THREE MUSKETEERS, THE (director/writer: Rowland W. Lee; screenwriters: Dudley Nichols/based on the novel by Alexander Dumas; cinematographer: Peverell Marley; editor: George Hively; music: Max Steiner; cast: Walter Abel (D’Artagnan), Paul Lukas (Athos), Margot Grahame (Milady de Winter), Heather Angel (Constance), Ian Keith (de Rochefort), Moroni Olsen (Porthos), Onslow Stevens (Aramis),Rosamond Pinchot (Queen Anne), John Qualen (Planchet),Ralph Forbes (Duke of Buckingham), Lumsden Hare (Captain de Treville), Miles Mander (King Louis XIII), Nigel de Brulier (Cardinal Richelieu), Murray Kinnell (Bernajou, the landlord); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Cliff Reid; RKO; 1935)
“Poor casting can easily sink a pic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The first talkie version of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers is a disappointing dull swashbuckler, that only excels in the fencing scenes and the costumes. One can only sigh in appreciation of Douglas Fairbanks’s more dazzling 1921 version. Much blame is placed on the talented Broadway stage actor Walter Abel’s uncharismatic performance, as the lead adventurer D’Artagnan. But equal blame can be attributed to the uninspiring performances of those who played The Three Musketeers: Athos (Paul Lukas), Porthos (Moroni Olsen) and Aramis (Onslow Stevens). Poor casting can easily sink a pic. Director Rowland W. Lee(“Son of Frankenstein”/”Zoo in Budapest”/”One Rainy Afternoon”) co-wrote it with Dudley Nichols, and the dialogue seemed to slow down the pace without any noticeable benefits.
Eager-beaver nobleman D’Artagnan, in 1625, leaves dad’s Gascony home and heads by horse, wearing his plumed hat, for Paris. He takes with him his father’s sword, a letter addressed to his godfather Captain de Treville (Lumsden Hare)–the commander of King Louis XIII’s loyal defenders–and dad’s blessings to be a musketeer. The feisty lad on his first day in Paris arranges for separate duels with the Three Musketeers, but joins them in fighting the conniving Cardinal Richelieu’s (Nigel de Brulier) six guards who approach them in the garden dueling area. D’Artagnan’s outstanding swordsmanship helps win the battle and the respect of the loyal Musketeers. With the help of the Musketeers, D’Artagnan gets free lodging in the room of the beautiful Constance (Heather Angel), the lady in waiting to Queen Anne (Rosamond Pinchot), who is staying at the palace. They also get the aspiring musketeer a servant named Planchet (John Qualen), who sleeps under his bed.
D’Artagnan gets mixed up in the evil Count de Rochefort’s (Ian Keitha conflict) plan to stir up between England and France, as he arranges a secret treaty with the Duke of Buckingham (Ralph Forbes)–who is involved in a secret friendship with Queen Anne. The intrigues cause the Duke and Queen to meet in Paris in secret in the apartment of Constance and in order to keep the peace between their countries she impulsively gives to Buckingham the valuable diamond brooch given to her by the king to show him she means what she says about peace. When spies tell de Rochefort that the queen has given the diamond brooch to Buckingham, he slyly suggests to the king that the queen be ordered to wear the jewels at the king’s state ball. It’s up to the Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan to retrieve the brooch in London before the ball, and due to unforeseen circumstances only D’Artagnan can get back the brooch. But he’s tricked by de Rochefort villainous English accomplice, the murderous Lady de Winter (Margot Grahame), as she prevents D’Artagnan from accomplishing his mission when she runs into him in Calais and brings him back to Paris bound and gagged.
There are duels, chases, intrigues and the heroic efforts of D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers to make certain the brooch is returned to the queen in time to save the day and the baddies are exposed as plotting to usurp the throne. With that, D’Artagnan is rewarded by the grateful king to immediately be made a full-fledged musketeer.
REVIEWED ON 10/20/2011 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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