THE THREE MUSKETEERS + THE FOUR MUSKETEERS [1973 / 1974 / 2011] [Blu-ray] One for All and One for Fun! What Could Be Better Than The Three Musketeers! Now That's What I Call Swashbuckling!
Here we have a Double bill featuring two popular comedy films directed by Richard Lester. In ‘THE THREE MUSKETEERS'  it is set in the 17th Century Paris, when a young naïve D’Artagnan leaves home to seek his fortune as a swordsman. He soon makes friends with the three musketeers: world-weary Athos, comically arrogant Porthos and chivalric Aramis. Their enemy is aristocratic schemer Cardinal Richelieu, who plots to prove the infidelity of the Queen to King Louis XIII to increase his power.
In ' THE FOUR MUSKETEERS'  with D’Artagnan officially enrolled in the king’s service, his army besieges the rebels at La Rochelle and Cardinal Richelieu is determined to prevent any meddling by the English before the city falls. He dispatches Milady de Winter to London with orders to assassinate Buckingham. But she has a price – carte blanche to dispose D’Artagnan and “the slut Bonacieux” as she sees fit. Our heroes, in-between dodging musket balls at La Rochelle, must once again outwit the Cardinal Richelieu’s henchmen to save the day.
From Director Richard Lester and featuring a stellar cast Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch and Christopher Lee 'The Three Musketeers' and 'The Four Musketeers' are faithful adaptions of Alexandre Dumas' classic novel, with belly laughs a-plenty and endless swashbuckling.
FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: The Three Musketeers: 1975 Golden Globes®: Win: Best Actress in a Motion Picture in a Comedy or Musical for Raquel Welch. Nominated: Best Motion Picture in a Comedy or Musical. 1975 BAFTA® Awards: Nominated: Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music for Michel Legrand. Nominated: Best Art Direction for Brian Eatwell. Nominated: Best Cinematography for David Watkin. Nominated: Best Costume Design for Yvonne Blake. Nominated: Best Film Editing for John Victor-Smith. 1975 Evening Standard British Film Awards: Win: Best Comedy for Richard Lester. 1975 Grammy Awards: Nominated: Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture for Michel Legrand. 1975: Writers' Guild of Great Britain: Win: Best British Comedy Screenplay for George MacDonald Fraser.
FILM FACT No.2: Awards and Nominations: The Four Musketeers: 48th Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Costume Design for Yvonne Blake and Ron Talsky. 1976 BAFTA® Awards: Nominated: Best Costume Design for Yvonne Blake. 1976 Evening Standard British Film Awards: Win: Best Comedy for Richard Lester.
FILM FACT No.3: According to George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Lester became involved with the project when the producers briefly considered casting The Beatles as the Musketeers, as Richard Lester had directed two films with the group. The Beatles idea fell by the wayside but Richard Lester stayed. In late 1972 he hired George MacDonald Fraser to write the scripts, saying he wanted to make a four-hour film and cast Richard Chamberlain as Aramis. It was later decided to turn the script into two films. ‘The Three Musketeers’ was shot by David Watkins, with an eye for period detail. The fight scenes were choreographed by master swordsman William Hobbs. On 19th September 1988, Roy Kinnear fell from a horse during the making of 'The Four Musketeers' in Toledo, Spain, and sustained a broken pelvis and internal bleeding. Roy Kinnear was taken to hospital in Madrid but died the next day from a heart attack, brought on by his injuries. Roy Kinnear was 54 years old. Roy Kinnear is buried in East Sheen Cemetery, which is also known as Sheen, and is a suburb of London in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
The Three Musketeers Cast: Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Frank Finlay, Christopher Lee, Geraldine Chaplin, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Spike Milligan, Roy Kinnear, Georges Wilson, Simon Ward, Faye Dunaway, Charlton Heston, Joss Ackland, Nicole Calfan, Michael Gothard, Sybil Danning, Gitty Djamal, Ángel del Pozo, Rodney Bewes, Ben Aris, William Hobbs, Gretchen Franklin, Francis De Wolff, Richard Briers (voice) (uncredited), Michael Hordern (voice) (uncredited) and Frank Thornton (uncredited)
The Four Musketeers Cast: Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Frank Finlay, Christopher Lee, Geraldine Chaplin, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Faye Dunaway, Roy Kinnear, Michael Gothard, Nicole Calfan, Ángel del Pozo, Eduardo Fajardo, Simon Ward, Charlton Heston, Sybil Danning, Gitty Djamal, Jack Watson, Bob Todd, Tom Buchanan, Leon Greene, Lucy Tiller, Norman Chappell, Richard Adams, Tyrone Cassidy, Joss Ackland (archive footage), Gretchen Franklin (archive footage) and Richard Briers (voice) (uncredited)
Director: Richard Lester
Producers: Alexander Salkind (uncredited), Ilya Salkind (uncredited) Michael Salkind (uncredited) and Wolfdieter von Stein
Screenplay: George MacDonald Fraser (screenplay), Alexandre Dumas père (novel)
Composers: Michel Legrand and Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography: David Watkin (Director of Photography)
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 [Panavision]
Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, German: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono and Spanish: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Subtitles: Spanish, Danish, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish and Japanese
Running Time: 214 minutes
Region: Region A/1 and Region B/2
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Optimum Releasing / StudioCanal
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Every generation has its own screen adaptation of ‘The Three Musketeers.’ In 1921 there was Douglas Fairbanks as D'Artagnan. In 1939 the Alexandre Dumas novel became a musical comedy starring Don Ameche and the Ritz Brothers. An all-star cast including Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, June Allyson and Van Heflin brought the tale to life in 1948. And most recently, in 1993, the brat pack made their own ghastly atrocious Musketeer film with Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland and Chris O'Donnell. So what does the 1973 version of ‘THE THREE MUSKETEERS’ have to recommend all you sword fighting swashbucklers out there?
After many versions of the Alexander Dumas classic adventure, along comes ‘THE THREE MUSKETEERS’ and I was when I viewed the film for the first time extremely impressed by this particular adaption that has been divided the story over two films. The cast, comedy, adventure and quirky humour are somehow never at odds with the original story, using spectacular locations, lush cinematography, and historical accuracy. Alexandre Dumas père (novel) wove fact and fiction together around historical events and characters.
Richard Lester also exploited some beautiful European locations for ‘THE THREE MUSKETEERS.’ More than fifty locations and one hundred sets were spread across Spain. The crew made use of small towns, like Salamanca, where the local magistrate said he collected enough fees off the film's production to feed even the poorest person in the town for a year. And they had access to several castles, such as the beautiful Arnjuez Palace, often called the Versailles of Spain. But despite the gorgeous scenery, the spring and summer weather in Spain was gruelling because of the intense heat. On one day of shooting at Arnjuez, especially the scene where D'Artagnan is inducted into the Musketeers, the temperature reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit. A reported 7000 bottles of water were said to be consumed by the large cast and crew necessary for the elaborate scene. The sets for ‘THE THREE MUSKETEERS’ were also closed and the European press didn't like it one bit. But Richard Lester was concerned about having his ideas stolen as four other adaptations of the Alexander Dumas classic were also in production at the time that consisted of two Italian, one French and one animated film.
While the photography is not as dark and candlelit realism as other previous films of this type of calibre, despite this, the lighting still evokes the period of time long before electricity became available, but with the slightly more romantic look of a Dutch master painting. Together with the astonishing costumes and palaces on display, this these two films definitely deserves getting this new digitally restored Blu-ray release. The two films were popular hits and was perfect at the time for the British summer of 1974 and 1975, and beyond.
Both films raised the benchmark for realism by adding blood and exhaustion to the swordfights. Some are played for laughs, but you always knowing that the swords and sabres are deadly weapons and that the bloody wounds really hurt. Here, all the history is kept quirky because of the well-researched screenplay by George MacDonald Fraser, author of the still-cherished “Flashman” books and they too inspired a lavish location-rich film calibre starring Alan Bates and Malcolm McDowell, in the film ‘Royal Flash’ . George MacDonald Fraser also wrote a cutting book rounding up Hollywood's greatest historical inaccuracies.
The cast of actors in these two Musketeer films is an impressive mixture of European, British and American stars, and all are totally convincingly cast. Watching it now on this double Blu-ray disc release and especially in an 1080p digitally encoded image for the first time, it was very apparent that the entire dialogue track had been re-recorded afterwards and especially being “looped.” Even at the time, we could tell that some of the extras had had humorous dialogue added in later, such as the sedan chair carriers complaining about Faye Dunaway, and saying, "She's put on weight..." and passers-by commenting on Raquel Welch running around the streets in her nightgown at night, and saying, "Put some clothes on, you saucy bitch!" Also Jean-Pierre Cassel [Vincent Cassel's dad] as the confused French King appears to be performing in English but sounds more like the British actor Richard Briers.
Producers, Alexander Salkind and Michael Salkind brothers, made news by filming ‘THE THREE MUSKETEERS’ and ‘THE FOUR MUSKETEERS’ back-to-back, with the cast under the impression it was going to be one long epic film. So despite the story being released as two films, all the actors only received one fee. Christopher Lee points out in his “Christopher Lee: The Authorised Screen History” that the small print mentioned they were being paid for a “project,” not a film. The producers tried the same manoeuvre five years later with the first two big-budget ‘Superman’ films, but this time less successfully and especially having director Richard Lester having to complete ‘Superman II’ after the production lost actor Gene Hackman and a stand-in is used in many scenes, and director Richard Donner who eventually released his own more serious version.
Filming ‘THE THREE MUSKETEERS’ and ‘THE FOUR MUSKETEERS’ films were apparently an easier coup, but listening carefully it sounds to me like the American cast didn't return to loop their characters' voices. Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway, Raquel Welch and Geraldine Chaplin do not sound like themselves in the film THE FOUR MUSKETEERS.’ While ‘THE THREE MUSKETEERS’ is an outright and very funny adventure with almost non-stop action, ‘THE FOUR MUSKETEERS’ has far more dramatic weight. No less brilliant, the many downbeat moments are worthy of any major historical drama of the time. While there's just as much action, initially I was slightly disappointed that it wasn't as funny, but it is still a joy to watch. But the shocks and dramatic turns still left a totally lasting impression. For both films to show such range, makes them definitely all-round entertainment for all ages, without compromising on the source material or characterisations.
Each swordfight has a unique twist to keep them fresh, without being unbelievable. For example, set in a royal laundry, amongst a firework display, a convent, or even on ice, fight arranger William Hobbs sword fight choreograph is all totally impressively imaginative and later worked on Ridley Scott's ‘The Duellists,’ ‘Flash Gordon,’ John Boorman's ‘Excalibur’ and Terry Gilliam's ‘Brazil’ among many others. William Hobbs appears in the film and, like all the main cast, does his own sword fighting. Christopher Lee and Oliver Reed had previously crossed swords in previous Hammer Films. Despite good safe sword fighting practice in the Musketeer films, that didn't protect them both from suffering injuries, Oliver Reed for example even impaling his wrist on a blade.
In both Musketeer films, they are definitely my favourite band of Musketeer actors. Michael York is well cast as an over-enthusiastic, floundering upstart. Frank Finlay is excellent comedy relief, both physically and verbally, and rarely so well used despite the relatively small part. Richard Chamberlain is distinctive as an effete ladies' man. But Oliver Reed gets to deliver his most sterling performance ever, somehow keeping his scenes deadly serious through most of the shenanigans, especially the heart-breaking showdowns in ‘THE FOUR MUSKETEERS.’ It is also rewarding to see Charlton Heston back in period costume, effortlessly menacing as a behind-the-scenes villain, though still a fleshed-out character, Cardinal Richelieu. Note how aged he appears to be, knowing that this is in-between his 'action man' roles of ‘The Omega Man’ and ‘Earthquake.’ Also seeing Charlton Heston in his brief sparring with Christopher Lee is very electric in his performance. An important role for Christopher Lee, as he tried hard to escape his “Dracula” typecasting, demonstrating that Christopher Lee can act with the best of them, swordfight like a professional, and effortlessly playing a very droll, romantic baddie with Faye Dunaway as his lover.
Faye Dunaway is at the top of her game, underplaying the villainess Milady. While Cardinal Richelieu is the mastermind, the head of church trying to depose the King, Christopher Lee and Faye Dunaway's characters do the Cardinal Richelieu's very dirty work. Faye Dunaway's touching performance rounds off her character so much that it makes it hard to fully condemn her villainess performance.
Raquel Welch plays the pivotal role of Constance the Queen's dressmaker as an accident-prone simpleton so well, that I initially thought Raquel Welch was indeed not all there. After seeing more of her films, I learned she was not just voluptuous but an excellent comedy actress. In Britain Raquel Welch was seen as the sexiest of Hollywood female stars at that time period and as luck would have it, Hollywood were keen to make films in the United Kingdom at the time, meaning Raquel Welch appeared in many British comedies at the time, spoofing her image of a sex goddess. Hence Raquel Welch played Lillian Lust in the film ‘Bedazzled’ offering two lumps with a cup of tea to Dudley Moore, and whipping half-naked slave girls in ‘The Magic Christian.’
Roy Kinnear almost steals his scenes in ‘THE THREE MUSKETEERS’ as the hapless, maltreated sidekick Planchet, the workhorse of the many musketeers, often getting the last laugh in the comedy scenes. One of the biggest laughs in the first film is his character failing to steer his galloping horse around a tree. Although the gag is done by a stuntman, it is now no longer funny knowing that Roy Kinnear would have the serious and fatal accident and of course eventually passed away following a horse stunt during the filming of latter day sequel ‘The Return of the Musketeers’ , which reunited many of the cast and crew from these two films, and again directed by Richard Lester.
Richard Lester re-used many more British comedy actors from his time with “The Goons” BBC Radio comedy broadcasts and from The Beatles' films ‘A Hard Day's Night’ and ‘Help!,’ like Graham Stark and Bob Todd. But best of all, “The Goons” writer Spike Milligan shares scenes with Charlton Heston and in bed with Raquel Welch, who plays his wife! That's funny in itself, but Spike Milligan builds up his scenes, as well as showing great flair for more serious acting. While the first film maybe tries a little too hard to milk amusement out of every last onscreen character, there's little else to fault in these two wonderful gems.
So all in all, ‘THE THREE MUSKETEERS’ and ‘THE FOUR MUSKETEERS’ are both rousing adventurous yarns brought to vivid life on the screen by the brilliant director Richard Lester. They are the true old fashioned Hollywood type entertainment that is timeless in their appeal. Rarely have any films so combined action with humour; and together, the two films make for the perfect Saturday matinee double-feature. The rest of the cast are all equally impressive, from Christopher Lee in the scene stealing role of Rochefort to Faye Dunaway’s scheming temptress Milady. Once again, a special mention for the costume design, which is truly magnificent throughout. So all in all both films are non-stop fun and because Richard Lester shot two pictures in one go, you get two films for the price of one. Much of the two films are played for the physical and the verbal comedy, as well as you feel everyone had a brilliant time filming both films and it is such a shame we do not get to see documentaries of behind-the scene filming or personal interviews, but despite this, both films are just so brilliant to watch and you will never get bored, as each film has its own merit and some people prefer one to the other, but to me personally I love both films, but I have to admit the first film has a slight edge over the second film, and because so much action is going on both films are well worth viewing several times.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Optimum Releasing and StudioCanal brings you this Blu-ray double disc package with a 1080p encoded quality image and an equally impressive 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is not too bad given both film were release in 1973 and 1974, although the images can be slightly grainy at times and there is some dirt on the print. The picture doesn`t have a great deal of detail, particularly on long outdoor shots, and in some cases there is a slight halo effect on distant buildings. As far as the visuals go, the film is quite well made, with large sets and good use of location and everything on offer looks reasonably authentic for the time period settings. The relatively good news is that partial corrections to cover these limitations and make the film look sharper and smoother have not been applied. There are traces of filtering throughout the entire film, but they are clearly not as damaging as they could have been. The most sever examples are during the majority of the panoramic daylight scenes where detail and contrast have clearly been affected. Many of the close-ups, however, are quite easy to view and the colour reproduction is also very decent. Overall, however, the colour scheme is certainly so much more satisfying and much more superior than it was on the release of the inferior Anchor Bay DVD release.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Optimum Releasing and StudioCanal brings you this Blu-ray double disc package with a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono sound experience, and therefore doesn`t offer much in the way of audio aural excitement, although the dialogue is always clear and understandable. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track on both Blu-ray discs are quite good and with some of the more elaborate action scenes in the film have clearly benefited with the audio boasts that familiar crispness and fluidity all good audio tracks deliver. Similarly, the sound effects and music on both Blu-ray discs are very exciting, especially composed by the brilliant genius of Michel Legrand and Lalo Schifrin, they are well produced and don`t detract from the film.
Finally, with this Optimum Releasing and StudioCanal Blu-ray double disc release package, which can also be purchased as two separate Blu-ray discs if you prefer. Despite having no extra special features, but I am very happy to report that these Blu-ray double disc release package is such a great presentation. Sadly many of the cast are not around these days, but Richard Lester is, and it would have been a great opportunity to get some recollections on the making of such two epic swash buckling film epics, and with these oddball pair of films we could of at least had some kind of audio commentary if not a full documentary. Alas, it seems that these films are never to receive the respect of being remastered which they deserve this totally unique, eccentric and brilliant energetic missing link between the great Hollywood epics of the 1950s and 1960s and the huge Hollywood blockbusters we have had since. The lush soundtracks that were composed by Michel Legrand and Lalo Schifrin are respectively both available on a brilliant Compact Disc release, so all in all a definite must purchase, especially if you are a fan of both films, like me, and well worth adding to your Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso
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