SNARK WEEK: The Count of Monte Cristo by Way of the 1970s

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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 Chamberlin 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 Chamberlin, 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:

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TIMELESS.

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.

Donna Summer is in this movie? Sweet!

Donna Summer is in this movie? Sweet!

This dress came straight off the Gunne Sax rack.

This dress came straight off the Gunne Sax rack.

Albert_Valentine

Guys. She has a side ponytail.

A. SIDE. EFFING. PONYTAIL.

A. SIDE. EFFING. PONYTAIL.

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. Chamberlin in his prime, I probably would not have much to complain about.

edmund5

How are his lips so damn perfect???

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.

gumdiseasey

All I could think of was how gum disease-y Edmund would have been when he finally got out 14 years later.

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:

edmund2

The makeup department appears to have eschewed foundation in favor of Silly Putty.

Edmund, your polyester lace cravat makes baby Jesus cry.

Edmund, your polyester lace cravat makes baby Jesus cry.

polylace

The polyester lace is like an STD, apparently.

He's wearing a naugahyde couch, guys.

He’s wearing a naugahyde couch, people.

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.

Villefort

The fabric on Villefort’s coat is at least 50% plastic garbage bag.

villefort2

Oh sure, you think this looks like a perfectly fine silk frock coat. Trust me, it’s got “petrolium byproduct” written all over it once you see it in action.

Then again, we do get treated to this shot of Edmund being oh so imperious:

imperious

The little strand of loose hair absolutely works for me.

While searching for images to use in this post, I came across a couple in particular that confused me:

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How is it that she looks older than him?

002_re_MONTECRISTO

There’s a serious Breck Girl vibe happening here.

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:

  1. Studio execs decided to take the two prettiest people in the movie and pose them together as a couple, despite the fact that Richard Chamberlin’s character is a few decades older than Taryn Power’s character.
  2. Taryn Power was originally supposed to play both the part of Valentine and Mercedes, so the studio shot some promo pics with Chamberlin 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.
  3. 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?

 

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About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Website

Sarah discovered her dual passion for history and costume right around the age of twelve. Dragged kicking and screaming to her first Renaissance Faire at Black Point, she was convinced she was going to hate it, but to her surprise, she fell head over heels in love with the world of reenactment and dress up immediately. Her undergraduate degree is in Clothing & Textile Design, and she has a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture. When she’s not hauling crap to SCA events and ren faires, Sarah enjoys reading true crime books, writing fiction, and sewing historical clothing from the Middle Ages through the 20th-century. One of these days, she might even start updating her old costuming blog again.

12 Responses

  1. Karen

    I, too, “rocked” the side ponytail…thanks for bringing back THAT image! I work in a library and my uproarious laughter at today’s post had people shushing me! The baby Jesus comment…seriously…too funny!

    Reply
    • Sarah Lorraine

      So, being a child of the 80s, I always associated the side-ponytail with that decade because I rocked it hardcore for most of my elementary school life. But now I see that its genesis has deeper roots…

      Reply
  2. Charity

    I saw this a few years ago and was bored out of my mind.

    If I want a Richard Chamberlain fix, I’ll just watch “The Thorn Birds” … again.

    Reply

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