on 5 November 2012
As most of the reviews posted here are generic, I thought I'd compose one that is blu-ray specific. Like me, most of you will doubtless be aware of the content of these two films and remember them with much fondness. On viewing them again I was surprised at how much of the script I could actually remember despite the two decades or so since I last viewed them on VHS video, a sign perhaps of a misspent youth watching too much television.
But enough of trips down memory lane, what do the blu-rays have to offer? These are not the first 'classic' films that I have purchased on the new format, and having been impressed with the likes of Zulu and A Bridge Too Far, I was slightly disappointed as the opening credits of The Three Musketeers scrolled across the screen, superimposed over the fast moving sword-play between D'Artagnan and his father. The picture appeared blurred and suffered from excessive grain and promised little improvement over and above DVD quality. However I am pleased to report that once the titles had receded, the picture quality vastly improved. As one might expect from a brace of films that were originally filmed in 1973 and 1974 respectively, the picture remains a little grainy, especially in duller scenes such as poorly lit building interiors, where blacks appear somewhat muted and lacking in detail. Faces and clothing too appear slightly softened in such scenes and lacking in the kind of detail one has come to expect on this format. That said, in the brighter scenes the quality of the picture is quite astonishing considering the age of the original material. The extent of Optimum Classic and Studio Canals' digital restoration shines through particularly in the magnificent costumes and back-ground detail. One can see in amazing clarity, for example, the detail in the paintings hanging on the wall of the Duke of Buckinghams' gaming room, as D'Artagnan confronts the Duke with a message from the Queen of France, the paintings becoming exquisite vignettes within the main picture. I noticed no signs of blemishes or scratches and no colour-banding; the colour pallet appearing soft and warm on the interior shots and strikingly bright during exterior scenes, though the green/brown hues of the Spanish country-side remain somewhat pale. I would say that The Four Musketeers is slightly more grainy than the first film, but here too detail is pleasing and sometimes very revealing, just look at the castle in the background of the siege of La Rochelle, so obviously a matte painting. None of these minor issues, however, detract from the joy of watching such fabulous films once again. The picture quality is sufficiently good as to be pleasing and does add a fresh-face to these old comedy-actioners that far surpasses the more recent 2011 film, The Three Musketeers, in both originality and vision. A recommended purchase for lovers of the original films and for all those who love quality costume dramas that don't take themselves too seriously.
If you enjoyed this review then please read my other Blu-ray reviews, and if you find them useful, please leave feedback.
on 31 December 2009
Truly, these two films are masterpieces, in turn witty, romantic, tragic and romping. The acting is superb, the pacing is superb and the scripting is superb. Then there is the humour going on around the main characters (such as the beggars continuing to ask for change when all hope is lost) and what can be said about the fight scenes that would do them justice? Rather than being Hollywoody they come across as being realistic: why waste energy sparing with rapiers when you can just kick the other fellow in the unmentionables? Having said that, the sword fighting looks like the characters actually want to damage each other, rather than just looking rehearsed. I remember falling in love with this film (and Faye Dunaway) when I was about seven years old and the film is still one of my favourites thirty years on. Buy it!
The Three Musketeers has been done to death over the years, with some very good and very bad films resulting. The two films presented here are, in my humble opinion, the best. If you're after some flashy hollywood production however, don't look here, go to the (truly terrible) 1996 effort starring Keifer Sutherland.
These films are relativley slow paced, filled with great performances from a variety of famous actors (Charlton Heston, Oliver Reed, Roy Kinnear and Spike Milligan to name but a very few - you really couldn't get a more varied bunch!) The slow pace allows for a good development of many minor characters and for the director's attention to detail to really draw you into the world of 17th century France.
The films include many elements, high drama, moral dilemmas and several lashings of humour. Oh, and plently of realism. None of your highly coreographed fight scenes that look more like dancing here, when brawls and sword fights come along they look very VERY realistic, and totally different to the usual hollywood attempt at such things.
In all, a very atmospheric and entertaining few hours, which will have you totally caught up in it. And for the price being asked here it's more than well worth it!
The only thing required now is the DVD release of the third film in the trilogy. This was filmed many years after these (which were originally made as one film but released as two shorter films by the distributor) and marked the last performance of Roy Kinnear.
Anchor Bay deserves a great deal of credit for this informative and entertaining double feature of the two classic Musketeer films from the early 1970s.
Originally planned as one long epic movie (including a then standard intermission in the middle) the decision was made at some point during the production of THE THREE MUSKETEERS that they would either have one four hour movie or two separate movies. Rather than cut out some of the fantastic scenes that had been shot to make the movie more manageable the production company made the more sensible decision to cut the production in two releasing THE THREE MUSKETEER' one year and then THE FOUR MUSKETEERS shortly after.
Not everyone involved in the production of the movie was happy about the decision. Actress Faye Dunaway publicly stated that (had she known about the splitting of the movie into two) she would have refused to do it since her role in the first was so small. The move led to some litigation and was eventually settled but today movie contracts include what is termed "The Salkind Clause" (named after the Salkind's who produced the MUSKETEER movies) to protect actors from such moves.
It is perhaps for this reason that Faye Dunaway is one of the only still living members of the main cast who does not appear on camera for the excellent hour-long documentary THE SAGA OF THE MUSLETEERS that Anchor Bay has put together for this release.
Perhaps a deliberate reflection of the movie (or perhaps simply due to limited space on the DVDs) the documentary is split into two half-hour parts on each disc. Recounting their memories of the production are actors Charlton Heston, Raquel Welch, Michael York, Frank Finlay and Christopher Lee who cover nearly every aspect of the production from their casting to some of the close calls and injuries the actors sustained performing their own stunts and swordflighting with real, very lethal swords.
Lee, himself an expert swordsman, had to remind a rather over enthusiatic Oliver Reed (who abandoned the staged moves for a fight for some more improvised swings) that it was "only a movie."
Also on camera for interviews are producers Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler (who would both go on to produce SUPERMAN) who discuss not only the actual production of the movies but also where the initial idea came from and the recruiting of Director Richard Lester. Salkind recounts how Lester initially turned down the invitation to direct the movie, referring to it as "a children's book" (as it was seen at the time). It was not until Salkind actually sent him a copy of the actual Alexandre Dumas novel that Lester became excited by the prospect of directing the adaptation.
With a screenplay by George MacDonald Fraser (of the FLASHMAN novels and later of 1983's OCTOPUSSY) these two movies work remarkably well. Even though there are some surprising stylistic differences (surprising since it was originally meant as one movie). The first movie is definitely more comic in tone and the second darker and more dramatic. This is not to say the second movie is lacking in humor - just witness the Musketeers eating lunch as the prefer for battle with the Protestants.
Of the two I actually prefer the second movie much more because I feel the characters are more drawn out and the intrigue more involving, The climatic sword fight and Oliver Reed-Faye Dunaway subplot are both highlights in my opinion. The second movie also features the shocking deaths of two of the more likeable major characters.
Overall, a fantastic job by Anchor Bay. One can only hope that the third movie in the series, 1989's THE RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS which was also directed by Richard Lester and included the majority of the original cast, will one day be released on DVD.
on 27 March 2009
This movie holds its years well and is still the best screen version of the Dumas classic and stays close to the original story. It is said that enough material was left on the cutting room floor to create the Four Musketeers and the sequel maintains the standard created by the Three Musketeers. The movies look good and it is obvious that the actors enjoyed what they were doing; Michael York a naive perplexed D'Artagnan, Richard Chamberlain suave, almost English, Frank Finlay a buffoon and Oliver Reed menacing, Racquel Welch the best endowed seamstress ever! All in all: just great fun.
on 19 January 2016
This MUSKETEERS:TWO FOR ONE PACK release (browny red cover, gold musketeer outline on front) only has the first two films, if you want to get RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS then its only available alone as a German release. I though bought the excellent French studio canal 3 disc release of all films which has removable French subtitles (no English ones) and a choice of original English soundtrack or french dubbed one. There are also some great English language making of documentaries (contemporary and a modern one about musketeer films over the years) but they have french subs that can't be turned off but thats no big deal since the main films have French subs that can be removed. If you have trouble locating this product, why not visit the French Amazon site or use your ipad app to change to the French site...easily done. Best way to get best releases of all three films on dvd.
on 6 January 2016
Simply the best film versions of Alexander Dumas's Musketeer novels. The whole cast, locations, direction and production is nigh on perfect. Ironically it helped that the cast and crew were lied to by the film company as they thought they were just making one movie, when in fact they were making two!
Once that had become established on release of the first 'The Three Musketeers ', litigation followed, however it explains the wonderful consistency that exists between both films.
Another point to make is that the fight scenes were choreographed by a trained swordsman. This means the fencing looks authentic and realistic, the characters getting exhausted and resorting to physical blows, there's none of the endless 'Erroll Flynn', cartoon sword play here!.
The first film is an absolute joy, mixing humour and action with breathless aplomb, carrying the viewer along with the sheer exuberance of the story.
The second film is darker due to its subject matter, but as for reasons I stated above, it's a seamless sequel to the first.
The Blue Ray version means an excellent picture and much improved sound helping in many important scenes.
I simply cannot recommend these films and this blue ray release highly enough. Forget the later 'plodding' Hollywood versions, if you want true swashbuckling, humour and films that actually portray Dumas's vision, then buy this disc.
All for One and One for All!
on 30 March 2015
A very enjoyable series that I saw when it was first on BBC TV. Keeps rather well to the book. Lots of lively fun musketeer-style! Well directed. Part 2 is sadder of course. Well worth buying, though I as a keen fan of the Dumas stories since my childhood, have some gripes with this version.
My one big gripe and why I give only 4 stars is I simply cannot stand Michael York as d'Artagnan or Oliver Reed as Athos.They are OK guys but neither is how I see their characters in the movie and it jars every time I look at them. In fact, even Chamberlain isn't ideal as Aramis - his acting is great, but he's a little too tall However, he is definitely the best of the 4, a good representation of my favourite musketeer Aramis. and the best cast. Thank heaven Reed or York was not casted as my musketeer hero or I'd have binned this movie in outrage!
Worse re Athos, this character was a consummate gentleman, the noblest of the four, very intelligent and very accomplished. Athos has of course that secret sorrow that has turned him off women and made him drink to excess "to forget". Reed demonstrates the "drinking to excess" but he's rough with it whilst Athos was more quiet when he was drunk, not a roistering thug.
Reed should have played the big bluff Porthos and Finlay would have done very well as Athos - a part Finlay was well qualified to play. He portrays Porthos very well except he's too short and slight. It makes no sense that "Athos" is the biggest, broadest and tallest (which is Porthos) and Finlay is the shortest and slightest! Utterly weird casting.
(Incidentally, Reed could act the gentleman if he wanted or if the script demanded it. In the third movie of this series, he is utterly disastrous in the early scenes as this ghastly roisterer, but later he is required to be sober and sensible, and he does this extremely well. Pity he wasn't like that all the time but I expect he did what the director wanted.....)
Other than my objections re casting, the movie is great fun. It keeps to the main plot themes more or less, although has an unfortunate habit of turning what were serious sequences in the books (and normally are in other movie versions) into daft romps. This is I suppose how the director Lester liked to make movies, but it's very strange for an afficionado of the books to watch as at times it makes no sense. One minute we have "the story" (or something like it), and the next we have a set of buffoons behaving stupidly. Oh, and the swordfighting isn't much good. You only have to compare with the swordfighting of fine actors like in the past Flynn, Tyrone Power, and more recently many Musketeer movies, to see the flaws in this series. I prefer to proper fighting - such as in many of the other musketeer movies.
All that aside, it's a lot of fun and well worth seeing. I can't say it's the best version of this famous story (the two parts cover the first Dumas book), but it's very good nonetheless. I enjoyed it when it was first shown, though less so now as I've seen various other better versions. It's very well made visually other than the lack of any serious fight scenes.
on 23 February 2015
There have been many film accounts of Dumas's musketeer novels, but these two films must surely rank as the best, and it is very hard to see how they could really be bettered.
For a start the cast is uniformly excellent. Names like the much missed Oliver Reed really speak for themselves, but there is also some particularly good character acting; Charlton Heston's Richelieu for example is superb, and exactly captures the deeply ambivalent character portrayed by Dumas. More recent attempts to paint him as some kind of Bond villain - Cardinal Blofeld? - are simply ghastly.
And there is the lively and entertaining script, which is always engaging and often romantic without ever being mawkish or sentimental. One of the peculiar delights of these two films is the continual undercurrent of odd little asides, quite often from minor characters like beggars or workmen, that so often bring a smile to your face.
The sets and locations too are well chosen. Perhaps Spain is not entirely ideal as seventeenth century France, but what it lacks in greenery is more than made up for by some marvellous buildings and intriguing Heath Robinson technology, which often form the background for some splendid set piece scenes.
Perhaps what makes these films stand head and shoulders above the rest, which seem leaden and gruesome by comparison, is Lester's light touch, which has resulted in two films that always radiate good humour, even when it comes - as it often does - with a steely edge.
There are really too many memorable scenes and lines to discuss here - the best thing to do is to buy these splendid films while you can and enjoy them.
on 27 June 2016
I had to purchase the fabulous double set of the best Musketeers films ever made. I bought them as a fathers day gift for ny dad and he absolutely loves them. I cannot add anything more to the other fantastic reviews for these two wonderful films, that I have loved since childhood.
So why only 4 stars you ask...It is less one star due to the company that made the DVDs! They made a huge gaff! The films have been labeled incorrectly! On the disc that is meant to be The Three Musketeers it's actually The Four Musketeers and the other disk that is The Four Musketeers, its says Three....