Out recently on DVD is The Count of Monte Cristo, the epic and much-filmed story of a wrongly imprisoned man’s plan for revenge, which he dispenses in great doses and in grand fashion after gaining possession of a prison mates’ fortune. This is the best classic (1934) version of the tale, efficient and simply structured with a great performance by Robert Donat, a perfectly sensitive, charming and intellectual style of swashbuckler.
An epic of this genre in terms of screen chemistry and personality is on TCM Tuesday 3:45pm: Captain Blood. As swashbucklers go (and there were many great ones, both movies and men) Errol Flynn probably ranks highest, and figuring in to that assessment was great material like this and a perfect co-star in Olivia DeHavilland, a maiden fair and fiery for any era. After the success of the aforementioned The Count of Monte Cristo, Robert Donat was meant for Captain Blood but turned it down, leaving the way clear for a new discovery, the impossibly vital, lively and roguishly charming Flynn, who up till that point just had the odd bit part. He was doing the screen tests along with the actresses trying out for the movie, when the studio spotted the undeniable and powerful chemistry between him and another newcomer, DeHavilland. What Warner’s and cinematic fate hath brought together the public ate up and demanded more of; the glorious pair were one of the screen’s greatest, most magnetic and captivating couples and went on to make eight films together.
Also new to DVD is The Man in the Iron Mask with Louis Hayward, Joan Bennett. Go way back in time, beyond the version you might have seen with Leo DiCaprio, or if you’re of another generation, the one with Richard Chamberlain, back, back, to 1939 and this version of the Alexandre Dumas story directed by the great James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Showboat). If you’ve seen the remakes you know about the twin brothers, one the King of France and the other unaware of his shared birthright, and the older Three Musketeers (plus a great performance by Warren William as their leader). Fun and lively with a great cast and super action scenes.