I continue to watch Musketeer-movies so you don’t have to. But before we go into more detail I need to apologize: I made a mistake in my last entry on Musketeer-movies. I wrote that in the book Athos gets knocked out by a low-hanging branch while riding. That’s only happens in the Dutch musical. In the book he ad d’Artagnan get accused of forgery by an innkeper but only d’Artagnan manages to escape. On his way back he finds that Athos has managed to prove his innocence, locked himself in the inn’s wine-cellar and is drinking it dry. I feel my point about the books being both very silly and very serious still stands.
The Three Musketeers (1948) USA
(Somewhere in the production-meeting of the movie: “We can make movies in colour now. I want to have ALL THE COLOURS.” “I don't think Musketeers really wore pink or orange...” “I said I want ALL THE COLOURS! ")
We are in 1948 so we can’t have the love-interest of our hero be an adulteress. That’s why Constance is the good-daughter of d’Artagnan’s landlord, not his wife.
Besides Richelieu is the Prime Minister, not a cardinal. It seems you couldn’t show church-officials doing something bad but politicians were fair game.
It sticks quite close to the book in the first half but makes some odd changes in the second. D’Artagnan takes much longer to see how bad Mylady actually is which just makes him look rather stupid. It also changes what is one of the few true historical facts in the novel: Fenton assasinating the Duke of Buckingham. Instead of him Constance is Mylady’s prison-guard, she soon takes pity and frees Mylady. Mylady then kills both Constance and Buckingham. I have no idea why they felt the need to change this.
Overall the movie isn’t bad and has a magnificent casting (Angela Lansbury as Queen) but it isn’t great either.
The Three Musketeers (1966)
BBC Miniseries in ten parts, starring Jeremy Brett as d’Artagnan and BRIAN BLESSED as Porthos.
This is a low-budged series from the 60s which means two things. a) not only Brian Blessed acts like a large ham b) they did not have the money for a fencing instructor so the fighting-scenes take about 5 seconds.
I still quite like it as it’s the only adaptation that’s long enough to stay close to the book. It even keeps most of the side-plots that are usually cut out because they don’t do anything for the main story.
The only thing that does not work quite as well is the character of the Cardinal. As they stay faithful to the book he is not the real villain of the show but some of the lines they added make it appear like he still is. That is a bit weird but not quite as weird as the fleur-de-lis that always appears on the wall whenever Mylady’s past comes up.
(Oh how I wish that and the singing horse were the weirdest things I ever saw in Musketier-films)
The Return of the Musketeers (1998), USA
The final part of the trilogy starring Michael York as d’Artagnan. It is based on Twenty Years After, the first sequel to the original novel. As the first two movies did not keep 100% to the book it runs into some problems:
In the second film Rochefort dies at the end but in the book he doesn’t. In The Return of the Musketeers he is miraculously alive again. That could be forgiven if he’d at least do something in it but they also cut out his storyline from the book so there is no point to it. Except the fact that Christoper Lee wearing an eye-patch is always cool.
(Fun fact: the book doesn’t mention anything about Rochefort missing an eye, just a scar near his eye. But after Christopher Lee almost every version gave their Rochefort an eyepatch as well
Other changes from the novel include turning Milady’s son, the main antagonist from the books into a daughter. The only reason to that seems to have been that Raul (Athos’ son) can fall in love with her. He does that after they talked for about a minute and he saw her murder a defenceless man (who am I to judge his preferences but WHAT?) Otherwise Raul’s main reason to be there is to look pretty. To be fair he didn’t have that much to do in the book either but not as little as in the movie.
Other things missing from the book: all the emotional pain about the Musketeers not being able to save King Charles, all the joy about their initial reunion and Aramis. Yeah, Richard Chamberlain either was busy with something else or read the script and said ‘no thanks’ so he has about three scenes.
The Ring of The Musketeers (1992) USA/GER
Yes, this is the intro. It sounds vaguely like the Eurovision Anthem played on a Gameboy and it’s the only good thing about this show.
It’s about the great-great-grandchildren of the original Musketeers fighting crime.
In 1990s New York.
There is John Smith-d’Artagnan (played by David Hasselhoff ), Anne Marie Athos, Burt Aramis and Peter Porthos, a German Teacher from the Black Forrest. He is played by Thomas Gottschalk and please don’t ask who Thomas Gottschalk is, please (click at your own risk).
Hasselhof’s character gives an impromptu pop-concert halfway through the episode (why? I’m not sure. My brain had stopped working after about 10 minutes).
Oh John Rhys-Davis apparently really needed the money back then because he’s also in this…thing. As Treville’s great-great-grandson.
I’d love to applaud the show for gender-swapping Athos and not Aramis or d’Artagnan as some other reinterpretations do but I can’t. They did not leave the role of the leader with Athos. Instead that is d’Artagnan’s part while Athos is just there to have Unresolved Sexual Tension with him.
No, I did not make this show up it really existed. Thankfully only for four episodes.
The Musketeer (2001), UK/GER/LUX
The version that isn’t all bad. In fact it is somewhat better than the trailer made me expect. I had prepared for almost two hours of impressively choreographed fighting-scenes with little plot inbetween. The fighting-scenes are in fact impressive (though I’m quite sure that gravity does not work that way) but they do not take over the whole film. Instead characters who often tend to be overlooked get quite a lot of screentime. Constance – who in this version is called Francesca for whatever reason – is great in this version. She is quite witty and can fend for herself. (Something book!Constance could also do and which most movies forget). The queen also has some great scenes and we get to see some friendship between her, Francesca and Francesca’s mother. Treville also gets much more to do than in most other adaptations.
It all could be so great if it wasn’t for one little thing: it’s no accident that this version isn’t called The Three Musketeers. The plot just centres around d’Artagnan and his Inigo Montoya plot. For all the influence Athos, Porthos and Aramis have on the plot you could replace them with coat-hangers
The fact that Rochefort is ridiculously over the top evil doesn’t help either.
La Femme Musketeer (2004), GER/CRO/US
The movie that is fanfic which in itself isn’t bad. If only it could decide if it wants to be a sequel-fanfic starring the children of the musketeers or an AU in which d’Artagnan is a woman. It is about the children of the original musketeers: Athos, Porthos and Aramis all have sons. D’Artagnan has a daughter who also wants to become a musketeer.
Halfway through the first part it turns into ‘we’re just doing the same as in the original story with a few “but you can’t become a musketeer you’re a girl” thrown in’. D’Artagnan meets Athos, Porthos and Aramis Junior after coming to Paris, offends them and they challenge her to a duel. They end up fighting the cardinal’s guards instead. There is a scheming cardinal who is working with a Milady-like character. (By the way Milady 2.0 is played by Natassia Kinski, Michael York plays the old d’Artagnan and John Rhys-Davis Porthos so it’s not like there are no reasons to watch this). The junior Musketeers have to work together and make dangerous journeys…
It’s fun but could have been more fun with a better script.
d’Artagnan et les Trois Musquetoires (2005), FRA/GER
And it came to pass that the French saw all the horrible things that people did to one of their classics and decided that they wanted to do a proper version.
Just kidding. The French saw all the things that people did to one of their classics and said “You know what’s missing? D’Artagnan having a magical white falcon and Mylady being some kind of ninja-sorceress-demon.”
You think I’m still kidding?
Surprisingly at least one of the writers must have known the books well. We don’t only get Athos’ full name but also those of d’Artagnan’s and Aramis’ (neither of those are even mentioned in the first book). It also gives us Mylady’s execution in full length and doesn’t shy away from the fact that it supposed to make the viewers feel uncomfortable.
But then there are of course other parts…like Mylady having sold her sould to the devil. Or a cringeworthy scene in which d’Artagnan dresses up as oriental princess and the Musketeers as the servants which is wrong on more levels than I can count. Also Gascony is now near Calais but that’s a rather minor issue.
Tři mušketýři (2008) CZE
Yes, this is the Cardinal yelling “Já vím” (I know) and then being joined first by red-dressed priests and later by a trio that looks like it came straight from a bondage-dungeon. Richellieu then invades d’Artagnan’s personal space a lot and is in the end showered in glitter-confetti.
This is a Czech Musical-version and I’m cheating now as I didn’t see the whole thing. (Even if I had my Czech-knowledge is somewhat lacking). But I have been informed by that it is quite close to the source-material. It even includes Planchet who is missing from so many adaptations.
The Three Musketeers (2011), USA
If there’s a blockbuster somewhere the Asylum-ripoff isn’t far away. Fortunately, unlike Sherlock Holmes, the Musketeers don’t have to fight dinosaurs. No, in this present-day version they are hunting North Korean spies. The Cardinal is one of them…and so is Treville because he and the Cardinal are the same person. No I don’t get it either.
It’s extremely silly, as low-budget as all Asylum-movies and trying to fill the plot-holes will make you brain break. I still enjoyed it more than the other 2011 version…but then I think I would enjoy just about anything more than that version so you might not want to listen to me in this matter.