This vintage television series would be almost impossible to view these days, except that a single episode was released on a half-hour video cassette. "The Hapsburg Hare" was released in the US by Kids Klassics in 1985, and in the UK by Diamond Films in 1986. Made quite cheaply in Italy in 1954, the series comes across as a fun rival of the better-known Robin Hood series made in England. There are the usual fights and duels, nothing too violent, and the beautiful ladies get chased a lot, but never caught. A mainly American and English cast take the main roles, although local star Domenico Modugno (of Volare fame) plays Athos. (Some sources indicate his lines were dubbed by George Gonneau the future voice of Steve Reeves. Trouble is, every time Athos speaks he seems to be in another studio!).
In this episode the lovely Dawn Addams is a guest at the French court and a favourite of King Louis, but this does not please the jealous Queen Anne who utters the opening line, "What is SHE doing here?" The Three Musketeers are ordered to escort the lady back to Spain where the King can't get at her. However, her wily charms are considerable and, after giving Athos the slip, she then puts Porthos (Sebastian Cabot) to sleep by brewing him some "flower wine" made from poppies. It's left to D'Artagnan (Jeffrey Stone) to finally outwit the femme fatale who admits, "You are much cleverer than your friends." The whole thing is a modest, but pleasant way to idle away 25 minutes and one wouldn't mind the opportunity to see some of the other 38 episodes.
Like the English series at that time, The Three Musketeers had a rousing title song, but unfortunately on this video transfer the lyrics are indecipherable, so we can't join in. The love theme by legendary Mario Nascimbene is certainly one of the composer's most beautiful, so much so that he repeated it in both The Bacchantes (1961) and Swordsman of Siena (1962). The entire music score was composed in advance, library fashion (rather than episode by episode) and Nascimbene recounts in his autobiography how daunting was the task to write 13 hours of music in little over a month, "a murderous period of work, squeezing from my brain and imagination every last musical crumb." To make matters worse, when the music was recorded by the Cinecittà Cinefonico the air conditioning at the Rome studios broke down and the summer temperatures in 1954 turned to sweltering. Top conductor Franco Ferrara, never well at the best of times, had a tough enough time, but it was Mario's copyist Donato Salone who finally had a temporary break-down. He managed to mix up all the cue sheets so that while the flute was performing the theme for the self-centred damsel, the percussion embarked on the attack of the castle; then, while the strings were accompanying the love song, the bass tuba announced the tyrant was dead! All in all, just your average day at the Rome film studios .
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