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The Three Musketeers Movie Review

heston richard charlton reed

1974 – Richard Lester –

Of course, any movie based on a work by Alexandre Dumas should be considered at the very least a potential classic. Possibly an epic. But this version of The Three Musketeers, while not lacking in the qualities of an epic—such as its sweeping tale of heroic deeds told with fine production values—loses out in other areas. The story describes the attempts of three daring swashbucklers (Richard Chamberlain, Oliver Reed and Frank Finlay) and a young man who is a swashbuckler wannabe (Michael York) to save the honor of the Queen of France (Geraldine Chaplin). The Queen is in love, not with the King of France (Jean-Pierre Cassel), but with the Duke of Buckingham (Simon Ward), and is being blackmailed by Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston). A great quest ensues involving daring sword-play—one of the fights takes place in a laundry—and international intrigue.

To be fair, it must be mentioned that The Three Musketeers received some very good reviews. One of its strong points is the classic story from which it is drawn. Another is the great cast. Reed, York, and Chamberlain are all very enjoyable to watch, Raquel Welch gives perhaps the best performance of her career, and the film represents one of the few times that Charlton Heston played a villain. (Director Richard Lester first offered Heston the part played by Oliver Reed, but when Heston balked at the long shooting schedule necessary for such a central role, Lester sold him on the idea of playing a villain and coordinated all of Heston's scenes into eight days of work.)

Unfortunately, slapstick and swashbuckling prove funny only for a while. The humor derives in part from the contrast of putting physical comedy into the lavish settings of a big-budget adventure film performed by big-name stars. At times the believability of the story risks getting lost in all the pratfalls. In one scene, a man carrying several trays of eggs manages to dodge a dozen or so wine barrels rolling off a wagon only then to trip over his own feet and land face first in the eggs. In a scene from the sequél, a battle overworks the joke of the musketeers trying to throw back bombs hurled by the enemy before they explode. On the whole, the film is an odd mixture of Dumas meeting the Three Stooges—Larry, Moe, and Charlton.

Cast: Michael York (D'Artagnan), Oliver Reed (Athos), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Frank Finlay (Porthos), Faye Dunaway (Milady de Winter), Raquel Welch (Madame Bonancieux), Charlton Heston (Cardinal Richelieu), Geraldine Chaplin (Anna of Austria), Jean-Pierre Cassel (King of France), Joss Ackland (D'Artagnan's Father), Sybil Danning (Eugenie), Christopher Lee (Rochefort), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), Simon Ward (Duke of Buckingham), Spike Milligan (M. Bonancieux) Screenwriter: George MacDonald Fraser Cinematographer: David Watkin Composer: Michel Legrand Producer: Alexander Salkind and Ilya Salkind for Twentieth Century Fox MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 105 minutes Format: VHS Awards: Golden Globe Awards, 1975: Actress—Musical/Comedy (Raquel Welch).

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