Film / The Three Musketeers (1973)

The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974) are a two-part film adaptation of the novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Directed by Richard Lester from a screenplay by George MacDonald Fraser, they star Michael York as D'Artagnan, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, and Frank Finlay as the three Musketeers, and Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway, and Christopher Lee as the villains.

The director, screenwriter and much of the cast reunited for The Return of the Musketeers in 1989, loosely based on the novel Twenty Years After. And in 2003, Michael York returned to the role again in the French film La Femme Musketeer, about D'Artagnan's daughter.

These films provide examples of:

  • Audible Sharpness: The first film opens with it.
  • Angrish: Porthos's initial reaction to his hat being destroyed (see Inflationary Dialogue, below).
  • Anti-Villain: Richelieu. The heroes support Richelieu's goal (the integrity and greatness of France), they just can't stomach his methods (exposing the Queen's adultery, having Buckingham assassinated to prevent an English invasion).
  • Bad Habits: Milady dresses up as a nun to get into the convent where Constance is hiding, and murders her.
  • Bedmate Reveal: The Four Musketeers has D'Artagnan waking up in bed with Milady. And then he spots something she doesn't want him to see and she comes after him with a glass dagger filled with acid.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: In The Four Musketeers, Milady nearly steps into a bath that has been turned pinkish-red by Rochefort's blood.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: D'Artagnan and Rochefort have their epic final duel in a church.
  • The Cavalry: In the climax of the first film, D'Artagnan and Constance separately fight off the Cardinal's men and Milady to secure the Queen's diamond necklace. D'Artagnan is outnumbered, but the three Musketeers (and Planchet in a bear suit) turn up just in time to help D'Artagnan.
    • The sub-trope of "a race against time to save the heroes" is parodied with the Musketeers riding not horses but litters.
  • Combat Haircomb
  • Combat Pragmatist: See below under Sword Fight.
  • Cool Sword: D'Artagnan is given a sword with a spring-activated knife blade in the hilt by the Duke of Buckingham.
    • Parodied with the Musketeer sword D'Artagnan gets from his dad at the very start of the first film. Rather than serving as a cherished heirloom weapon, it's snapped six inches above the hilt the first time D'Artagnan tries to use it in combat.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Constance.
  • Dark Action Girl: Justine de Winter.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: The films manage to land as an affectionate homage to classic swashbuckling movies from The Golden Age of Hollywood, even while they viciously subvert tons of the genre's tropes.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: D'Artagnan treats his servant Planchet (played by frequent Lester collaborator Roy Kinnear) like dirt. This is Played for Laughs.
    Sailor: This pass is only for one person!
    D'Artagnan: I am only one person. That is a servant.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Constance and Milady in the climax of the first film. They use Improvised Weapons like a lit candlestick and a tiara.
  • Divided for Publication: Planned and shot as a single film before the decision was made to split it into two, resulting in some legal wrangling over how many films' worth of payment the actors were due.
    • Charlton Heston was allegedly the only cast member who didn't feel cheated by the double shoot - he felt fully compensated as the part of Richelieu was not much bigger than a cameo (though far more important).
  • The Dragon: Rochefort to Richelieu.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Athos gets drunk to forget about his betrayal by Milady De Winter.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Christopher Lee started a trend for movie Rocheforts by sporting one. Michael Wincott and Mads Mikkelsen had one in the 1993 and 2011 versions, and Tim Roth had one in 2001 though his character wasn't Rochefort, but an Expy of Wincott's (and the actual Rochefort was a separate character.)
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Before Rocheforts is to be executed by firing squad, a man is trying to put a blindfold on him, but can't figure out how to work around the eye patch. He dryly says, "perhaps I could just close one eye".
  • Failed Dramatic Exit: D'Artagnon leaps out of a window in pursuit of Rochefort...only to land on a raising platform and have to climb back in and go down the stairs anyway.
  • Forged Message: In The Four Musketeers, Milady send d'Artagnan a case of poisoned wine along with a letter supposedly from Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Luckily d'Artagnan decides to find them first before drinking the wine.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Athos (phlegmatic), Porthos (choleric), Aramis (melancholic), d'Artagnan (sanguine).
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Milady's and Queen Anne's are particularly beautiful.
  • Hat Damage: Happens to Porthos and leads to the Inflationary Dialogue below.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: D'Artagnan has one after he finds that Constance has been murdered
  • High Dive Escape: Justine de Winter in The Return of the Musketeers.
  • Hollywood Darkness: The lantern-light duel between D'Artagnan and Rochefort.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: None of the firing squad manages to hit Rochefort.
  • Inflationary Dialogue: Porthos ransacks his enemy's purse after his hat gets ruined in a fight:
    Porthos: God's blood!! Look at that...! Ruined by you and your, your street-corner ruffians! By God, you'll pay for it! [Rifles the purse of a fallen Guardsman] Ten pistoles it cost me! [Reconsiders on seeing the contents of the purse] No — twenty! Twenty pistoles! And twenty more, as a fine to teach you manners! Hah!
  • Mark of Shame: the brand on Milady's shoulder.
  • Never Learned to Read: D'Artagnan. He tries to hide it, but admits it to the Duke of Buckingham.
  • Noodle Implements: One scene shows a group of torturers preparing to torture Monsieur Bonacieux in the Bastille, with the usual rack and branding irons and such, with an incongruous shot of a fist-sized potato being placed in a copper bowl near the end.
    • And then Richelieu glances at the potato and glares at the torturers, who shrug nonchalantly.
      • The potato in question is removed from the same brazier that's heating up the branding irons. Either a roasted potato is crucial in some nefarious torture, or one of the torturers is feeling peckish and getting a head start on lunch. Given his exasperated look, Richelieu is probably leaning towards the latter explanation.
  • Nothing Personal: "I have no enemies. France has enemies."
  • Powder Trail: One is used to destroy the Musketeers' ship in The Return of the Musketeers.
  • Reed Snorkel: Used by D'Artagnan in an attempt to escape Rochefort.
  • Shirtless Scene: D'Artagnan has several of these.
  • Sword Fight: Takes pride in giving fiction's most famous swashbucklers decidedly non-Flynn moves. Examples include sucker punching, groin kicking, blinding with cloaks or laundry, bashing with convenient chairs, and reversing the sword to beat the bad guy with the grip.
  • The Vamp: Milady de Winter.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Double Subverted — Porthos invents a move involving throwing his sword at the enemy in the same motion as drawing it. Aramis, unimpressed, asks Porthos to perform this move on him and easily parries the thrown blade, pointing out that Porthos is unarmed now. Later however, Porthos uses this move anyway, and it does work as intended.
    • This gets a Call Back in The Return of the Musketeers when a wounded Porthos throws his sword at Justine during the final battle. He misses, but does distract her at a crucial moment, allowing D'Artagnan and Raoul to turn the tide of the battle.
  • Truer to the Text: The first two movies, despite some combining, cutting and killing off of characters and a generous dose of slapstick, is extremely close to the source material than most other versions. The third is, as stated, a loose adaptation.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: D'Artagnan's father teaches him the move. It does not work in actual combat.
  • Woman in White: Milady de Winter. If she's not in white, she's in silver, pale pink, or grey.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Queen Anne cheats on her husband with the Duke of Buckingham, and the Duke cheats on her with Milady de Winter. Constance is cheating on her husband with D'Artagnan, D'Artagnan cheats on her with Milady's servant, Kitty, and Milady herself.

Alternative Title(s): The Four Musketeers, The Return Of The Musketeers