– Michael York (D’Artagnan), “The Three Musketeers” (1973)
Read “The Three Musketeers” by Michael Hadley (PDF – opens in new tab)
Which is the best version of The Three Musketeers?
According to Anne Billson (Telegraph, UK):
The best film version, most musketeer-completists agree, is Richard Lester’s diptych The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974), adapted by George MacDonald Fraser, and originally conceived as a vehicle for The Beatles.
It was shot as a single film but released as two separate features by producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind, which came as a surprise to actors who has signed up (and presumably been paid) for just the one movie, triggering lawsuits and adding a “Salkind Clause” to SAG contracts so that trick couldn’t be played again.
There’s not a weak link in the all-star cast, with Charlton Heston a wily Richelieu, Faye Dunaway on top icy form as Milady, Oliver Reed as a brooding Athos, and Raquel Welch, in a career-best turn, as a comically bumbling Constance Bonacieux. Lester stuffed it full of terrific slapstick set-pieces (critics who complained about the humour had evidently not read the book) and fight scenes brilliantly choreographed by the great William Hobbs, culminating in an extraordinary duel to the death between D’Artagnan (Michael York, never better) and his archenemy Rochefort (Christopher Lee).
Also contributing, to hilarious effect, was Roy Kinnear as D’Artagnan’s servant Planchet. Fifteen years later, the actor’s tragic death after a riding accident on the set of “The Return of the Musketeers”, the same creative team’s adaptation of Twenty Years After, would cast a sad pall over that production, though the movie is still worth seeking out.
One of the most delightful features of Lester’s musketeer films is the constant muttering by servants (for example, grumbling that the occupant of the sedan chair they’re carrying has put on weight), reminding us that these aristocrats and warriors to whose stories we thrill are supported by a vast but usually invisible network of abused underlings.
In the book, the musketeers’ valets are almost as well characterised as their masters, and provide many a comic subplot; French director André Hunebelle directed two adaptations in which the servants took centre stage – the celebrated French comic actor Bourvil played Planchet in 1953, while 20 years later comic troupe Les Quatre Charlots, as the valets, propped up a quartet of deadbeat musketeers in a slapstick parody of the tale.”
Read More: The Telegraph
Below, Raquel Welch is joined by talk show host Dick Cavett for a Q&A after a screening of “The Three Musketeers” (1973), for which she won a Golden Globe, as part of a Film Society of Lincoln Center retrospective of her work.