Film / The Three Musketeers (1973)
aka: The Return Of The Musketeers

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. The 1979 movie The Fifth Musketeer (released in Europe as The Man in the Iron Mask) isn't part of this continuity, having a different director and screenwriter and a completely different cast.

These films provide examples of:

  • Adaptational Comic Relief: Porthos is a lot more bumbling and comical than he was in the book. Constance is also much clumsier.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Rochefort.
  • The Alcoholic: Athos. And he's played by Oliver Reed.
  • ...And That Little Girl Was Me: Athos, when he tells d'Artagnan the story of the Comte de la Fere. d'Artagnan figures out that Athos was the Comte, and near the end of the film Athos admits it. It plays out much the same in the original novel.
  • Angrish: Porthos's initial reaction to his hat being destroyed.
  • 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).
  • Audible Sharpness: The first film opens with it.
  • Bad Habits: Milady dresses up as a nun to get into the convent where Constance is hiding, and murders her.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: A battle between the title characters and the Cardinal's men partially occurs in a burning building after a lantern is knocked into a pile of straw.
  • 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Like the book.
  • 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.
  • Book Dumb: D'Artagnan.
  • Butt-Monkey: Porthos. Planchet as well.
  • 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.
  • Clothing Combat: During a fight in a laundry, Athos loses his sword and picks up a piece of wet clothing to use as a weapon.
  • Combat Haircomb: While fighting Constance Bonacieux over the diamond-studded necklace, Milady pulls a ornamental hairpin out of her hair and uses it as a weapon.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Sword fights 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.
  • 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.
  • Crash-Into Hello: How D'Artagnan meets the musketeers, as in the book.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: If it can be tripped over, knocked over, or dropped, Constance would do it. At one point, d'Artagnan hears the crash of a large potted plant falling off a balcony, looks and sees a lady standing on the balcony, and says with satisfaction, "That has to be Constance." It is.
  • The Dandy: Aramis.
  • 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 Door Slams You: The Duke of Buckingham slams open a secret door, hitting Planchet who's standing behind it.
  • The Dragon: Rochefort to Richelieu.
  • Dress Hits Floor: Milady disrobes in this fashion, stepping out of the daintiest of boudoir slippers as well. The camera slowly pans upward from her feet as she moves to dip her toes in the bath, only to find it full of bloody water from Rochefort letting his wounded hand drip into it.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Athos gets drunk to forget about his betrayal by Milady De Winter.
  • Drowning Pit: In The Return of the Musketeers, four of the Duke of Beaufort's supporters are chained to benches in a pit of water up to their neck and forced to operate a pump that will keep the water at that level as long as all four never stop pumping. This is treated as a Funny Background Event.
  • Drunken Master: Athos.
  • Dual Wielding: Many characters fight with both sword and dagger.
  • Duel to the Death: D'Artagnan vs. Rochefort.
  • Elite Mooks: The Cardinal's Guard. Although the novel depicts them as more or less equal to the king's musketeers in training and prestige—and in the first fight sequence the musketeers hesitate before taking them on at 1-2 odds—by the final fight sequences, the heroes are dispatching them by the dozen.
  • 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 Rochefort 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'Artagnan 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.
  • Fanfare: One is to be played for the King of France. One of the Musketeers needs a distraction, so he tries to play the fanfare and fails badly. However, the other musicians think it's time and play the fanfare correctly.
  • Flynning: Averted: Not only was the swordplay highly realistic (with moves like grabbing the opponent's blade, and hitting them with one's cloak), but all the stars were trained swordsmen. Christopher Lee admitted in an interview that he had to remind Oliver Reed during one of their fights that he wasn't really trying to kill him. It didn't help that the swords they used weren't foils.
  • 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).
  • Funny Background Event: The film becomes much funnier when you watch the facial expressions of the random extras reacting to King Louis' latest bit of loony behavior.
  • Give Me a Sword: During the duel in the flaming side-building of the convent from which the heroes are attempting to rescue Constance. Porthos just yells "Sword! Sword!", but Aramis does comply.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Milady's and Queen Anne's are particularly beautiful. The Four Musketeers received an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design.
  • Hat Damage: Happens to Porthos in a fight.
  • 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 dives out of the castle window into a lake and is last seen swimming away. Raoul starts to follow her but is stopped by D'Artagnan.
    Do you really want to go after her, boy? Because - by God - I don't!
  • Hollywood Darkness: The lantern-light duel between D'Artagnan and Rochefort.
  • Human Chess: Featuring animal wearing costumes as pieces.
  • I Gave My Word: D'artagnan is facing Cardinal Richelieu who is about to hang him for a variety of illegal acts which destroyed the Cardinal's plan. D'artagnan hands Richelieu a note which says "By my order and for the good of the state, the bearer has done what has been done", basically a "get out of jail free" card. Richelieu accepts it, says "Be careful what you write, and be careful whom you give it to" (causing D'artagnan and the audience a moment of concern, thinking he is going to rip it up), but then follows this trope straight by honoring the document he himself wrote and releasing D'artagnan, even though it was intended as a blanket pardon to excuse Milady de Winter from her acts which would have advanced the Cardinal's plan.
  • 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!
  • Interesting Situation Duel: D'Artagnan and Rochefort duel on a frozen pond, with all sorts of slippery fun.
  • It's Personal: D'Artagnan engages in Duel to the Death with Rochefort because he thinks he killed Constance.
  • The Klutz: Constance, a far cry from how she's portrayed in the book.
  • Large Ham: "YOU have deCIEVED ME!"
  • Little People Are Surreal: In one scene, the King of France is eating hors d'oeuvres off plates balanced on the heads of dwarf servants. This is mainly to emphasize the decadence of his court, and is Truth In Television.
  • Mark of Shame: The brand on Milady's shoulder.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Jussac.
  • N+1 Sequel Title: The Four Musketeers.
  • Narrator All Along: At the very end, it's revealed that Aramis was the narrator all along.
  • 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 near the end of a fist-sized potato being removed from the same brazier that's heating up the branding irons and placed in a copper bowl near the end. 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.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Just try to spot a French accent. Go on.
  • Nothing Personal: "I have no enemies. France has enemies."
  • Paying for the Action Scene: Subverted. Temporarily embarrassed for funds and very much in need of food and drink, the Musketeers and D'Artagnan's servant Planchet cause chaos in an inn with a long, furious and faked fight...which is a pretext for numerous tricks to purloin said food and drink for later consumption at their leisure.
  • Powder Trail: One is used to destroy the Musketeers' ship in The Return of the Musketeers.
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: Rochefort snarls one on spotting D'Artagnan prior to their final duel:
    "Be advised, Gascon. Turn and run!"
  • Pulling the Rug Out: Played for Laughs. Near the end of the movie D'Artagnan confronts several guards inside the palace. He grabs the rug they're standing on and tries to pull it out from under them, but only succeeds in ripping off the edge of the rug.
  • Puppet King: Louis.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The first sign the Duke of Buckingham is a good guy is that he treats D'Artagnan's attempt to pick a fight with him as an innocent mistake... at least after D'Artagnan apologizes.
  • Reed Snorkel: Used by D'Artagnan in an attempt to escape Rochefort.
  • The Rest Shall Pass: D'Artagnan and the three musketeers are on a mission for the queen. Along the way they're attacked by various groups sent by Cardinal Richelieu. In one encounter, while fighting a Mook, Athos orders d'Artagnan to keep going while he stays and keeps the opponent busy.
  • Royal Rapier: As with most adaptations, both the Musketeers and the Cardinal's Guard use them.
  • Same Language Dub:
    • Jean-Pierre Cassel's (Louis XIII) voice is overdubbed by Richard Briers.
    • In The Return of the Musketeers, Eusebio Lázaro , Jean-Pierre Cassel and Philippe Noiret are all dubbed by British actors.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: The film uses a textbook 'candle dissolves to a much-shorter candle' shot to indicate d'Artagnan has successfully convinced Madame Bonacieux "why, that's the best place for you, bed ..."
  • Shirtless Scene: D'Artagnan has several of these.
  • Shot in the Ass: Aramis shoots a man in the ass during the siege of the bastion.
  • Stalker Shrine: The Duke of Buckingham keeps a painting of Queen Anne in a secret room surrounded by hundreds of candles. Possibly a subversion - since they're in love with each other, it comes across as romantic rather than stalkerish.
  • Stuffed in the Fridge: Poor Contance.
  • 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.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: D'Artagnan receives a case of wine along with a note that indicates it's from his fellow musketeers. Before he can drink any of it, an enemy mook drinks some and was poisoned wine sent by Milady to kill him.
  • Telephone Polearm: Planchett helps D'Artagnan out in a duel by hitting Rochefort with a tree.
  • Theme Music Abandonment: Although the first two films were produced simultaneously and are two halves of the same story, have completely different scores written by two different composers. The sequel thus lacks the first movie's very distinctive main themes.
  • 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.
  • Too Important to Walk: Carriages are shown often.
  • 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. That said, they do turn Rochefort into The Dragon in order to have a dramatic final sword fight since Milady, the real villain of the book, is a woman who's more of a schemer and manipulator.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: Inverted: The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers were produced simultaneously. Over a decade later they were followed by The Return of the Musketeers.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: D'Artagnan's father teaches him the move. It does not work in actual combat.
  • The Vamp: Milady de Winter.
  • Variant Chess: Animal pieces.
  • Verbal Backspace:
    Cardinal Richelieu: Do you know your accuser? Who brought you here?
    M. Bonacieux: [pointing at Rochefort] That! That is the man!
    Cardinal Richelieu: Take him away!
    M. Bonacieux: That is not the man! It was another man altogether!
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Constance gets her hands on a key which she triumphantly dropped into her cleavage—having forgotten that her friends needed that key to unlock the chains and rescue her. And then, it being a very small key, it slipped further down and she couldn't dig it out. Eventually she tries jumping up and down in hopes that it would fly out.
  • Woman in White: Milady de Winter. If she's not in white, she's in silver, pale pink, or grey.
  • Written-In Absence: Richard Chamberlain quit The Return of the Musketeers because he was angry at the producers lack of reaction over the death of Roy Kinnear. This is why Chamberlain's role is so brief in the final film.
  • 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