The Count of Monte Cristo / Man Friday (Blu-ray)
Timeless Media / 1975 / 212 mins / NR and PG
Though Timeless Media hasn't given this double feature a series title like Jackie Chan Beginnings, this one could almost be dubbed as Lost Works of Great UK Actors. This Blu-ray disc features two films, one starring Richard Chamberlain (The Count of Monte Cristo) and the other Peter O'Toole (Man Friday). Even though these are certainly not their best films, they certainly are a unique showcase of their smaller work.
"The Count of Monte Cristo" is a TV movie adaptation of Alexander Dumas' classic tale of revenge. Edmond Dantes (Richard Chamberlain) is falsely imprisoned by his friends, but learns of a secret treasure from a mad inmate. After making his escape and claiming the treasure, he utilizes his new wealth for revenge on his prosecutors. This production hits most of the right notes with some fantastic set pieces and great cinematography. The cast includes some familiar faces such as Trevor Howard (Superman), Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot) and Donald Pleasence (Halloween). However, because of the TV movie format, the whole thing seems rushed from the editing to the acting. As a result there are several scenes so awkwardly cut that it becomes confusing at times.
"Man Friday" is a simple yet effective interpretation on the classic tale of two men trapped on an island. Robinson Crusoe (Peter O'Toole) befriends a savage he dubs Friday (Richard Roundtree) and attempts to educate him as best as a stuck-up Englishmen can. Through their various fights involving fairness and how to live a happy life become quite heated, Crusoe slowly begins to understand the innocent nature of Friday and the misguided ways of his own ideals. The acting between the two is the best part of the whole film with O'Toole and Roundtree giving their all in these performances. But, again, this production is also hampered by some strange editing. Also, it has one of the most inappropriately off-beat endings I've ever seen.
The one thing these two movies share in common, besides the fact that they both star great English actors, is the mildly sloppy direction and editing. Other than that, every other element of these two films work exceptionally well and it's . As far as lesser known movies go, these two are certainly worth seeking out for the performances alone.
Let's put it this way; this is a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and the quality is pretty much equal on both discs. The video quality has some grain issues and the audio is very basic. This is a transfer that isn't suited for the high standards of Blu-ray, but plays just fine for a DVD release. I'm not too sure why Timeless Media decided on releasing a Blu-ray considering it looks exactly like the DVD both in scale and quality.
The only extra included is a photo gallery for each film.
Despite the pointless Blu-ray transfer, these are two rare films certainly worth the coinage. They certainly have their issues with pacing and editing, but everything else works so well that it more than makes up for the shortcomings. These are some fine performances by Richard Chamberlain and Pete O'Toole that are enough to recommend this double feature.