Top positive review
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Almost the best version
on 10 May 2007
The influence of Buster Keaton on Jackie Chan's brand of comedy-action stunt work is well documented, but looking at Gene Kelly's impressively energetic stunt work in George Sidney's lavish 1948 MGM version of The Three Musketeers it's clear that his viewing extended beyond the silent era. The sheer amount of vitality and imagination that goes into the first duel with Richelieu's men is absolutely astounding: it's almost like watching a vintage live-action Tom and Jerry cartoon. Unfortunately, while he shares Douglas Fairbanks Sr.'s athleticism, he also shares his penchant for ham, particularly in the love scenes (this is the performance Kelly sends up mercilessly in Singin' in the Rain's The Duelling Cavalier), but he's never quite bad enough to throw the film of course. George Sidney, who had one of the best eyes for striking composition of any directors at MGM, makes sure it always looks good (this is from the days when Technicolor really was glorious), Herbert Stothart's rousing score carries it along with unashamed gusto (though it could have done without the Tchaikovsky for the love scenes) and there's a fine supporting cast - Van Heflin, Gig Young and Robert Coote round out the Musketeers, Angela Lansbury and Frank Morgan play the royalty, Lana Turner the femme fatale while Vincent Price provides superbly underplayed velvet villainy as Richelieu, beating Ernst Stavro Blofeld to the cat on the lap business by a good 19 years (though he opts for a tortoiseshell tabby rather than a Persian White). Great fun in a Christmas Day kind of way.
Warners' Region 1 NTSC DVD is quite a treat - a fine transfer with the theatrical trailer, brief radio promo, cartoon (though curiously 'What Price Fleadom?' instead of the obvious choice of Tom and Jerry's The Two Mouseketeers) and a vintage James Fitzpatrick travelog (curiously once again France doesn't get a look-in) that has some interesting but not always accurately identified colour footage of post-war London.