Next weekend, the new Hollywood version of The Three Musketeers comes out and if the trailer is any kind of representation of the film, it promises a to be a dreadful experience.
Alexandre Dumas tale of adventure and intrigue in Louis XIII's France is one of the world's greatest literary achievements. Other than the Bible, it was the best selling book in the western world. There are actually five novels that Dumas wrote featuring Athos, Porthos, Aramis and d'Artagnan, beginning with The Three Musketeers and culminating with The Man in the Iron Mask
There have been at least fifteen movie versions of The Three Musketeers and many had charms where they lacked faithfulness to the source. A silent version starred Douglas Fairbanks, Gene Kelly was an athletic, endearing d'Artagnan to Van Heflin's Porthos, with Lana Turner as Milady De Winter in a 1948 version.
The last major effort was an awful Brat-Pack version starring Charlie Sheen and Chris O'Donnell, with ludicrous changes to one of a great work of literature that took something that was based on real-life people and actual historical events and made in implausible and inane.
Next week's release looks even worse. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, best known for directing the Resident Evil movies, his venture into more complex material appears to convey the style and intellect of his earlier work. Idiotic, unrealistic stunts, poor acting and a stupid screenplay cannot be overcome with lightning fast editing and high production values. What the do is highlight the inadequacy of the story-telling.
If you want to see a wonderful The Three Musketeers, avoid the 2011 version and rent the most faithful telling of it made on film.
1973's The Three Musketeers with Oliver Reed as Athos, Michael York as d'Artagnan, Faye Dunaway as Milady and Charlton Heston as Richelieu is a very close representation of Dumas' novel. Directed by Richard Lester, who directed The Beatles in A Hard Day's Night, it contains wit, thoughtfulness, pathos (and Porthos portrayed by Frank Finlay) and was a brilliant exercise in film making. Reed, a masterful, charismatic actor gave his best ever performance as the leader of the small band and Heston is brilliant as the cunning, plotting French Cardinal who controlled France through a weak monarch.
Richard Lester's film was broken up into two parts, the second, titled The Four Musketeers, was released a year after the first.
Do yourself a favor; The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers are available on DVD. See them and spare yourself the tedium of another bad action movie coming out nest week.