My mother introduced me to classic literature before I even started elementary school. Being an English literature teacher herself, she loved the classics with a passion. To this day, I prefer classic literature to anything most modern day novelists could offer with maybe the exception of a few, Pauline Gedge in particular.
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) is one of my favorite authors in classic literature. Son of a French nobleman and an Afro-Caribbean former slave, he became one of the most celebrated writers in France. One of his most enduring novels is The Three Musketeers, the story of a young man named D’Artagnan from Gascony who rose within the ranks and became captain in the King’s musketeers in 1625. There had been many movie versions of this novel since the cinema industry began and I couldn’t enumerate them all.
My interest in The Three Musketeers was revived after watching the 2008 Indian movie Slumdog Millionaire in which the musketeers were the subject of a question in a game show much like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”. The movie won 8 Academy Awards which is amazing because it didn’t have the usual tired glitzy faces of Hollywood.
Back to The Three Musketeers, if you are looking to see a faithful reproduction of Dumas’ novel in movie form, checkout the 1974 release The Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers. This is the best movie version there is and it would make Alexandre Dumas proud. The cast includes Michael York as D’Artagnan, Charlton Heston as Cardinal Richelieu, Faye Dunaway as Milady DeWinter, Raquel Welch as Constance Bonacieux, Oliver Reed as Athos, Richard Chamberlain as Aramis, you get the picture, a great cast nothing short of astounding. This is the version to watch if you want a faithful rendition of Dumas’ vision, as faithful as Hollywood can render.
I was disappointed in the 1993 Walt Disney release with Charlie Sheen and Keifer Sutherland. That one took too many artistic liberties and departed from the spirit of the original novel.
There is yet another version that came out in 2011 with Milla Jovovich, Christoph Waltz and Orlando Bloom playing major characters. Many critics gave it a thumbs down but it achieved positive box office results. Although it also took loose artistic license on the story, it remained fairly faithful to the plot and gist of the original Dumas novel. It is fast paced and packed with 3D action, explosions, intrigue and a touch of early steampunk albeit three hundred years premature. It is what you would expect if Jules Verne were to rewrite the whole story. Sometimes a little artistic license works, like in the engaging 2002 adaptation of the Count of Monte Cristo with Jim Caviezel as Edmond Dantes but I have something against tampering with classic literature, artistic license or not. Yet, I would still recommend this 2011 version without hesitation. It surely has enough slash to satisfy your inner swashbuckler.
For now, I would still dub the 1974 release as the definitive movie version mainly because of its faithfulness to Dumas’ vision and the unbelievably brilliant cast they were able to assemble. Borrow it from your local public library or buy the complete double disc set still in print. If you love this genre, you won’t be disappointed.