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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG-13 // September 10, 2002
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Earl Cressey | posted October 8, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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While it seems like another movie featuring the musketeers pops up rather frequently, films based on Alexandre Dumas' other works are slightly less common, though are by no means rare. The Count of Monte Cristo has been adapted an astonishing twenty-three times (according to the IMDB) in TV and film before this latest attempt hit the big screen, the most recent being a television mini-series starring GĂ©rard Depardieu that premiered in 1998. Directed by Kevin Reynolds and starring Jim Caviezel (Edmund Dantes) and Guy Pearce (Fernand Mondego), this latest retelling did $54 million at the box office earlier this year.

Edmund Dantes, a commoner, and Fernand Mondego, a noble, appear to be the best of friends, having met in childhood. However, Mondego is secretly jealous of Dantes and has been plotting to take away his bride-to-be, Mercedes. When the opportunity arises, Mondego accuses Dantes of treason and he is sent to the island prison Chateau D'lf. For years, he languishes in isolation, slowly giving in to madness when a fellow prisoner, Abbe Faria, tunnels into his cell. After hearing his story, Faria offers to educate Dantes, as well as share with him the location of a hidden treasure, if Dantes will help tunnel. Dantes agrees, and after thirteen years imprisoned unjustly, he escapes. Using his newfound wealth to propel himself up the social ladder, Dantes slowly and precisely plans his revenge.

Though it is fairly reminiscent of The Mask of Zorro in places, The Count of Monte Cristo makes for a mostly engaging viewing experience. A bit slow in the beginning, the film really picks up after Dantes is imprisoned and later plots his revenge. Though he performs adequately here, I'm unsure if Caviezel was the best choice for Dantes, as for all that's happened to him, he never quite shows that much rage. Pearce, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying himself in the role and is quite effective as the film's main villain. Although there are a few plot twists, the film is somewhat predictable. Despite this, the film kept my interest throughout and was an enjoyable way to use an afternoon.

Video:
Count of Monte Cristo is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen and is enhanced for widescreen TVs. The transfer is excellent throughout, with only some minor flaws. Detail is consistently good, with the exception of the more murky scenes, in which it suffers slightly. There are a few specks in the print, as well as some minor edge enhancement. Colors throughout are well saturated, and range from vibrant and warm to restrained and gloomy, with accurate flesh tones, and deep blacks.

Audio:
Count of Monte Cristo is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and French. The 5.1 track adequately presents the material, with the main focus on the film's terrific dramatic score, which sounds full and rich at all times. With only minor sound effects, the surrounds are devoted mainly to reinforcing the score and providing ambience. Dialogue throughout is crisp and clean with no distortion. Optional subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

Extras:
While not billed as a 'special edition,' Count of Monte Cristo does boast some entertaining and interesting features.

First up is a screen-specific audio commentary with the director, Kevin Reynolds. Reynolds' track is mainly focused on the more technical aspects of the film, such as casting, editing, and shooting, though does compare the novel to the film, as well as share some anecdotes from filming. While not without some pauses, I found the track to be an engaging listen.

Next we have An Epic Reborn, a thirty-four minute documentary that is split into four parts, which can be played individually or together. The first is The Pen, which features Christopher Lagier, a Professor of French Literature, discussing Dumas and his works. Second is Adapting a Classic, in which screenwriter Jay Wolpert chats about how he adapted the novel and the liberties he took with it. Third we have, The Napoleonic World, which describes the film's sets and locations. Last is The Clash of Steel, which features action choreographer William Hobbs taking the viewer through the process used to create the fight scenes in the film.

Then we have En Garde: Multi-Angel Dailies which is narrated by Reynolds and features the final fight sequence from two different camera viewpoints. Reynolds discusses how he used the two camera setup to enhance the final swordfight.

Layer by Layer: Sound Design comes next and demonstrates to the viewer how complex audio tracks are built from different elements in comparing the final track, with dialogue only, with music only, or with sound effects only.

Also on the disc are four deleted scenes, all with introductions and reasons for their deletion from Reynolds and Stephen Semel, the editor, as well as the THX Optimizer audio/video tests.

Summary:
The Count of Monte Cristo is a mostly entertaining film, highlighted by the performances of the leads and a compelling story. The DVD boasts an excellent audiovisual presentation, as well as some interesting extras. Fans should definitely pursue a purchase, while others may want to try it as a rental first.

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