THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO is one of Alexandre Dumas père's most successful novels, along with THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Eugene O'Neill's father, James O'Neill, made a career of the role for decades, committing an abbreviat...展开ed version of it to the screen in 1913. Indeed, the IMDb lists more than thirty screen adaptations of the work. The most successful version was, I feel, the 1975 version starring Richard Chamberlain. Yet all of the versions I have seen -- about a dozen of them -- struggle to simply tell the tale, let alone infuse the story with the depth and breadth of Dumas' novel, which runs to a thousand pages in full translation, a novel which encompasses issues of morality, godliness, the Vampire Theater of Paris which flourished for half a century in France -- and the ultimate futility of vengeance.
Therefore, it is a shock to see this movie, recently restored and issued on DVD by Flicker Alley, directed by little-remembered Emmett J. Flynn in a two-DVD set with the recently rediscovered BARDELYS THE MAGNIFICENT. This is a wonderful retelling of the story, with fine performances in what was heralded as 'an all-star cast'. The script is carefully written to cover the scenes not shown on the screen. If the print seems, at times, to be a bit washed out, this apparent failure can be laid on the film stock of the era: the orthochromatic film that had been a standard of the industry for almost thirty years would be superseded within a couple of years by faster, panchromatic stock that could film blues more effectively.
If the story seems a bit rushed and more straightforward in its telling than seems proper: alas, that's what happens when you try to get so a long story into a two-hour picture, folks, and director Flynn does a highly competent job, given the Augean task.
Other reviewers for the IMDb have written that John Gilbert does not really seem to be John Gilbert in this picture. True enough, but he is not busy being John Gilbert the star, but an actor playing the Count of Monte Cristo, born Edmond Dantes in the fertile mind of Dumas. Although the modern film-goer may have some issues with the conventions of a movie made almost ninety years ago, those who enjoy silent films will find little reason to regret the time they spend watching this version.