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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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This film is one of many based on Alexandre Dumas’s novel of the same name.  I say ‘based on’ rather than ‘adapted from’ because this is really a very loose interpretation of the novel, with Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt and Charlie Sheen playing, respectively, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, and Chris O’Donnell as D’artagnan.  Tim Curry plays Cardinal Richelieu, Julie Delphy is Constance, and Gabrielle Anwar is Queen Anne, with Hugh O’Connor as King Louis XIII.  Count Rochefort was played by Michael Wincott, and Rebecca De Mornay rounds out the cast as Milady D’Winter.

I wanted to see this film out of curiosity, having recently read the novel, and also having very much enjoyed BBC1’s series The Musketeers (again ‘based on’ the novel, with new storylines for the characters).  In all honesty, I was not expecting to enjoy this film as much as I did – I’m not a big fan of Charlie Sheen, but he was actually rather good as Aramis.  Sutherland and Platt were the best characters, with Sutherland’s Athos suitably melancholy, and Platt’s Porthos typically boisterous and playful.

However, I did feel that O’Donnell was miscast as D’Artagnan.  This is not a criticism of the actor – I’ve enjoyed his performances in other roles – but I did not feel that he was right for this part.  I also did not really enjoy O’Connor’s portrayal of the King, although to be fair I was distracted by his awful hairstyle.  Tim Curry camped it up magnificently as the Cardinal, and appeared to be having a thoroughly good time.  I also really enjoyed Wincott as Rochefort – he stole several of the scenes in which he appeared (and what a fantastic raspy voice)!

The storyline revolves around the musketeers and D’Artagnan having to foil the Cardinal’s plot to form an alliance with England, and unseat the King, but it is really just an excuse for lots of swashbuckling, swaggering, and sword fights.  There’s lots of humour too, and Porthos in particular had me laughing out loud a number of times.

Overall, if you are looking for a faithful adaptation of the book, this is not the film for you.  If you are looking for an amusing adventure film, then you might well enjoy it.

Year of release: 1993

Director: Stephen Herek

Producers: Jon Avnet, Jordan Kerner, Roger Birnbaum, Ned Dowd, Joe Roth, William W. Wilson III

Writers: Alexandre Dumas (based on the novel by), David Loughery

Main cast: Keifer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt, Chris O’Donnell, Tim Curry, Hugh O’Connor, Michael Wincott, Gabrielle Anwar, Rebecca De Mornay

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1973 film adaptation.

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Everybody knows the story of The Three Musketeers and their friend D’Artagnan, right?  Well, if you’re like me and you were basing your knowledge  upon the various screen adaptations of the story, then you may be amazed by how much of the story – and the characters – that you don’t know.  D’Artagnan, a young man from the Gascony area of France, who goes to Paris with the aim of joining the King’s Musketeers.  After a few initial misunderstandings, he becomes firm friends with the melancholy Athos, the rambunctious Porthos, and the foppish Aramis.  The book follows their adventures as they become embroiled in trying to stop the evil machinations of Cardinal Richelieu, who is determined to bring down Queen Anne, wife of King Louis XIII.

The book was a delightful and action packed adventure, full of humour, fighting and romance.  I was surprised that there were chunks of the storyline that didn’t actually feature D’Artagnan or the musketeers, and also by the fact that, unlike the screen adaptations, the four servants of the main characters featured almost as heavily as the main characters themselves, and were very instrumental in the musketeers’ plans and actions.

The plot moves on very quickly, and there are LOTS of twists and surprises, but despite this, Dumas still found time to establish each main character’s personality.  It’s fair to say that at times they act in a less than gentlemanly manner, but despite this, I still found myself regarding each character with affection.  It is also, in parts, a very funny story (there is one particular scene where D’Artagnan visits Aramis, who is constantly planning to leave the musketeers to become a man of the cloth, and finds him in consultation with a curate and Jesuit superior, which had me laughing out loud all the way through).

The seductive but evil Lady de Winter, and Cardinal Richelieu are a substantial part of the story, playing the two main villains, with ‘MiLady’ always trying, and often succeeding to stay one step ahead of the musketeers who seek to bring her down.

Overall, this is a hugely entertaining romp through Paris, and I believe that everybody should read it at least once.  For me, it’s a keeper, and one I intend to re-read at some point.

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Click here for my review of the 1993 film, based on the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1973 film, based on the novel.

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This is chronologically the first book in the Hornblower series, but was not the first one which Forester wrote, and so it (presumably) serves as a prequel of sorts.  I wanted to read the Hornblower series, and decided to start with this one, where we first meet Hornblower, at the tender age of 17.  It is the late 1700s, and he is a nervous new recruit to the British Navy.

The book is more of a collection of short stories, rather than a novel.  Each story presents Hornblower with a new dilemma, from having to stand up to a bully (which he does – and how!), dealing with enemy ships from Spain, or transporting a Duchess home across the sea.  Hornblower matures throughout the book, and learns some tough lessons.

I enjoyed the book a lot, although I think that some knowledge of a ship’s structure would have helped when reading this, as there are lots of references to how a ship is built and manned.  However, I could usually understand enough of the jargon to workout exactly what character was doing what task, and in any event, the character of Hornblower himself was enough to keep me reading.

Somewhat stiff and awkward, and not always the most socially confident, but with a strong moral backbone and plenty of courage, I really warmed to the young Hornblower, and enjoyed reading about his adventures.  There were some other interesting characters along the way, and some moments of humour, as well as some sadder events which were described with little emotion.

Overall, while some parts of the book felt somewhat dry, I liked the main character enough to look forward to reading other books in the series.

(For more information about C.S. Forester, please click here.)

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