Adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas pere, a sailor is unjustly put in prison for many years and learns of a treasure that enables him to become a count and get revenge against his enemies.
In 1815 France was ruled by Louis XVIII, but Napoleon in exile on the island of Elba is plotting a return to power. On a ship in a storm the captain is ill and dying. Edmond Dantes (Robert Donat) is in command and hopes the captain will live. The captain gives Dantes a paper and tells him the word “Elba” before dying.
In Marseilles ten men are taken to the guillotine. The ship has been sighted, and De Villefort Sr. who favors Napoleon is hopeful. Mercedes (Elissa Landi) goes to the dock because she is in love with Dantes. De Villefort learns that the captain died and plans to meet Dantes. The ship-owner greets Dantes, learns he has the letter from Elba, and appoints him captain. Dantes finds Mercedes and kisses her. Mondego (Sidney Blackmer) advises her not to marry Dantes, but she says she will give him a family.
Mondego tells De Villefort Jr. (Louis Calhern) about Dantes, and De Villefort issues a warrant and thanks Mondego. They want to save her from an appalling marriage.
Mercedes tells Dantes that she wants a formal proposal. He laughs and asks her to climb a tree with him. They sit on a branch, and he proposes. She kisses him.
At a party the ship owner proposes a toast to the engaged couple. Dantes is summoned for an important message, and Mondego asks Mercedes to dance. De Villefort Sr. goes outside with Dantes, who then gives him the letter. Dantes goes back in, and the police arrest De Villefort. Inside Dantes is arrested too.
De Villefort Sr. finds that his own son ordered his arrest. The son agrees to protect him by sending him away on a ship under guard. The father says that Dantes knew nothing about it. The father is taken away to a ship, and Mondego thanks the son. Dantes comes in, and De Villefort Jr. questions him about the letter. De Villefort learns that M. Danglars knew and calls him in. Danglars says that Dantes gave the order to stop at Elba and received the letter; but Dantes says the letter was given to the captain. Dantes accuses Danglars of wanting to be captain and Mondego of wanting Mercedes. Dantes asks him to question Morrel, but De Villefort sends Dantes to prison and says he has had his trial.
Dantes is taken as a political prisoner with orders not to be allowed to see anyone. Dantes writes a note to Morrel, and the prison manager promises to deliver it. Guards order Dantes not to talk to prisoners. Dantes is locked in cell 27.
Napoleon has escaped from Elba. De Villefort comes to see Louis XVIII, who is given the news that Napoleon has landed in France. He gives De Villefort a medal and calls for the minister of war.
Mondego learns that Dantes is listed as dead, and he gives that message to De Villefort. Mondego goes to Mercedes and tells her that Dantes was shot and killed.
Dantes is growing a beard and asks the guard if he can see the governor; but they do not speak to him. They decide to feed him through the door. Dantes has his hands chained to the wall. When he is released, he collapses.
French soldiers fight at Waterloo for Napoleon and are defeated. Madame De Rosas (Georgia Caine) is dying and tells Mondego she is leaving Mercedes in his care. He says he will always love her. She asks Mercedes to promise to marry Mondego, and she takes his hand. A priest marries them as she sees Mondego as Dantes.
Dantes lays on the cell floor and remembers Mercedes and others. He hears tapping in the wall and pounds on the wall. He taps with a pitcher and gets replies. He removes a block from the wall and sees an old man, who is glad he is a prisoner too, not a guard. He says he burrowed thirty feet through walls for six years. He is the Abbé Faria (O. P. Heggie). Dantes learns he has been there for eight years.
Dantes puts a figure in his bed and goes through the wall to visit Faria in his cell. Faria shows him tools he made. Faria shows him the knowledge he has inscribed on the walls in various languages. He has offered guards six million francs to release him. He tells Dantes about a buried treasure. He wanted to use it to help humanity, but others wanted it and had him put in prison when he would not tell them where it is. He offers to share it with Dantes. He wants vengeance, and Faria says he must have patience to get anything. Dantes says he will obey him. Dantes goes back to his own cell. Faria thanks God.
Mercedes is talking with a friend and says Mondego is treasurer to the King. He kisses her and says where his business is. Mondego calls her countess and their son viscount.
Danglars tells De Villefort that everything is arranged and gives him his shares in the company. He promises to silence a deputy.
Dantes and Faria work on digging a tunnel. Dantes keeps track of the days, and the year is 1831. Faria tells him it is high tide. They can hear the sea. A cave-in injures Faria, and Dantes carries him back to his cell. Faria gives him his secret papers and says death is beautiful.
Dantes cries for help in Faria’s cell and hides. Two guards come in and find that Faria is dead. Dantes listens from below until they go out. He cuts off the shroud and takes Faria’s body into the tunnel and puts him on his own bed. Dantes goes back and gets inside the shroud. The two guards come back with a stretcher, tie the feet, and put the body on the stretcher. Outside they throw the body into the sea with a ball and chain weighing it down. Dantes gets out of the shroud and makes it to the surface. He swims and finds a log. Sailors on a nearby ship see him and pick him up. They notice his skin is white and assume he was a prisoner. He gets a shave and a haircut. Captain Vampa (Mitchell Lewis) learns he is a sailor and says they are smugglers who share. Dantes takes the name Sinbad.
Vampa finds Dantes looking at Monte Cristo with a telescope. He goes ashore and follows his treasure map to a grotto. He uses gunpowder to blow open a room and finds it filled with the Spada treasures.
Dantes goes back to Marseilles and hires spies to find out about three people who are now in Paris. He is the Count of Monte Cristo and says he will meet them in Rome.
At his estate Dantes practices fencing. Dantes asks Jacopo (Luis Alberni) what he found out in Paris. He will get Mondego with flattery, Danglars with money, and De Villefort with the law. Jacopo tells him about Viscount Albert Mondego.
Vampa has captured Albert, and Dantes arrives with Jacopo. The Count of Monte Cristo pretends to be rescuing Albert.
Mercedes tells Albert that she wants to meet the Count of Monte Cristo. Albert says he asked for a copy of her portrait. De Villefort comes to see Mondego to go to a bank. Mondego meets the Count of Monte Cristo, and De Villefort comes in to take Mondego away. Mondego plans to meet the Count again. They leave, and the Count of Monte Cristo meets Mercedes, who looks at him strangely. They sit down, and he says he would have known her anywhere from her portrait. He kisses her hand and goes to inspect a house he has not seen. She asks Albert who he is. She is frightened by him.
Dantes meets with Danglars about his banking. Danglars is reluctant to give him “unlimited” credit. Dantes asks him for six million for the first year, and Danglars agrees. Dantes asks him to invest in a stock for him.
Dantes shows Jacopo how accurately he can shoot.
Danglars tells Mondego and De Villefort that he will follow the tips from the Count.
The great detective Fouquet (Clarence Wilson) comes to see Dantes. He gives a report on Edmond Dantes and says he probably drowned while trying to escape. Dantes says he heard that he was picked up by smugglers. Fouquet says he will find him and goes out. Dantes tells Jacopo that he must learn what can be known and later he will tell De Villefort.
Dantes meets with Albert and his fiancée. He is planning a party for his father.
Mercedes meets Dantes and shows him his death certificate from 1824. She asks who the Count of Monte Cristo is. He says their souls are not the same. He says only the present is true, not the past. Once Edmond and Mercedes loved each other. He says Dantes lives another life now. She asks what he wants. He says he wants intelligence and graceful living. He is a friend of Mondego and admires his wife. She says she has forgotten the dead Dantes. He leaves, and she cries.
At the formal party in a palace Dantes greets guests. Danglars tells Dantes it is lavish. He says he, Mondego, and De Villefort all came from Marseilles. Dantes excuses himself and tells the man from whom he bought a newspaper to watch what happens. A show is presented of Ali Pasha. Dantes sends a woman to interrupt a tableau. She says her father was sold to the Turks and she into slavery. She accuses Mondego of killing her father. Dantes comes forward and says he ordered her arrested, and he apologizes to Mondego. Dantes tells the newspaper editor that the story is true and gives him evidence to publish.
Count Mondego comes early to see Dantes and reads the newspaper while waiting. He sees evidence against him in a book and picks up a pistol. Dantes talks to him in the dark and tells him to put down the pistol. He has Mondego light the candles and picks up the pistol. Mondego says he wanted an explanation. Dantes says he is avenging himself. Mondego asks who he is. Dantes asks what his choice of weapons is, and Mondego chooses swords. Dantes refers to his prison, and Mondego names Dantes. He gives him a sword, and they duel. Mondego loses his sword, and Dantes summons Jacopo to take Mondego to his home where police may arrest him.
A mob has gathered outside of Mondego’s house, and he closes the window.
A man reports to Dantes that Danglars requested information about him. Dantes says he will be sure he gets it and lets the man keep the 1,000.
Dangler gets another buying tip from the Count of Monte Cristo and instructs his man to invest only his own money.
Dantes reads a newspaper that the stock collapsed. Danglars comes in and says they are ruined. Dantes says that he meant for him to sell, not buy. He says that the stock was owned by Edmond Dantes who is the Count of Monte Cristo. Danglars faints, and Dantes has Jacopo call a doctor. The doctor tells Dantes that he lost his mind. Dantes calls it a mental suicide from avarice and greed.
Dantes welcomes Albert, who says they buried his father in Marseilles. Albert asks Dantes about the princess living in his house. Albert says his father came to him the day he shot himself. Dantes asks Albert not to challenge him. Albert declines a bloodless duel as cowardice. Albert says they will meet a dawn. He leaves, and Dantes tells Jacopo he did not plan this.
Dantes is packing, and Jacopo says he has only two hours before the duel. Dantes says he will face a trial if he survives the duel. He tells Jacopo about his important papers in the chest. Dantes meets with Mercedes, who asks him not to kill her son. She accuses him of being devoid of human feeling. He says he is exposing criminals. He implies the duel is not part of his design. She notes how skillfully he destroyed the others. She says Albert worships him. She says she reared him in the image of the man she loved. Dantes says he claimed him long ago. He says they must protect Albert’s honor so that he will have self-respect. She realizes he will not kill him. She says she lost the man she loved. He says it is too late. Jacopo tells Dantes that Albert is on his way. Dantes tells Mercedes that De Villefort is next on his list. He tells Mercedes to have Albert shoot to kill.
Outside Albert and Dantes duel with pistols, but both shoot and miss. Albert says his mother told him who he is. Soldiers arrest Dantes.
In the trial Dantes is accused of being a spy and of having killed Faria. Then he became an imposture and a companion of thieves. Dantes does not defend himself at all. The jury retires, and the court is in recess. Mercedes tells Albert’s fiancé who Dantes is. Albert tells Dantes that his mother wants him to defend himself. Court resumes, and Dantes asks to defend himself. He speaks to the jury and says he was being selfish in not defending himself. He tells of the saintly Faria. Dantes says he wants to question the King’s attorney as a witness. De Villefort confirms that his name and seal is on Dantes’ death certificate. Dantes said he did not give him a trial. De Villefort said he was afraid of anarchy. Dantes explains how Danglars gave false testimony to put Dantes in prison. De Villefort was his conspirator in the banking manipulations. Dantes said public funds were used. Dantes holds up a book of his records. De Villefort complains he is being treated as a criminal, not as a witness. Dantes continues to accuse him and gives him to France.
In a forest Albert and his fiancée see that Dantes and Mercedes are up in a tree.
This famous adventure portrays how long suffering makes a man eager to get revenge against those who falsely had him imprisoned. They have done other evil things and are eventually punished. Yet the man befriends the next generation which has not yet been corrupted.