All Hallow’s Lee – THE FOUR MUSKETEERS
The follow-up to Richard Lester’s Alexander Dumas adaptation is The Four Musketeers, released in 1974 a year after the first movie with the same cast and crew. The alternate title is The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge which is tells us that we will be seeing a lot of Milday de Winter (Faye Dunaway) and the movie better for it. Unfortunately, like the first movie in the franchise, Sir Christopher Lee was underused, almost to the extent that we could call his casting a cameo.
The sequel directly follows the events of the last movie and sums them up in a brief opening montage that plays with the credits. All of the miscast Musketeers return to fumble their way through another set of adventures and sexual escapades. Milady de Winter burns hot with revenge and her first strike is seducing d’Artagnan while the Count de Rochefort (Lee) kidnaps Constance Bonancieux (Raquel Welch). This is part of Cardinal Richilieu’s plan to disturb the French kingdom while they are at war with the Protestant rebels of La Rochelle.
After rehabilitating from his de Winter’s seduction, d’Artagnan learns that Athos used to be married to a woman that was strikingly similar to de Winter (it is de Winter). Three of the Musketeers eventually rescue Constance and keep her safe in the convent of Armentieres. Richilieu, as in the first movie, is trying to expose the affair between the Duke of Buckingham and Queen Anne of France. This scheme involves a convoluted plan wherein de Winter is going to seduce the Duke and then convince to admit to the affair and if he doesn’t then she can kill him. She persuades the Cardinal to sign a death warrant against d’Artagnan so she can kill him too for insulting her. The Cardinal grants her wish but words the warrant in such a way that it could pardon anyone for anything (this warrant comes back into play later because Athos steals it after he confronts de Winter).
Everything basically goes down the toilet with respect to the plans of the Musketeers and de Winter convinces her captor to kill the Duke. Lester continues the slapstick tone of the first movie so none of the dramatic twists in the plot have any weight and there almost no tension throughout movie. If Lester was able to pull off a parody that was actually funny than I wouldn’t have such a problem with this adaptation. However, the jokes fall flat nearly every time and the sexuality in the movie seems too juvenile to be of any interest for adult audiences so again I am wanting more faithful adaptation of the Dumas stories instead.
The movie ends with the Musketeers paying a professional ‘headchopperoffer’ to execute de Winter. Upon her decapitation she nearly seduces d’Artagnan yet again (even though moments before she murdered Constance) but Athos stops him before he can intervene. Once she is dead, the Musketeers return and d’Artagnan must stand trial for his murder of Count de Rochefort (side note: this makes no sense because Lee’s character returns in the third movie of the franchise) and de Winter but pulls out the pardon. Richilieu can’t punish so he makes the head of the Musketeers instead. The movie ends with a cheerful montage of the d’Artagnan’s rise to Musketeerdom as his three comrades reminisce about his journey.
Lee’s performance is of course good (but what else would you expect from him) that you want him to have more screen time, especially in a movie where the majority of the characters are miscast. His final duel with d’Artagnan uses his physicality and charisma but unfortunately it is not enough to give this movie a spot in the essential Lee viewing canon.