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The young D'Artagnan arrives in Paris with dreams of becoming a king's musketeer. He meets and quarrels with three men, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, each of whom challenges him to a duel. D'Artagnan finds out they are musketeers and is invited to join them in their efforts to oppose Cardinal Richelieu, who wishes to increase his already considerable power over the king. D'Artagnan must also juggle affairs with the charming Constance Bonancieux and the passionate Lady De Winter, a secret agent for the cardinal. Written by
Eric Sorensen <Eric_Sorensen@fc.mcps.k12.md.us>
This film (and its companion piece The Four Musketeers) is the finest adaptation of the Dumas classic. It perfectly captures the blend of romance, adventure, and comedy inherent in the novel. There is some modification for modern viewers, but the spirit and attitude of the era is preserved.
Michael York gives one of his best performances as the young, naive D'Artagnan. He appears to be a bit of a bumbling idiot at first; but, one soon learns that a keen brain lies behind that bumbling exterior. This portrayal was criticized by another filmmaker, who adapted another of Dumas' tales. Judging by how far that director strayed from Dumas, it's understandable how he missed noting that Dumas portrayed D'Artagnan in the same manner at the beginning of the novel. D'Artagnan grows with his experiences and becomes a leader of men by the end of the novel; one who has confounded Cardinal Richelieu at every turn and preserved the honor of his Queen and country.
Oliver Reed was perfectly cast as Athos, the melancholy drunkard. Athos is a man who has endured great pain and betrayal in his life and finds his only pleasure in drinking and brawling. He is the wise counsel to the young D'Artagnan, and the mysterious side to the Musketeer triangle.
Frank Finlay, a wonderful character actor, brings a wonderful, arrogant bluster to Porthos; a gentleman, a braggart, and a fool. Finlay also has a nice turn as the jeweler O'Reilly, showcasing his versatility.
Richard Chamberlain is Aramis, the future priest and great lover. Aramis gives an air of spiritual devotion, while romancing his mistresses. Like many clergy of the upper classes, he sees no conflict in these attitudes, or his profession as a soldier. Chamberlain brings great subtlety to Aramis. His part is not as big as the other two, but he says much with body language and attitude. He more than holds his own with the stage-trained Brits.
Charlton Heston brings a deep menace to Richelieu, quite the opposite of his previous heroes. He shows the devious nature of the Cardinal, and the intelligence of a man who knows he has lost, but will have other battles down the line.
Faye Dunaway is the beautiful and vicious Milady. She is the deadliest of D'Artagnan's adversaries; she charms with her beauty and grace, as she prepares her dagger unseen.
Christopher Lee is D'Artagnan's rival, Rochefort. Lee is always good, even when the film isn't. Luckily, this film is up to his abilities. His cool demeanor is backed by a strong sword arm.
The cast is rounded out by fine character performances from Roy Kinnear as Planchet, Jean-Pierre Cassel as King Louis XIII, Geraldine Chaplain as Anne of Austria, and Spike Milligan as M. Bonacieux. Raquel Welch gives a surprisingly deft turn in the comic role of Constance.
There is plenty of action, romance, drama, and fun for fans of each. The sum of those parts results in a classic that outshines all other attempts at Dumas. It is a swashbuckler to rival any Errol Flynn movie, a romance equal to a Merchant-Ivory production, and a comedy to rival Monty Python.
Forget Gene Kelly, the Ritz Brothers, and Charlie Sheen and company. These are the true Musketeers.
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