Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA/Spain/Panama/United Kingdom, 1973. Alexander Michael and Ilya Salkind Productions, Film Trust S.A.. Screenplay by George MacDonald Fraser, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas. Cinematography by David Watkin. Produced by Ilya Salkind. Music by Michel Legrand. Production Design by Brian Eatwell. Costume Design by Yvonne Blake. Film Editing by John Victor-Smith.
Possibly the best screen adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ most famous story. Young, naive D’Artagnan (Michael York) makes his way from the sticks to the court of King Louis XIII (Jean-Pierre Cassel) where he hopes to join the militia and eventually serve as one of the king’s private musketeers. Things don’t go so well for him as he cannot seem to cross paths with any man without getting into a fight, at first trying to duel with the nefarious Rochefort (Christopher Lee) before a quarrel with the titular heroes Aramis (Richard Chamberlain), Porthos (Frank Finlay) and Athos (Oliver Reed). The musketeer trio quickly take D’Artagnan under their wing as soon as fight with him, and end up getting involved in a plot he stumbles upon in which Rochefort is teaming up with the devious Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston) and the scheming Milady DeWinter (Faye Dunaway) to discredit Queen Anne of Austria (Geraldine Chaplin) and undermine the monarchy; thankfully, D’Artagnan has cuckolded his landlord by taking up with the man’s gorgeous wife Constance (a delightful Raquel Welch) and she is the queen’s dressmaker. The manner in which this movie flows from one scene to the next is practically miraculous, you can barely catch your breath from one bit of fun before another has started, and the complex plotting and star-studded cast is handled with superb ease by director Richard Lester. All the swashbuckling exuberance of Errol Flynn movies is combined with exciting chases, sexy romance and genuinely funny comedy, topped off by an unforgettable fight between Welch and Dunaway before a satisfying, though incomplete ending. The sequel was filmed simultaneously with this one (and the legal problems that this caused is why the film wasn’t available to be seen for decades), and the exciting conclusion provides a preview of things to come.
Golden Globe Award: Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Raquel Welch)
Nomination: Best Picture-Musical/Comedy