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Saturday, November 15, 2014


Independent producer Edward Small belied his name in a series of adaptations from some big Alexandre Dumas novels, starting with THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO in 1934. Megged with budget-stretching moxie by Rowland V. Lee, the film found its heart in Robert Donat’s melancholy swagger, leaving a mark none of Small’s follow-ups could quite match. This one came closest with a dashing turn from Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., getting close to his father’s old brio as the once-conjoined twins (convincingly ‘sold’ with solid analogue camera tricks) out for revenge; forceful, if bumpy, helming from Gregory Ratoff; and for a villain, character actor Akim Tamiroff as film’s shortest, stoutest lethal swordsman. (The final duel is seriously undercranked, but impossible to hold against him.) Yet, what ultimately makes this one go is Dumas, adding an unexpected emotional core to the brothers’ relationship with a spiritual, para-normal, psychological element. It pushes Fairbanks past his limits as an actor, but he gets the idea across. Beware Public Domain copies!; the latest DVD edition from Hen’s Tooth is complete and sourced from excellent materials.

DOUBLE-BILL: Jean-Claude Van Damme updated the story (himself!) in DOUBLE IMPACT/’91. Not seen here, the film has its fans.

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