr. Chamberlain in his prime, I probably would not have much to complain about.
No, instead we are treated to about 45 minutes of a disgustingly grubby Edmund in prison, and his bromance with the Abbé Faria as the two plan their excruciatingly slow escape from Chateau d’If.
But once he achieves freedom and finds the abbé’s treasure, he turns into a silver fox. Ok, cool, I can dig it. His wardrobe also improves greatly, but, because this is the 1970s, we still are not spared from such gems as the following:
The other characters have equally bizarre costumes. I say “bizzare” because that’s the only word I can come up with that describes what are actually well-crafted costumes made from really awful materials.
Then again, we do get treated to this shot of Edmund being oh so imperious:
While searching for images to use in this post, I came across a couple in particular that confused me:
Yeah, that’s Taryn Power (Tyrone Power’s daughter from his second marriage, I might add), the girl who plays the air-headed Valentine. There’s three scenarios I can come up with to explain these photos:
- Studio execs decided to take the two prettiest people in the movie and pose them together as a couple, despite the fact that Richard Chamberlain’s character is a few decades older than Taryn Power’s character.
- Taryn Power was originally supposed to play both the part of Valentine and Mercedes, so the studio shot some promo pics with Chamberlain and Power together as Edmund and Mercedes, before the role of Mercedes was recast with Kate Nelligan. Both actresses were born within 2 years of one another, so it’s possible.
- Whoever was paid to promote this flick gave precisely zero fucks and I should stop overthinking it.
There are dozens of versions of The Count of Monte Cristo out there. Which one is your favorite … or most snark-worthy?