The Three Musketeers (1973) starring Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Frank Finlay, Raquel Welch, Christopher Lee, Charlton Heston, Geraldine Chaplin, Spike Milligan, Roy Kinnear, Simon Ward, Faye Dunaway, Joss Ackland directed by Richard Lester Movie Review

The Three Musketeers (1973)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Michael York as D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers (1973)

A Dueling D'Artagnan with a Spike of Comedy

As a child I use to love a cartoon series called "Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds" and up until recently it had been the only version of Alexandre Dumas père's classic novel I had watched. The simple reason is that whilst "Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds" was fun I had preconceived ideas that a movie version of this period drama would be stuffy and dull. How wrong could I be because having finally watched "The Three Musketeers" released in 1973 I found myself amazed at how much fun it was and to be honest how it was almost surreal. I say almost surreal as it has some very quirky scenes such as chess played with animals but also because for a movie which has such an impressive cast of respected actors such as Christopher Lee, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Charlton Heston and Michael York it also features comedians such as Spike Milligan, Roy Kinnear and Rodney Bewes. It makes it a movie which at times borders on the sublimely stupid but so much fun, in fact it is one of the funniest period drama movies I have had the pleasure to watch.

Having been trained in the art of fighting by his father, the young D'Artagnan (Michael York - Icon) heads to Paris where he hopes to become a King's musketeer. But having only been in Paris for a few hours manages to have run ins with not only Rochefort (Christopher Lee - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) but also Athos, Porthos, and Aramis (Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay and Richard Chamberlain) who individually challenge him to a duel. Despite this less than auspicious introduction D'Artagnan becomes friends with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis and together try and stop the nefarious Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston - The Call of the Wild) who is trying to gain power by proving to King Louis XIII that his wife has been unfaithful.

Faye Dunaway and Christopher Lee in The Three Musketeers (1973)

It probably won't come as a surprise when I say I've never read Alexandre Dumas père's novel and as such I honestly can't say how true the 1973 version on "The Three Musketeers" is to the book. But in a way it doesn't matter because the story of the young and impetuous D'Artagnan finding himself firstly picking fights with Athos, Aramis and Porthos and then joining forces with them to try and stop the nefarious Cardinal Richelieu with his plans to gain power is just good fun. It's good fun because it is a blend of comedy, romance and action which combines not only to make the story fun but also to make the movie memorable.

At it's heart "The Three Musketeers" is a sort of swashbuckling adventure with plenty of action from the fight that D'Artagnan finds himself in with the guards having already had run ins with the Three musketeers through to the various battles as he tries to stop Cardinal Richelieu from achieving his plans. For a movie which is now almost 40 years old it has to be said that the action is pretty decent and really captures the whole swashbuckling theme with sword fights which go up stairs as well as including swinging through the air. At the same time the energy of these fights is just brilliant with D'Artagnan jumping from windows and drawing his sword on anyone who has been dishonourable. But whilst all this action is surprisingly exciting it is also quite amusing with plenty of slapstick involved with the likes of Roy Kinnear as servant Planchet finding himself caught in the midst of these battles.

And that is the thing as whilst "The Three Musketeers" is full of action it is full of comedy and in many ways an eclectic mix of comedy styles. As already mentioned there is a strong slapstick element especially in the various fights and this goes further with the character of Constance de Bonacieux played by Raquel Welch being quite clumsy. But then there is also a sense of "Carry On" about it with the occasional double entendre which creeps in which not only makes you laugh but also takes you by surprise.

But the funniest thing is that "The Three Musketeers" is a little surreal because a movie which features so many serious actors such as Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee and Faye Dunaway playing it dead straight you then have the wackiness of Spike Milligan and Roy Kinnear. A scene where D'Artagnan fights Rochefort, played by Christopher Lee, is a perfect example of how surreal it is as whilst they fight you have Roy Kinnear running around in the background carrying a tree on his head shouting "I'm Coming". It is incredibly daft but also incredibly funny and so are the countless other surreal scenes which crop up, take you by surprise and make you laugh out loud.

With a movie which features a cast which is so full of well known names from the likes of Fay Dunaway through to Richard Chamberlain it is hard to pick out a single performance which stands out. In their own way every single actor and actress delivers a great performance be it Spike Milligan as M. Bonacieux or Raquel Welch as the accident prone Constance de Bonacieux. But at the centre of all this action and fun you have to say that Michael York is brilliant as the feisty D'Artagnan delivering so much energy and comedy all with a semi straight face. And whilst York leads the movie you just have to love Oliver Reed's drink loving version of Athos a great character from a great actor especially the humour he brings to a hilarious food stealing scene.

What this all boils down to is that for what is essentially a period drama "The Three Musketeers" is so much fun. It not only has a great energy and some brilliant action but it is also so funny both in a normal way with scenes of comedy but also in the surreal ness of having respected actors sharing scenes with the wackiness of the likes of Spike Milligan and Roy Kinnear.