Review: The Three Musketeers (1973)

Directed by Richard Lester and written by George MacDonald Fraser, a young swordsman comes to Paris and faces villains, romance, adventure and intrigue with three Musketeer friends. Starring: Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Frank Finlay, Christopher Lee and Geraldine Chaplin.

When you think of period pieces from the 1960s and 1970s, you probably go to epic films with sombre stories but The Three Musketeers is quite different. It holds a surprisingly silly sense of humour, with a lot of physical comedy and tongue-in-cheek lines. The way that it moves isn’t that far removed from comedy like Monty Python, it can be over the top, unnecessary sexual and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Alongside the classic rescue of a damsel in distress, there’s plenty to enjoy in its story, which is not a surprise adapting from a piece of adored literature. However, it feels like the film starts to run out of steam in its latter moments, the energy wavers and its destination feels weaker.

One of the ways it misses out on boosting that energy is through the swordfights, they’re very well shot and a lot of fun but sparsely used. It has that action edge when the heroes come together and it would have been great to enhance that even more, something which a lot of modern adaptations have embraced. Although its aesthetic has no weak spots whatsoever, the costume and set design are fantastically opulent and strike the perfect note, which is a pleasure to watch. Especially as it never gives the film a heavier or serious tone, Richard Lester keeps a light atmosphere to match its sense of humour.

A factor which is of course also in thanks to the superb cast, there’s a lot of heavy-hitters and they make for a great ensemble. The only surprising choice is having Michael York as D’Artagnan, his performance is solid but his presence doesn’t scream leading hero, especially with the romantic angle. He certainly fits the sidekick feel to the character but the rest is an unusual match. Unsurprisingly Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and Frank Finlay are an excellent fit as the musketeers, bringing raucous and unapologetic personalities. The same goes for having Raquel Welch playing the bumbling love interest and Christopher Lee the villain, you couldn’t possibly go wrong there.

The Three Musketeers is a light-hearted, fun adventure with a fantastic cast. It’s funnier than you’d expect and follows a classic set up of cinema, adapted from an adored novel, which is quite hard to mess it up. It struggles to sustain itself in the latter moments, to go out with a bang but it’s plenty enjoyable and the restoration work only highlights how brilliant the design of the entire film is, doing justice to that decadent period setting.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from 8 May

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