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The Three Musketeers

UK 1966/67
produced by
William Sterling for BBC
directed by Peter Hammond
starring Jeremy Brett, Brian Blessed, Jeremy Young, Gary Watson, Mary Peach, Richard Pasco, Edward Brayshaw, Billy Hamon, Milton Johns, Kathleen Breck, Michael Miller, Simon Oates, Carole Potter, Patrick Holt, John Carlin, Tony Handy, Godfrey James, Paul Whitsun-Jones, Michael Bilton, Sydney Bromley, Sebastian Breaks, Pauline Collins, Delia Corrie, John Kelland, John Caesar, Vernon Dobtcheff, Clive Graham, Michael Hall, Christopher Hodge, Alf Joint, Kaplan Kaye, Sarah Lisemore, Declan Mulholland, Kim Peacock, Roy Purcell, Steven Scott, Ralph Watson, Ian Wilson, Betty Woolfe, Myrtle Moss, Kevin Stoney
screenplay by Anthony Steven, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas

TV-Miniseries
Three Musketeers

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Available on DVD !

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France 1625: Young D'Artagnan (Jeremy Brett) travels from Cascogny to Paris to become a Musketeer, with nothing but a small allowance, a sword, and the ill advice from his father (Roy Purcell) to not let anybody insult him. And thus along his way, D'Artagnan challenges everybody along the way who only looked at him crooked to a duel, makes an enemy of the mighty Cardinal Richelieu's (Richard Pasco) second-in-command Rochefort (Edward Brayshaw), and sees himself having to duel Musketeers Porthos (Brian Blessed), Athos (Jeremy Young) and Aramis (Gary Watson) all the same day, a triple-duel that's cut short when the Cardinal's guards intervene. And as D'Artagnan fights along them to chase off the guards, Porthos, Athos and Aramis decide to take the young man under their wing.

Rather by chance, D'Artagnan manages to save Constance (Kathleen Black), wife of his landlord Bonacieux (Paul Whitsun-Jones) who's also seamstress with the Queen (Carole Potter) from the hands of the Cardinal's guard - and he immediately falls in love with her. But this way he also becomes entangled in the love affair of the Queen with the Duke of Buckingham (Simon Oates), something that's supposed to be top secret, and yet the Cardinal knows of it and wants to find proof to weaken the Queen's position at the court. Now after one of their secret meetings, the Queen gives Buckingham a priceless necklace as a token of appreciation when he returns to London, so the Cardinal arranges for his accomplice Milady de Winter (Mary Peach) to steal a couple of gems from the necklace to create a perfect scandal, then he persuades the King (John Carlin) to hold a ball in the Queen's honour where she's to wear the necklace - so even if it returned to France in time it'd be incomplete, with the Cardinal holding the missing gems to prove her infidelity. But D'Artagnan dashes to London to retrieve the necklace, with his Musketeer friends having his back, and he finds a jeweller to replace the missing stones even, so the Cardinal's plan backfires. Milady de Winter is so brought up by this that she persuades her brother (Patrick Holt) to challenge D'Artagnan to a duel - which D'Artagnan wins, but he refuses to kill de Winter and they become friends instead, which in turn gives the Milady an in-road to D'Artagnan - and D'Artagnan really falls for her charms ... until he finds out she only plans to use him. And then he even finds out she wears the brand of a criminal, and above all else is Athos' evil believed-dead wife - and just like that they become bitter enemies, as the Milady wants D'Artagnan dead because of his knowledge, and even persuades the Cardinal to condemn him to the guillotine. But a small-scale war against British conpirators has broken out in La Rochelle that temporarily keeps D'Artagnan out of Milady's reach. In the meantime, Milady de Winter has traveled to England where she was made prisoner by her brother, but there persuades one of the guards, Felton (John Kelland) to do her bidding and kill Buckingham. With Buckingham dead the war ends, and Milady de Winter returns to France to have her revenge on D'Artagnan - by poisoning Constance, who has since found refuge in a monastery. D'Artagnan arrives at the monastery only minutes to late, and Constance dies in his arms, but he, his Musketeer friends and Lord de Winter catch up with the Milady and condemn her to death - and they have brought their executioner (Kevin Stoney), the very man who branded the Milady back when, with them to chop off her head ...

 

To adapt source material as epic as The Three Musketeers on a budget for television is an ambitious enterprise for sure - and one that was really doomed to fail, as the scope of the story was just too big for 1960s TV standards, and of course the lack of funds doesn't help. What remains then is a version of The Three Musketeers that seems very cut down and as a result, many major plotpoints are only hinted at, told in voiceover, or just robbed of all grandness. So as a result the epic saga about war, love and heroism seems like little more than a chamber play, heavy on dialogue but low on action, with all the fights and chases one comes to expect disappointing almost routinely. And the overacting of many of the involved give this 10-parter even more of a stagey atmosphere. That said, the last episode that's really more about intimate moments, when Milady de Winter coldly poisons Constance and event ells her what she has just done, and then being captured in a house riddled with spiderwebs and executed in the marshs, actually really packs a punch, as director Peter Hammond really captures the creepiness of these scenes and puts an emphasis on atmosphere. It's really a chilling and somewhat downbeat coda to a miniseries that never achieved such heights previously.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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