Alan Hale Jr. plays Porthos, the same musketeer played by his father Alan Hale in The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), of which this film is a direct remake, the earlier film's screenplay is credited along with the Dumas novel as source material. Furthermore, in At Sword's Point (1952), a Hollywood-concocted sequel to Dumas' novel "The Three Musketeers," Hale played the son of Porthos, while this film's D'Artagnan, Cornel Wilde, had the role of D'Artagnan's son.
Based on Alexandre Dumas's novel, 'The Vicomte of Bragellone', which is often filmed under the title of its final section, 'The Man in the Iron Mask'. This version features José Ferrer as Aramis. A later version (as The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)), featured Gérard Depardieu as Porthos. Ferrer and Depardieu have also both played Cyrano de Bergerac. Appropriately, in Edmond Rostand original play, the character D'Artagnan offers his compliments to Cyrano's poetic abilities after a duel.
In an effort to realistically capture the opulence and grandeur of 18th Century French court life, producers Heinz Lazek and Ted Richmond were fortunate to gain access to many of the most picturesque castles, palaces, and verdent forests in and around Vienna in Austria, where the entire production was filmed.
Schonbrunn Palace represents Paris' Louvre and Fontainbleau, as well as the King's bedchamber, Marie-Therese's bedroom-anteroom, and the Royal Dining Room. The palace, with its exquisite wood carvings, tapestries, and art work, was constructed by Emperor Joseph I about 1700 and renovated by Queen Marie-Therese in 1740. Then in 1805, Napoleon used the palace for his headquarters. The grand ballrooms were still the settings for formal social events and state functions and were open during the day for public viewing.
The halls and chambers of Auersperg Palace were used in the film. Built in 1721, the palace was severely damaged during the war but has been restored. It was here in 1721 that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart conducted his opera "Idomeneo".
The movie recreates the intriguing legend of the struggle for the crown between King Louis XIV and his twin brother, Philippe, who at birth was safely whisked away to the province of Gascony, where he was raised as a commoner in the care of the Musketeers. Not until Louis' unwitting involvement in a plan to execute Philippe does he learn of his twin's existence. Then, fearing a plot to seize his throne, Louis orders Philippe to be locked into the dreaded iron mask and condemns him to life imprisonment in the Bastille. However, with the aid of the loyal Musketeers, Philippe triumphs over Louis, gaining both the throne and the heart of Louis' betrothed, as well as the popular support of the French people.
Some scenes were shot in Schloss Laxenburg, a castle situated 15 miles south of Vienna; Burg Liechenstein, a medieval fortress built in 1165; Burg Kreuzenstein, a fortress of Roman origin; and Vienna's Votivkirche, an elaborate gothic church built on the site of an attempted assassination against Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853, and was presently at the time the film was made an Austrian Hall of Fame.
To facilitate the many dangerous sword fights and swashbuckling battles, 237 fencers were tested for the forty swordsmen needed in the film as extras. Former British Army fencing champion and fencing stunt co-ordinator, Peter Diamond, was contracted to instruct and train them for the film's lively jousts. The fencing master had worked on more than two hundred feature films.
D'Artagnan was portrayed by actor Cornel Wilde in "The 5th Musketeer" and was the latest of many screen appearances for one of the most popular heroes of all time. First, beginning in 1915, D'Artagnan was portrayed in several early Biograph one and two-reelers. D'Artagnan made a major screen debut in the first lavish version of The Three Musketeers (1921) with Douglas Fairbanks in the role. Fairbanks also returned to the part in the initial screen version of The Man in the Iron Mask (1928). Walter Abel portrayed the first D'Artagnan in a film with sound in The Three Musketeers (1935), and a short time after, Don Ameche had filled the adventurer's boots in the film's second remake, The Three Musketeers (1939), a movie that featured The Ritz Brothers. The production notes for The Fifth Musketeer (1979) stated: "But Cornel Wilde probably brings the greatest authority to the character as a skillful fencer who at an early age won National Fencing Championship titles and even landed himself a position on the U.S. Olympic Games Fencing Team".
Second of two late 1970s filmed adaptations of "Alexandre Dumas' père''s novel "The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later" with the first having being The Man in the Iron Mask (1977) around a couple of years earlier.
Costume Designer Tony Pueo created more than 1600 costumes for the film. Among them were the elegant, aristocratic garments created for the film's stars, including eleven regal gowns for Sylvia Kristel, eight sultry creations for Ursula Andress, sixteen wardrobe changes for Beau Bridges for both of his roles, and four each for Rex Harrison and the Musketeers. Sparing little money to duplicate the decadence of that era, Pueo chose the world's finest fabrics for his gowns, including raw silks, brocades, and satins. Pueo also edged them in delicate 300-year-old embroidery, and created special jewelry that could easily pass for precious heirlooms.
The press kit states: "Written in 1844, "The Three Musketeers" was Alexandre Dumas père' most successful novel. It was followed in 1845 by the sequel, "The Man In The Iron Mask". The press kit for The Fifth Musketeer (1979) added: "Without doubt, if he were alive today, Dumas would be pleased with the attention that was paid to both the dramatic portrayal and regal ambience created for "The 5th Musketeer"."
Father and son actors Beau Bridges and Lloyd Bridges, both starred in the movie, and portrayed Louis XIV / Philippe of Gascony and Aramis respectively. The picture, their first of three theatrical feature films together, was one of a number of collaborations of the pair in film and television. Their other two later cinema movies after The Fifth Musketeer (1979) were The Wild Pair (1987) and Meeting Daddy (2000).