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This film is an adaptation of the first half of Alexandre Dumas’ novel (the sequel, The Four Musketeers deals with the second half of the novel).  It stars Michael York as the young D’Artagnan, and Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay and Richard Chamberlain, as Athos, Porthos and Aramis respectively.  Milady DeWinter is played by Faye Dunaway, Constance de Bonacieus is played by Raquel Welch, and the villains Cardinal Richelieu and Rochefort are played by Charlton Heston and Christopher Lee.  There is a also a splendid supporting cast including Spike Milligan, Roy Kenner and Simon Ward.

The plot revolves around the D’Artagnan being tasked by Constance to retrieve some diamonds which Queen Anne (Geraldine Chaplin) has given to the Duke of Buckingham (Ward) before King Louis XIII (Jean Pierre Cassel) realises that they are missing.  It is of course, all part of the Cardinal’s plan to get rid of Anne.  D’Artagnan enlists the help of his three friends, and they run into all sorts of obstacles on the way.

This film was an excellent adaptation, and thoroughly enjoyable, thanks in no small part to George MacDonald’s excellent screenplay.  There was plenty of action, but also lots of humour – including some of the slapstick variety, and some which wouldn’t seem out of place in a Carry On film – and I really enjoyed watching it.  I literally laughed out loud on several occasions (watch out for the chess match, with dogs playing all the chess pieces)! The acting was also terrific.  Before watching, Michael York seemed (to me) to be an odd choice to play D’Artagnan, but he fitted into the role perfectly, blending the character’s enthusiasm and hotheadness to great effect.  Richard Chamberlain was very good as Aramis, and Frank Finlay was a wonderful Porthos, but for my money, Oliver Reed stole almost every scene he was in, with his excellent portrayal of the melancholy drunkard Athos.

Staying true to the book, the actual Musketeers themselves are sometimes not on screen for longish periods of time – despite the title, this is really D’Artagnan’s story, and accordingly, York is the main actor, and he carries the responsibility very well.

If you are a fan of the book, or indeed a fan of comedy, please give this film a look.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Year of release: 1973

Director: Richard Lester

Producers: Alexander Salkind, Ilya Salkind, Michael Salkind, Wolfdieter von Stein

Writers: Alexandre Dumas (novel), George MacDonald Fraser

Main cast: Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Frank Finlay, Faye Dunaway, Raquel Welch, Spike Milligan, Roy Kinnear, Jean Pierre Cassel, Geraldine Chaplin, Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1993 film adaptation.

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