Reading the Screen: The Three Musketeers
Posted by: David Pitt
So there’s going to be another film version of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. Paul W.S. Anderson, director of Event Horizon, Alien vs. Predator and Resident Evil, is making the big-budget 3D extravaganza.
If you’re a movie fan, you know Anderson’s got some big shoes to fill. Richard Lester’s 1973 movie (which was released in two parts, the second in ’74) is a magnificent adventure flick, colorful and exciting, and if you haven’t seen it you’ve really been missing out. Michael York plays D’Artagnan, the poor young man who dreams of joining the famed Musketeers, and plays him wonderfully. Here’s the first eight and a half minutes:
But they started making movies out of Dumas’ story three-quarters of a century before that. Sydney Booth, a popular stage actor who made a dozen movies in a single year and then virtually vanished from the screen, plays D’Artagnan in a two-part adaptation released in 1911. (Booth was also the nephew of John Wilkes Booth, which is interesting, if not entirely relevant here.)
Fred Niblo, a prolific silent-film director, made a lavish and spectacular version in 1921. Douglas Fairbanks, who was in his late thirties, looks ridiculous as D’Artagnan, but the stunts are amazing and the costumes, sets, and photography are first-rate.
Don Ameche teamed up with the Ritz Brothers – a comedy team that was almost, but not quite, half as talented as the Marx Brothers — in a 1939 “comedy.” To explain why I put comedy in quotes, here’s a clip:
Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland and Chris O’Donnell (as D’Artagnan) starred in a 1993 version. Unfortunately, if you’ve seen Young Guns, which featured two-thirds of the cast, you’ve pretty much seen this Three Musketeers.
For the little ones, there’s a fun 2004 Disney version, Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, and — really — Barbie and the Three Musketeers, from 2009.
Do we need another big-screen Three Musketeers? Here’s my thinking. Lester’s ’73 version is a classic, one of the best adventure movies you’ll ever see. So why not put that one back in theaters, instead?