The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lester's Four Musketeers Revisited

I'm re-watching The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974), the darker, if still comic, sequel to the 1973 film The Three Musketeers. It's easy to forget what a superb concoction this movie is--leading off with Frank Finlay's opening narration, in the best Flashy style, moving into the horrible end of the Athos-Milady marriage, with the ever-darkening tone leading inevitably to tragedy. The comic moments are less dominant than in part 1, but still present throughout. As above, where the mix of Raquel Welch's spunky feather-headedness, Richard Chamberlain's mugging, and Oliver Reed brutally kicking the hell out of the yelping Cardinal's guard tasked with guarding Constance, all to a delicate piece of music served up by Lalo Shiffrin, had me snuffing with laughter as though I hadn't seen the movies at least 8 times previously.

Surely so good natured a movie could not follow to Dumas's bitter end?

Update, August 25

I knocked off part-way through the joie last night, and am watching the end now. I love how the comic tone almost completely disappears after the Bastion St. Gervais breakfast scene. The music grows increasingly somber, the comic bits of Planchet hurrying to England are mere pauses to indicate time passing, while Felton (a superb Michael Gothard falls under the spell of Milady, Faye Dunaway, at her hypnotic, passionate best. Dunaway's performance finally kills the comedy. We've previously seen her in roustabout comic dueling with Raquel Welch, slow-burning at Kitty, her semi-competent maid. But here, at last, Milady takes center stage. Back to the wall, threatened with transportation to America (Dunaway's disgusted repetition of the word "America" is quite funny), Milady is no longer doing a job and amusing herself. We've seen flashes of this--her cold anger when Athos takes her authorization from Richelieu from her--but she's genuinely dangerous from here on in a way she hasn't been. And notably, the Musketeers are on the back foot for the rest of the movie--d'Artagnan's effort to save Buckingham fails, the Musketeers effort to get to Constance first fails, and their efforts to save her fail. Milady is entirely victorious in her revenge, so they take theirs. She brings our heroes (already flawed by their elitism and irresponsibility) to her level, at least momentarily. And, as readers of Twenty Years After know, she haunts Athos for years thereafter.

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