Running Time: 105 minutes.
Tag-line: ". . . One for All and All for Fun!"
Notable Cast or Crew: Michael York (CABARET, AUSTIN POWERS), Oliver Reed (REVOLVER, THE DEVILS), Richard Chamberlain (SHOGUN, Cannon's KING SOLOMON'S MINES), Faye Dunaway (NETWORK, BONNIE AND CLYDE), Jean-Pierre Cassel (ARMY OF SHADOWS, THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE), Geraldine Chaplin (DR. ZHIVAGO, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS), Sybil Danning (BLOOD FEAST, MALIBU EXPRESS), Frank Finlay (THE PIANIST, LIFEFORCE), Christopher Lee (THE WICKER MAN, THE CRIMSON PIRATE), Charlton Heston (IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, TOUCH OF EVIL), Raquel Welch (ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., MOTHER, JUGS, & SPEED), Joss Ackland (LETHAL WEAPON 2, THE APPLE).
Best one-liner: "Now, that man in his time has insulted me, broken my father's sword, had me clubbed to the ground, laid violent hands on the woman I love! He is inconvenient."
Are you ready for House of Bourbon-era swashbucklery? Are you ready for one for all, and all for fun? Are you ready for THE THREE MUSKETEERS? Hell yes, you are. Allow me to familiarize you with the players–
We're talkin' foppy– but still blood-curdlingly sinister– Christopher Lee... with an eyepatch.
As Rochefort, "the cardinal's living blade," he unfortunately spends most of his time exuding one-eyed menace from the sidelines, but I suspect they're just priming us for some unhinged cutlass-slashin', scimitar-gashin' Chris Lee action in part two.
We're talkin' live action animal chess, a monkey riding a dog, and other such buffooneries that exist solely for the amusement of Louis XIII, who's played by arthouse legend Jean-Pierre Cassel.
Somewhere, Peter Greenaway is wringing his hands in a mixture of jealousy and wonderment.
Is that exquisite headpiece constructed of Reynolds wrap?
We're talkin' Charlton Heston as Cardinal Richelieu, sportin' a goatee that doesn't quit, wearin' extravagant furry duds, and playin' Louis XIII like a piano- at least until a certain four flies in the ointment come to take the starch out of his 'stache and the swagger out of his step.
Heston's a surprisingly serviceable Richelieu, and occasionally you're struck by the idea that Heston might even be having fun beneath his uptight exterior and intricate vestments. I'd go as far as to say that he holds his own alongside other notable Richelieus, played by the likes of Vincent Price and Tim Curry.
We're talkin' Geraldine Chaplin as Anna of Austria, exploring the subtleties of film-acting more skillfully with her eyes alone than most actors can with their entire form.
Also of note: neckpiece.
We're talkin' a knock-down, drag-out, high-kicks-in-a-bustle, hair-pin cat-fight between a pre-NETWORK Faye Dunaway and a post-MYRA BRECKINRIDGE Raquel Welch, which is clearly worth the price of admission alone.
And all of this is orchestrated by Palm d'or-winning (THE KNACK...AND HOW TO GET IT), hit or miss (from PETULIA to SUPERMAN III) director Richard Lester, whose first claim to fame was the well-choreographed antics of another Fab Four in A HARD DAY'S NIGHT. Which reminds me- I haven't even yet touched upon our titular, devil-may-care, lion-hearted sword-swishers!
We've got Richard Chamberlain as Aramis the ladykiller, if you will; Frank Finlay as Porthos, the slave to fashion; and Oliver Reed as Athos, the drunk. Or perhaps it's Drunk Oliver Reed as Athos. It's difficult to tell sometimes. In fact, from the very first time we see him onscreen, he's chugging away.
Oliver Reed enjoys living in the era of the House of Bourbon.
Again- did Oliver Reed refuse to put down his booze, whereupon Richard Lester had to find a more historically-accurate receptacle, or was this in the script from the beginning? (Yes, I know it was in the script.)
One of my favorite Oliver Reed moments in the film involves him stealing a great shank of lamb from a restaurant while his compatriots stage a scuffle. Reed nonchalantly stuffs the honkin' leg of meat into his costume while maintaining a remarkable level of dignity.
Michael York strides in as D'Artagnan, exuding likability and naiveté, and imbues our trio of fallow swordsmen with purpose.
Unfortunately, Michael York's career would lie fallow for some time following these films.
Nearly everything in this production is top notch, from the verbal banter to the spectacular set design (crawling with hidden rooms and secret passageways) to the elaborate period costumes to the acrobatics and fight choreography. (Said choreography done by master swashbuckler William Hobbs.) I'd even say that it remains a great influence on everything from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN to the CREMASTER series.
There are a few moments when Lester can't help himself, and things get perhaps a little too zany,
but as in A HARD DAY'S NIGHT or HELP!, even the most ill-conceived sequence goes down a lot easier when there's talented players and a tangible charm. (Not sure I can say the same for SUPERMAN III.)
Production note: The film was famously shot simultaneously with its sequel, THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (in a strategem worthy of Richilieu, the producers tricked the actors into thinking they were filming one, exceptionally long film). But despite the initial deception, Lester and most of the cast would even revisit the material once more in 1989's THE RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS.
6. BLIND FURY (1989, Philip Noyce)
7. HIS KIND OF WOMAN (1951, John Farrow)
8. HIGH SCHOOL U.S.A. (1983, Rod Amateau)
9. DR. JEKYLL AND MS. HYDE (1995, David Price)
10. MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL (1997, Clint Eastwood)
11. 1990: BRONX WARRIORS (1982, Enzo G. Castellari)
12. FALLING DOWN (1993, Joel Schumacher)
13. TOURIST TRAP (1979, David Schmoeller)
14. THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973, Richard Lester)