October 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Audio Books Reviews

The Novels of Alexandre Dumas: Read by Bill Homewood

The Count of Monte Cristo 2 CDs NAXOS NA203912 [2hrs 38mins] Crotchet

The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask the two novels in one package of 5 CDs NAXOS NAX23412 [6hrs 30 mins] Crotchet

These historical romances by the great 19th century novelist Alexandre Dumas have always been popular with big and small screen, and radio play producers. (We have even had Sons of the Musketeers, Son of Monte Cristo and a Countess of Monte Cristo as well as a Treasure of Monte Cristo.) Robert Donat appeared as the dashing, vengeance seeking Count in the definitive 1934 version of The Count of Monte Cristo and a number of TV miniseries have been produced notably with Richard Chamberlain and, more recently, an excellent French TV version with Gerard Depardieu in the title role. There have been numerous films of The Three Musketeers including a pretty thin 1935 version with Walter Abel as D’Artagnan, a high-spirited version with Gene Kelly filmed in 1948, a jokey version with gory bits issued in two parts (The Queen’s Diamonds and The Revenge of Milady) and another feeble attempt (with Charlie Sheen and Keefer Sutherland) in 1993. The title was also used for a 12 episode John Wayne serial set in the French foreign legion! There was also a screen cowboy series, 1935-1943, (again involving Wayne) known as The Three Mesquiteers! The Man in the Iron Mask was filmed in 1939 with Louis Hayward and gleaned good reviews which is more than could be said for the duller 1998 version with Leonardo diCaprio. The story has also been made a s a TV miniseries with Richard Chamberlain.

These Naxos CDs clearly offer a much fuller, more detailed, more accurate abridgement of the Dumas novels. The Three Musketeers has the young D’Artagnan saving the Queen’s honour and the throne of France despite the villainy of Milady Clarik and the machinations of Cardinal Richelieu scheming against King Louis XIII. Then the same swashbuckling foursome return to the aid of France twenty years later to exchange a Louis XIV, found wanting, with his twin brother, The Man in the Iron Mask. Seaman Edmond Dantès is wrongly accused as a Bonapartist and thrown into the infamous Chateau d’If prison, off Marseilles, from which he emerges to find great wealth, assumes the title of The Count of Monte Cristo and wreaks vengeance on the three men who had betrayed him. One has the opportunity of not only enjoying thrilling fast moving adventures written by a master storyteller but also savouring the quality of Dumas’s descriptive writing, his ironic wit and the historically accurate settings. (The Count of Monte Cristo could almost be regarded as an allegory of conditions in France between 1815 and the revolution of 1830.)

Bill Homewood reads with passionate conviction and his French pronunciation (for the many place and character names etc) is near-perfect. His delivery has shade and contrast so that the ear is held. For the most part, he colours his voice convincingly but the use of another actor or two – especially an actress for the feminine roles – would have afforded welcome contrast. Chapters are separated by some less well-known but reasonably well-chosen classical musical excerpts from the NAXOS catalogue.

Strongly recommended

Ian Lace

In passing I would also recommend from The Folio Society their version of Dumas novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, atmospherically illustrated by Roman Pisarev. This is the definitive version of this wonderful story – over 1,000 pages long but worth the perseverance for a full, broader perspective of the story and the times in which the story is set.

 

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