|THE THREEE MUSKETEERS (1973)|
|Time: 105 mins.|
This has to be one of my favorite action adventure films of all time. Whenever it's on I just have to watch it. Maybe because it has a bit of everything history, romance, suspense, betrayal, humor and some of the most fun and unusual sword fights to ever grace the screen. I'm fairly certain that this version follows the basic plot of the novel pretty closely, but takes some liberties in the execution. With an all-star cast Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway, Oliver Reed and the gorgeous Michael York fabulous costumes and a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat, there's nothing more you can ask for from a picture. Unlike the Disney version which starred Chris O'Donnell and Kiefer Sutherland, this picture actually has class, wit and a wonderful sense of adventure. It makes you want to be a musketeer, or, at the very least, fall in love with one.
The film begins with the arrival of D'Artagnan (York), a country boy schooled in the art of swordplay by his father, to the busy streets of Paris, looking for a spot amongst the King's elite musketeers. He's not the most graceful or worldly of fellows, so he quickly makes several enemies. One, a one-eyed man named Rochefort (Lee), will be his sworn foe for the rest of the film. The other three, official musketeers Athos (Reed), Porthos (Finlay) and Aramis (Chamberlain) will become his best friends after he helps them out during a small altercation with the Cardinal's men. There's nothing like swordplay to seal a friendship and despite his uncivilized manners, he turns out to be quite a marvelous swordsman. Though there's no place for him yet in the musketeers, they take D'Artagnan under their guidance, helping each other out whenever trouble appears on the horizon.
It doesn't take long for D'Artagnan to get himself mixed up in another troublesome situation. He has fallen in love with the beautiful and ample-figured Constance (Welch), one of the Queen's handmaidens. The Queen (Chaplin) has been carrying on a secret love affair with the Duke of Buckingham (Ward). As proof of her love, she gives him a necklace of 12 diamond studs to remember her by. The problem is that Cardinal Richelieu (Heston) is determined to expose her infidelity in order to gain an upper hand with the King. He sends one of his secret agents, the maliciously stunning Milady de Winter (Dunaway), to seduce the Duke and steal two of the studs. He then convinces the King to throw a party in honor of the Queen so that she may be able to show off the necklace he gave her as a present. This sets in motion an involved adventure by the musketeers to retrieve the necklace in time for the party. D'Artagnan entreats his compatriots to join him in his mission to save the Queen's honor and get him into the loving arms of Constance.
The plot is really not as convoluted as it sounds. In fact, the mission to regain the jewelry gives our heroes ample opportunities to do what they do best fight with others. Though there are many sword-fighting sequences they are all quite different in scope and choreography from a bitter two man battle in the dark of night in the woods to an all out war at the base of a windmill which allows each man to have a moment to shine. York is certainly the star of this picture, but it wouldn't be half as amusing or interesting without Reed, Chamberlain and Finlay. They add much of the machismo and humor as they fight all for one to the bitter end. At one point it seems that we've seen the last of the musketeers, but these are real men who aren't about to be taken out so easily. They each have distinct personalities Athos is the brooder who finds solace in the bottom of a bottle, Porthos is an arrogant fop who believes it's better to look good than to feel good, and Aramis is a man of great honor with a weakness for the ladies. However, they are far from shallow representations, each man complementing the other and creating an onscreen dynamic that is not seen very often.
On the flip side, the women of the film also bring varied portrayals to the table. Welch is both mesmerizing and hysterical as the clumsy, yet beautiful Constance. It doesn't take much imagination to see why D'Artagnan would be instantly smitten with her. Her earnestness, innocence and pratfalls give the film heart and a great amount of its humor. Somehow she manages to carry this part off without looking like a total imbecile. It probably is one Welch's best performances. Dunaway and Chaplin give equally fine performances, though they don't have as much to do. Since most of the lead's are British, it doesn't exactly seem like France, which is kind of odd and somewhat confusing. However, it really doesn't matter all that much, because you'll be enchanted by the characters, costumes and gorgeous locations. In the end, this film delivers exactly what it promises, a joyful romp with a great deal of heart. You truly care about these characters and what happens to them.
The great thing is there's a sequel, THE FOUR MUSKETEERS, that was filmed at the same time, but released a year later, which is almost as good. Not only do you get to spend more time with old friends, you get to know them a whole lot better. Even if you're not a fan of swashbuckling historical flicks, you have to see this movie. It's what fun and adventure are all about.