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In 1625 an ambitious youth joins forces with THE THREE
MUSKETEERS to save the French Queen's honor from the
machinations of the cruel Cardinal Richelieu.
Douglas Fairbanks had one of his most popular roles as the swashbuckling hero of Alexander Dumas' 1844 novel. Exulting in his sheer physical vitality, he never walks when he can run, never runs when he can leap. While a bit melodramatic & stagy, Fairbanks is obviously having a wonderful time and he wants his audience to enjoy themselves, too.
As producer, as well as star, Fairbanks ensured fine production values & large sets to backdrop his stunts. Notice particularly the Parisian street scenes, how detailed & exact they are, with the crowds of extras looking as if they had real purpose in what they were doing. Also be mindful of the architectural staging, whether it be walls, rooftops or monumental staircases; they were all built with Fairbanks' physical dimensions in mind, so that he could run, creep or climb along them effortlessly.
To such a degree does Doug dominate the drama, that the characters of the three Musketeers themselves remain largely undeliniated. Léon Bavy as Athos, George Siegmann as Porthos & Eugene Pallette as a most unlikely Aramis are mere window-dressing to showcase Fairbanks' exuberance. Coming off rather better are British actor Nigel de Brulier as the rapacious Richelieu, beautiful Barbara La Marr as the Cardinal's evil agent Milady de Winter & Lon Poff as the sepulchral Father Joseph. Here are three villains worth watching.
Lovely Marguerite De La Motte supplies Doug's love interest. Adolphe Menjou does well as the cold-hearted, vain Louis XIII.
Not surprisingly, the original story has been streamlined & altered in various ways and at least a couple of notable deaths have been omitted so as to provide a happier fadeout. Fairbanks would continue the tale - and reprise the role of D'Artagnan - eight years later in THE IRON MASK (1929).
What were the facts surrounding the historical Richelieu & Buckingham? Since the novel & films make much of their rivalry, a closer examination is in order.
Both men rose from semi-obscurity to positions of enormous power & influence in their respective kingdoms. Each found it necessary to dominate the weak sovereigns whose patronage they enjoyed. Both endured the utter contempt & hatred of powerful domestic factions allied against them. And were there ever a flirtation between the French Queen Anne of Austria and Buckingham, it was of a very mild nature. There certainly was nothing resembling The Adventure of the Queen's Diamonds and all the derring-do associated with it.
Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal and Duke de Richelieu (1585-1642), came from a minor gentry family which was saddled with enormous financial debt upon the death of his father. However, blessed with a very good brain & a manipulative mother, Richelieu used his intellectual charm to advance his ascent through the Byzantine levels of Church hierarchy. Once having caught the attention of Louis XIII Richelieu never looked back. Eventually wielding absolute authority, the Red Eminence took as his life's mission to thwart Spanish Habsburg hegemony in Europe and to crush all outbreaks of French Protestantism as they arose throughout the kingdom.
For his part, George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628), had his extreme physical attractiveness to thank for grabbing the eye of James I - who liked to dance both ends of the ballroom - and later became the favourite of Charles I as well. The son of a knight, Buckingham soon rose to a lofty pinnacle of power and angered the English nobles by his monopoly of the king's affections and his arrogant accruement of great wealth. As a diplomat & military strategist, Buckingham was hopelessly inept and he needed the king's protection to save him from trial in the Star Chamber. Having failed disastrously in an attempt to succor the Huguenot of La Rochelle, France, he returned to England where he was quickly assassinated by a disgruntled naval officer. When news of Buckingham's death reached London the people rejoiced in the streets.
What you see at this point in cinema's history is the maturing of
various formulas once considered frivolous. Griffith had done it in the
mid-teens with dramatic film-making as a whole. Chaplin's The Kid had
shown how slapstick could be melded with powerful storytelling. And now
it was the turn of Douglas Fairbanks to develop his unique brand of
adventure comedies into the realm of grand mythmaking.
Fairbanks had already reinvented his screen persona with the groundbreaking Mark of Zorro, transferring his over-the-top athleticism and comic timing to the world of romantic adventure. Mark of Zorro is amazing, but it is also something of an experiment; not too extravagant and quite straightforward in storyline. After the success of Zorro, his confidence bolstered (not to mention his coffers a little fuller), Fairbanks made his follow-up The Three Musketeers a far more lavish production, as well as allowing more time for characterisation and subplot. In other words, this was an attempt to move beyond simple genre antics and present a swashbuckler that was also a sweeping historical epic.
The broader canvas of The Three Musketeers allows for greater freedom of expression for its director Fred Niblo, who had also filmed Zorro. Niblo was an expert at balancing rhythm and motion in crowd scenes, but was also a great dramatic director. Here he gets to show off both these abilities, providing a realistic and constantly moving backdrop with the masses of extras at his disposal, yet also allowing the more emotional scenes to play out at a steady pace, giving them dignity and bringing out naturalism in the performances. He still recognises however that this is first and foremost an action picture. He gives a unique look to every action shot, sometimes putting figures in the background, other times foregrounding them, sometimes having them move towards the camera, other times across the frame. A great shot is the one in which Fairbanks steals food from the cardinal troops. The guards are placed in the foreground at the right of the frame; Fairbanks appears on the left in the background. This arrangement focuses us on Fairbanks, and the depth of his position also allows him room to do his stunts without having to move the camera or change angle.
Like Chaplin, Fairbanks always ensured that he was the star of the show and centre of attention, but in this more generous production he does allow some room for great supporting players, confident that they will make the picture more enjoyable without stealing it. Of note here are George Siegmann (Porthos), who can mostly be seen playing villains for Griffith, but here gets to show off his comedy skills - check out the casual way he wipes his sword and saunters off after dispatching a guard - and Eugene Palette (Aramis), also a great comedy player, and worth mentioning simply because it's interesting to see him without the huge belly he had acquired by his 30s heyday. Other than that Adolphe Menjou is great as usual, although he expresses far too much confidence and smugness for the puppet monarch he portrays. Fairbanks's regular leading lady Marguerite De La Motte is not bad, getting a little more time and space to show her acting range than she did in Mark of Zorro.
Still, there is a problem with The Three Musketeers, one which arises from its larger scale and dramatic pretensions - it's a bit slow. The screenplay goes to lengths to allow Fairbanks's character to gradually emerge, and takes time to set the scene, which is all fair enough, except that this is done at the expense of pacing. The first ten minutes are used up establishing the political intrigue, and it's a full thirty-eight minutes before we get to the first real action sequence. While I agree it's a good idea to keep us in suspense before showing off D'Artagnan's fighting skills, the build-up would work much better if we were treated to a small burst of action at the beginning - a "hook", screenwriters call it. Also the best fight scenes are weighted to the middle of the story, robbing the picture of a satisfying finale. The Mark of Zorro, although it is far more simplistic, at least has a continuous frenetic pace that makes it extremely watchable. Nevertheless, The Three Musketeers did settle once and for all the character of Doug Fairbanks, a character that was the same no matter what name it went by - that of the mythical, ever-living hero.
This light but enjoyable version of the often-filmed story of "The
Three Musketeers" also offers Douglas Fairbanks plenty of material that
plays to his best strengths. While he made several other movies that
had more substance to them than this one does, the role of D'Artagnan
is one of the roles that was best suited to his talents.
The adaptation of the Dumas novel considerably abridges both the story and the characters. It does not really attempt to deal with many of the themes of the book, instead concentrating on the parts with the most action and suspense. In itself, this results in a perfectly entertaining movie with plenty of things going on. But to enjoy it, you do have to set aside any expectation that the movie might come up to the book's standard (which in any case would be a difficult goal for a normal-length film feature to accomplish).
Fairbanks revels both in his early scenes as the ambitious young Gascon and in the rest of his sequences as the companion of the Musketeers. He also gets lots of help from the supporting cast. Nigel De Brulier has probably his best role as Cardinal Richelieu (a role he would also play in several later movies), with the austere, reserved Cardinal providing an ideal match for De Brulier's style. Marguerite De La Motte is appealing as Constance, and Barbara La Marr makes Milady de Winter a worthy adversary.
Everything fits together pretty well, and while this film version is much lighter than the novel, it succeeds at what it intended to do.
First version based on Alexandre Dumas' classic yarn of intrigue at the
17th century French court . Entertaining and fun version based on the
classic Dumas novel with an intrepid Douglas Fairbanks. Spectacular
swordplay in nifty style , this is the first and superior version of
the classic Dumas novel set in 17th Century France . Alexandre Dumas's
source for his novel was a book by 19th-century writer Courtils de
Sandraz, which was purporting to be D'Artagnan's biography; the
Musketeers were actually real people, not fictional characters created
by Dumas . Producer and actor Douglas Fairbanks presents Dumas'
exciting story of love and adventure , ¨The three musketeers¨ . For
this silent rendition is adapted in the greatest splendor , the
complete romance , the historical characters, the full novel just as
Alexandre Dumas write it . It is packed with comedy , derring-do ,
intrigue , a love story , action , drama and moving swordplay . An
awesome silent casting and big-budgeted production shot in Hollywood
Studios and location make for a fairly amusement swashbuckler . This is
the classic version of the Dumas's novel with a fine cast headed by
handsome Douglas Fairbanks as D'Artagnan in a brave role as a young and
handsome soldier of fortune , a dashing , audacious lover and nimble
athlete . He is accompanied by Leon Bary as Athos , George Siegmann as
Porthos and the notorious secondary actor Eugene Palette as Aramis and
of course the nasty Milady Winter compellingly played by Barbara La
Marr . This delightful adaptation based on Alexandre Dumas classic
novel starts with the youngster D'Artagnan who arrives in Paris to find
Mister Treville , chief of Musketeers. But he meets with three
two-fisted Musketeers , Athos, a rollicking adventurer , fighting to
live and living to love , Porthos and Aramis . DÁrtagnan to be aware
they are Musketeers and is invited to unite them in their objective to
struggle against guards of Cardinal Richelieu well performed by Nigel
De Brulier and the astute Milady De Winter who is lovely as a jewel,
deadly as a dagger the wickedest woman in all Christendom . Meanwhile,
D'Artagnan falls in love with a gorgeous young , Constance , she is a
golden-haired beauty entangled in a web of treachery and intrigue.
Furthermore , there is developed an intrigue between Luis XIII , the
prestigious actor Adolphe Menjou , Queen Anne of Austria : Mary McLaren
, dazzling as her gilded palace for her, men dared a thousand perils ,
and Duke of Buckingham ; and of course the nasty Richelieu , as evil as
ever . The musketeers join forces for royal vengeance with the shout :
¨One for all and all for one¨. Then , the musketeers whose friendship
has become a legend to stir the hearts of men and shouting their slogan
set out to help the Queen . Straightforward as well as gallant
D'Artagnan and the three musketeers scheme a plan to save her ,
clashing against a malicious Richelieu .
It's a nice rendition from the immortal novel with pretty budget and breathtaking scenarios . The picture contains rousing action , plenty of crashing , intrigue , romantic adventure , romance , treachery mayhem and a lot of fence . Amusing swashbuckling with lavish production , glamorous gowns and luxurious sets . Furthermore , a vein of humour is evident here , though sometimes falling flat . For this movie itself , though , energetic and frantic are the best adjectives you could think of to describe its attraction . Charming Douglas Fairbanks steals the show when he bounds and leaps , hits and run ; in addition he is the screenwriter of this rollicking adventure . Fairbanks executes athletic feats , moving sword-play and spectacular acrobatics similarly he demonstrated in other classics such as The Mark of Zorro (1920), Robin Hood (1922), Three musketeers , Don Q Son of Zorro , The gaucho , The Taming of the Shrew , among others . Douglas performed most of the stunts in his films himself . He was an excellent athlete and used his physical abilities to his best advantage . Adequate cinematography in black and white stunningly showed on the splendorous images . Glamorous production design is well reflected on the luxurious interiors and exteriors stunningly filmed . The motion picture was professionally realized by Fred Niblo (Ben Hur). This cool filmmaker provided visual style , comedy , fencing , drama , clangorous action in equal proportions . It's followed by a second part : ¨The iron mask¨ (1929) by Allan Dwan and again with Douglas Fairbanks , Margueritte De La Motta and Nigel De Brulier who plays Cardinal Richelieu,he would also play the role in the 1935 film of the same name ; in addition, the 1939 film "The Man in the Iron Mask."
This classy story is subsequently remade on several versions , firstly take on about this classic is the following : 1935 adaptation by Rowland V. Lee with Walter Abel and Paul Lukas ; it is followed by the MGM classic version in musical style by George Sidney with Gene Kelly , Paul Lukas , Gig Young , Vincent Price , Frank Morgan and Lana Turner as Milady ; 1973 amusing version by Richard Lester with Michael York, Oliver Reed and Raquel Welch ; 1993 modern adaptation by Stephen Herek with Charlie Sheen , Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt and Chris O'Donnell, and 2001 rendition by Peter Hyams with Justin Chambers, Mena Suvari and Tim Roth , among others. The last rendition (2011) was starred by Matthew Macfadyen , Milla Jovovich , Luke Evans , Ray Stevenson and Logan Lerman. ¨The three Musketeers¨ is an outstanding and entertaining adaptation of the classy that will appeal to the costumer genre buffs and it results to be a good adaptation with big budget based on the classic tale .
Douglas Fairbanks was the screen's greatest swashbuckler, and in his second film of this genre, he's really great. This film requires very little thinking on the viewer's part, and the various stunts and action scenes add to the fun. Doug's one-handed handspring with a sword in his other hand is very fast, so don't blink, but it's great. Further interest is sparked by a young and breathtaking Barbara LaMarr as M'Lady de Winter.
Another great Douglas Fairbanks film, not one of his best but still hugely entertaining. As an adaptation it is rather abridged, the details and spirit are there but there are versions since that have had much more depth to characterisation and such, the musketeers here are still very fun to watch but can feel like window-dressing. However, as a film and a stand alone there is plenty to love. Aside from the abridgements the only real misgiving was the rushed ending. The Three Musketeers though is still beautifully photographed and the costumes and sets equally evocative and lavish. It is wittily written, a lot of chat especially for a silent film but it has the Dumas spirit and none of it feels like irrelevant filler. As well as rousingly scored, there are three scores available one from 1921 and the others from 1996, the most fitting of the three is Louis F. Gottschalk's from 1921. The story is still diverting and goes at a crisp pace, with lots of twists and turns along with a real sense of adventure, excitement and suspense, basically all the ingredients for a great period adventure. The action sequences are highly athletic with lots of exciting bravado, it is edge-of-the-seat stuff with no signs of clumsiness or predictability. Fairbanks is great, he is full of charisma with touches of arrogance, wit and sparkling humour and tackles his stunts with a real effortless ease. Margarite De LaMotte is a touching Constance and Barbara La Marr a sensual and haunting Milady DeWinter. Adolphe Menjou is appropriately cruel and the Musketeers are well-played, but aside from Fairbanks the standout in the acting department was Nigel De Brulier as a sly and malevolent Richelieu. Overall, the 1973 Richard Lester version is still the definitive adaptation of The Three Musketeers but if we're talking about adaptations being judged on their own this is one of the better and most enjoyable ones, apart from the Burbank Films Australia animated version and the updated one from the Asylum I don't think any of the adaptations are really terrible(yes that is including the 1993 film). 9/10 Bethany Cox
I think how much you'll enjoy the film will be impacted on how closely
you want the film to follow the book (which it doesn't) as well as
whether or not you've seen many of Douglas Fairbanks' films. What I
mean by the latter is that I think my expectations were way too high
for this movie because I expected a VERY physical and athletic
film--but it wasn't. This was a HUGE surprise because Fairbanks was
known for his amazing stunts--such as in "Thief of Bagdad" or "The Mark
of Zorro". I expected to see his great leaps and bounds--but there just
weren't very many athletic scenes. Now this is NOT to say that it's a
bad film--it's still pretty good. It's just that I think it could have
been a lot better. Enjoyable but not among the actor's best
films--though the costumes and sets were pretty amazing for 1921.
By the way, the version I saw was the one in the public domain that is linked to IMDb. Oddly, this version has reversed the last two reels of the film!! In other words, it ends and then continues! I am not sure if you can find a corrected version or not.
D'Artangan (Douglas Fairbanks) goes up against his rival Richelieu (Adolphe
Menjou), with the help of his Musketeer friends. There is a plot, something
to do with the Queen, but don't ask me what it was.
Like most film adaptations of long (in this case about as long as War and Peace, like all other Dumas books) novels, a lot has been simplified and left out, yet the plot is still hard to follow! This means that people who've read the book complain about the missing parts, and people who haven't read it, complain they can't follow the movie! For this reason, i don't know why anybody ever adapts long novels. In this case, the appeal of the swordplay and romance is a well justified reason for putting these characters onscreen.
Like many entertainment-driven silents, it is impossible to delve too deeply into character, let alone themes - so what we have feels like a fairly empty and superficial version of an epic story.
Enjoyable Fairbanks vehicle is just a piece of fluff, the silent era equivalent of Pirates of the Caribbean - which is no small achievement. It has genuine sword-swishing action, and the dashing and charismatic Fairbanks - who makes for both great comic relief, and a great hero.
Highlight: there is some sparkling little samples of dialogue (title cards), which were unexpectedly hilarious. Mainly in D'Artangan's scenes.
After admiring Douglas Fairbank's smashing looks in the later THIEF OF
BAGDAD, I have to say he looks extremely unattractive in these
pseudo-historical French costumes and a wig you wonder where he got it
from. And not only does he as the star attraction look bad - the French
queen (for one) is just as terrible with an equally terrible wig. Not
to mention the Three Musketeers: stout, unsporty, unfunny. I wonder if
in 1921 this was considered 'attractive'? (I very much doubt it.)
Still, some of the scenes are fun to watch, even at epic length (more
than two hours running time.) I guess with the right symphonic live
music it must have been impressive back then. With cheap (and thin
sounding) computer music as a soundtrack on DVD today, it is... a bit
Interstingly, there is a 1929 stage operetta of the same title by Benatzky/Charell created for Berlin (and recently revived in Nordhausen, Germany), that makes interesing comparison with this film - whole scenes have been taken 1:1 from it. Only with better music attached to it.
It would be fun to see the film with a Benatzky-based soundtrack!
Impoverished nobleman Douglas Fairbanks (as D'Artagnan)'s greatest
ambition is to join the King's royal swordsmen, "The Three Musketeers".
And, after impressing the three best swordsmen in Paris, Mr. Fairbanks
becomes their fourth blade. He also finds love, with Marguerite De La
Motte (as Constance), and much palace intrigue. Nigel de Brulier (as
Cardinal Richelieu) makes life particularly irksome, involving
Fairbanks and friends in schemes against weak a King Adolphe Menjou (as
Louis XIII), and his unfaithful Queen Mary MacLaren (as Anne).
Alexandre Dumas' classic is a perfect vehicle for Fairbanks; who, after the success of his "Zorro", struck box office gold with a series of classy audience pleasing productions. While this is not the best "Musketeers" movie, it's certainly true that Fairbanks' 1920s films had an indelible impact upon subsequent adaptations. Fairbanks, through the force of his personality, didn't so much "play" characters like "D'Artagnan" as much as he made the characters play him.
Fred Niblo (director) and Arthur Edeson (photographer) create a great swashbuckling atmosphere. Nigel de Brulier steals the acting honors, with his cunning, cat-stroking "Richelieu"; the best supporting player will reprise his role in a trio of additional "Musketeers" films, including the superior Fairbanks sequel "The Iron Mask" (1929). Pretty "leading lady" De La Motte (from "Zorro") and others will also return. After all, it is... "All for one and one for all."
******* The Three Musketeers (8/28/21) Fred Niblo ~ Douglas Fairbanks, Nigel de Brulier, Marguerite De La Motte
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