Mask of the Avenger
Cast & Crew
In 1848, in Casamare, Italy, at the statue of the revered Count of Monte Cristo, military governor Commander Viovanni Larocca announces the expulsion of the invading Austrian army. Later at Count Dimorna's luxurious castle, Larocca discovers the count has evidence that large transfers of money were made to a personal Swiss account in Larocca's name. Fearing exposure, Larocca murders Dimorna and makes it appear as if the count committed suicide upon being discovered a traitor. Upon returning home on leave, the count's son, young Captain Renato Dimorna, receives a cool reception from the townsfolk, to his bewilderment. When he is attacked for being a traitor's son, Larocca comes to his aid, taking him to the Dimorna castle, now the commander's headquarters. Renato, whose leg is injured, recovers in his old room while remaining watchful of the commander and his suspicious second-in-command, Colardi. Meanwhile, Jacopo, a local boy, visits Maria D'Orsini and her friend, Rollo D'Antorras, to inform them of Renato's return. That evening Maria visits Renato, but is dismayed by his solicitude toward Larocca. After returning home, however, Maria tells her faithful old companion Zio that she believes Renato is being held prisoner against his will. Later, Renato, who is feigning the seriousness of his injury, sneaks into a hidden passageway to eavesdrop on Larocca while the commander makes arrangements to sell the city's art collection to merchant Signor Donner. After Donner departs, Renato overhears Larocca order Colardi to arrest Rollo and his family. Later that night the sword at the Monte Cristo statue vanishes, and as Colardi's soldiers bring Rollo into town under arrest, a mysterious masked figure attacks them, declaring himself the ghost of Monte Cristo. Rollo flees to Maria's, where he tells her about his parents' murder and his strange rescue. Meanwhile, Larocca and an armed guard search the D'Orsini estate and discover Rollo, but the masked figure arrives and battles the guard, before taking Rollo, Maria and Zio to the forest. There, Maria realizes the masked man is Renato, who declares his intention to expose Larocca and avenge his father. By a prearranged plan, Maria dresses as The Avenger and rides into the castle courtyard to divert the soldiers, allowing Renato to get back into his room. Later, after Larocca makes the final deal with Donner, The Avenger stops the merchant's carriage and takes the signed agreement. Sneaking back into the castle and his father's study, Renato breaks open Larocca's trunk and finds a ledger with coded information. He is caught by Colardi and a scuffle breaks out. Renato knocks Colardi unconscious and leaves Larocca's agreement crumpled in his hand. After Larocca finds Colardi, he kills him. Back in the forest, Renato and the group decode the ledger message, which instructs Renato to go to a small cove near Rollo's family estate. There he watches Larocca meet two small boats from an Austrian ship anchored off shore. Renato follows Larocca and the Austrians to the garrison, where Larocca tricks the Italian guard into surrendering their arms and the Austrians take over the fort. Renato returns to tell the group he believes an invasion is imminent. Rollo convinces Renato he must remain to discover the invasion date and he and Zio ride off to bring troops. Before morning, Rollo and Zio are caught and killed by Larocca's guard and Maria is taken prisoner. Renato is arrested at the castle and placed in the tower under Maria's cell. When Larocca pleads with Maria to leave for Switzerland with him, she learns the invasion will be the next day and tells Renato. Knowing there is no time to ride for the army, Renato hopes to rouse the townspeople to retake the fort and shell the ships in the cove. Maria distracts Larocca while Renato, as The Avenger, escapes and rides into town to convince the skeptical townspeople. When Larocca arrives and reveals The Avenger's identity, the people are in doubt until Jacopo rings the church bell signaling the arrival of the Austrian fleet. As the townspeople storm the fort, Renato realizes Larocca has fled with Maria. He intercepts their carriage and duels with Larocca and, with Maria's help, kills the commander. The townspeople stave off the Austrian ships, saving Casamare and Italy.
Philip Van Zandt
Robert W. Filmer
Richard La Marr
Laura K. Brooks
William H. Yetter
Robert R. Stephenson
John De Simone
Claire Du Brey
Jesse Lasky Jr.
Charles Lawton Jr.
Mask of the Avenger (1951)
I leave my blade to the people of Casamare. If it ever be drawn again may the cause be justice!
Mask of the Avenger opens with these words, etched in the base of a statue of The Count of Monte Cristo the base also enshrines the sword of the hallowed nobleman. The statue is in the city of Casamare, in Italy which in 1848 is in the midst of a war with Austria. The corrupt military governor of Casamare, Viovanni Larocca (Anthony Quinn) has been looting the city's art collection, diverting funds to a Swiss account. He goes to the castle of Count Dimorna (Wilton Graff), who confronts Larocca with evidence of his theft. Larocca shoots the Count in cold blood and puts the gun in his hand, telling others that he was working with the Austrians and committed suicide when his "treason" was discovered. Captain Renato Dimorna (John Derek) returns from battle to find his father dead, the townspeople shunning him, and Larocca and his men occupying his father's castle. Renato pretends to accept Larocca's story, and also feigns a serious leg injury; while confined to his room, he uses his knowledge of the castle's secret passages to ride in the night to gather information on Larocca's lies and avenge his father's death. He is aided by sweetheart Maria D'Orsini (Jody Lawrance), her friend Rollo D'Anterras (Eugene Iglesias), and Jacopo (Dickie LeRoy), a local boy. Renato also masks his identity during his nighttime rides, and uses the sword of the Count of Monte Cristo in his campaign for justice.
Bosley Crowther in The New York Times called the film a "lush Technicolored action picture," in the spirit of previous Count of Monte Cristo movies: "There are night-riding, ambuscades, sword fighting and scaling castle walls, and there is also a beauteous lady who does a little night-riding herself. She is played by Jody Lawrance, and of her the best that we can say is that she wears her nineteenth-century Levis in fashionable dude-ranch style. However, Anthony Quinn is full of evil as the villainous military boss and Arnold Moss is the picture of dark deception as the boss' right-hand worm." Crowther also acknowledges the throwaway nature of the film: "We won't say that Mask of the Avenger is anybody's Gone with the Wind (1939), but as a fast, flashy costumed horse-opera, it is energetic, funny and without harm."
Columbia Pictures raided the Dumas bibliography again the following year with The Brigand (1952), reuniting director Phil Karlson, female lead Jody Lawrance, and featuring another memorable villainous performance from Anthony Quinn. (The swashbuckling lead in this film was handled by Anthony Dexter, Columbia's discovery who previously played the title role in their biopic Valentino - 1951). In between these two Columbia releases, Quinn appeared in support of his acting hero Marlon Brando in Elia Kazan's Viva Zapata! (1952), for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar®. Quinn would not work again with John Derek until almost 40 years later, co-starring with Derek's then-wife Bo Derek in Ghosts Can't Do It (1990). This cinematic disaster was written, directed, shot and edited by Mr. Derek.
Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Director: Phil Karlson
Screenplay: Ralph Bettison, Jesse Lasky, Jr., Philip MacDonald
Story: George Bruce, from the novel by Alexandre Dumas
Music: Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr.
Editing: Jerome Thoms
Art Direction: Harold MacArthur
Cast: John Derek (Capt. Renato Dimorna), Anthony Quinn (Viovanni Larocca), Jody Lawrance (Maria d'Orsini), Arnold Moss (Colardi), Eugene Iglesias (Rollo D'Anterras), Dickie Leroy (Jacopo), Harry Cording (Zio), Ian Wolfe (Signor Donner).
by John M. Miller
Mask of the Avenger (1951)
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Irving Pichel was hired first as director and began work on the film, but was replaced in late October 1950 by Phil Karlson when Pichel accidentally injured his foot. Jody Lawrence, a former "Aquacade" swimmer, made her film debut in Mask of the Avenger.
Released in United States Summer July 1951
Released in United States Summer July 1951