Film Review – THE RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS (1989)

THE RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS (UK/France/Spain, 1989) ***
      Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors; Production Company: Fildebroc / Ciné 5 / Sofica / Timothy Burrill Productions / Iberoamericana Films Producción; Release Date: 25 August 1989 (UK), 3 April 1991 (USA) (TV); Filming Dates: 22 August 1988 – October 1988; Running Time: 102m; Colour: Rankcolor; Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo; Film Format: 35mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Richard Lester; Writer: George MacDonald Fraser (based on the novel “Twenty Years After” by Alexandre Dumas); Executive Producer: Wayne Drizin, Mario Sotela; Producer: Pierre Spengler; Director of Photography: Bernard Lutic; Music Composer: Jean-Claude Petit; Film Editor: John Victor-Smith; Casting Director: Debbie McWilliams, Concha Campins; Production Designer: Gil Parrondo; Art Director: Raul Paton; Set Decorator: Michael Seirton; Costumes: Yvonne Blake; Make-up: José Antonio Sánchez, Cynthia Cruz; Sound: Les Wiggins; Special Effects: Reyes Abades.
      Cast: Michael York (D’Artagnan), Oliver Reed (Athos), Frank Finlay (Porthos), C. Thomas Howell (Raoul), Kim Cattrall (Justine de Winter), Geraldine Chaplin (Queen Anne), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), Christopher Lee (Rochefort), Philippe Noiret (Cardinal Mazarin), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Eusebio Lázaro (Duke of Beaufort), Alan Howard (Oliver Cromwell), David Birkin (Louis XIV), Bill Paterson (Charles I), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Cyrano de Bergerac), Billy Connolly (Caddie), Servane Ducorps (Olympe), William J. Fletcher (De Guiche), Laure Sabardin (Chevreuse), Marcelline Collard (Lamballe), Pat Roach (French Executioner), Jesús Ruyman (Headsman), Fernando De Juan (Ireton), Barry Burgues (Young Clerk), Leon Greene (Captain Groslow), Ágata Lys (Duchesse de Longueville), Bob Todd (High Bailiff), Lucy Hardwick (Lady-in-Waiting), Aldo Sambrell (Burly Demonstrator), Jack Taylor (Gentleman on Horseback), Ricardo Palacios (Big Lackey), Luciano Federico (Tall Lackey), Carmen Fernández (Commedia player), Rafael de la Cruz (Commedia player), German Estebas (Commedia player), Jesús García (Commedia player), Fernando Simón (Commedia player).
      Synopsis: It’s 1649: Mazarin hires the impoverished D’Artagnan to find the other musketeers: Cromwell has overthrown the English king, so Mazarin fears revolt, particularly from the popular Beaufort.
      Comment: Lacks the heart of the director’s 1973/4 adaptation of THE THREE MUSKETEERS and THE FOUR MUSKETEERS, partly due to the tragic death of Kinnear from a riding accident during filming. Other problems are in the rushed nature of the story which is crammed from a thick novel into less than two hours of screen time. York provides linking narration in case the viewer gets lost through the rapidly changing setting and plot developments. The story feels incohesive as a result. On the plus side are the energetic sword fights and a returning cast trying their best to keep the adventure spirited. Cattrall makes for a game villain and York, Reed, Finlay and Chamberlain are engaging as the musketeers. Great location work and natural photography add to technical merits.

Film Review – THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (THE REVENGE OF MILADY) (1974)

Image result for the four musketeers swordfightTHE FOUR MUSKETEERS (THE REVENGE OF MILADY) (Spain/Panama/USA/UK, 1974) ****½
     Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox (USA), Fox-Rank (UK); Production Company: Alexander, Michael and Ilya Salkind Productions / Film Trust S.A. / Este Films; Release Date: 26 February 1975 (USA), 25 March 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: May-September 1973; Running Time: 108m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35 mm (Eastman 100T 5254); Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
     Director: Richard Lester; Writer: George MacDonald Fraser (based on the novel “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas); Executive Producer: Ilya Salkind, Alexander Salkind (uncredited); Producer:  Ilya Salkind, Michael Salkind (both uncredited); Associate Producer: Wolfdieter von Stein; Director of Photography: David Watkin; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: John Victor-Smith; Production Designer: Brian Eatwell; Art Director: Leslie Dilley, Fernando González; Costumes: Yvonne Blake; Make-up: José Antonio Sánchez, Cristóbal Criado, Charlene Roberson; Sound: Don Challis, Don Sharpe; Special Effects: Pablo Pérez; Visual Effects: Doug Ferris (uncredited).
     Cast: Oliver Reed (Athos), Raquel Welch (Constance de Bonancieux), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Michael York (D’Artagnan), Frank Finlay (Porthos), Christopher Lee (Rochefort), Geraldine Chaplin (Queen Anne of Austria), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Louis XIII), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), Michael Gothard (Felton), Nicole Calfan (Maid Kitty), Ángel del Pozo (Jussac), Eduardo Fajardo (Captain), Simon Ward (Duke of Buckingham), Faye Dunaway (Milady), Charlton Heston (Cardinal Richelieu), Sybil Danning (Eugenie), Gitty Djamal (Beatrice), Jack Watson (Busigny), Bob Todd (Firing Squad Officer), Tom Buchanan (Firing Squad Sergeant), Leon Greene (Swiss Officer), Lucy Tiller (Mother Superior), Norman Chappell (Submarine Inventor), Richard Adams (Tortured Thug), Tyrone Cassidy (English Officer).
     Synopsis: D’Artagnan has become a Musketeer. Protestants hold La Rochelle, and the Queen loves Buckingham, who’ll soon send ships to support the rebels. Richelieu enlists Rochefort to kidnap Constance, the Queen’s go-between and D’Artagnan’s love. The Cardinal uses the wily, amoral Milady de Winter to distract D’Artagnan. But soon, she is D’Artagnan’s sworn enemy, and she has an unfortunate history with Athos as well.
     Comment: Shot at the same time as THE THREE MUSKETEERS (THE QUEEN’S DIAMONDS) – originally it was intended to be one long film with an intermission – this segment covers the second half of Dumas’ novel. As such the tone is slightly darker although the spirit of the first half still permeates via some swashbuckling set pieces, battle scenes and nifty pieces of comedy. The stakes have been raised as Dunaway’s Milady seeks revenge on York’s D’Artagnan and Welch’s Constance after they foiled her attempts to discredit Chaplin’s Queen Anne. Once again the sumptuous production and costume design are wonderfully captured by Watkin’s radiant cinematography and enhanced by Schifrin’s boisterous score. Reed and Dunaway come to the fore and their scenes together add significant depth to the drama. The finale as the Musketeers fight Lee’s Rochefort and the Cardinal’s guards contains some of the best sword fighting in screen history.
     Notes: Followed by THE RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS (1989).

Film Review – THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973)

Related imageTHE THREE MUSKETEERS (THE QUEEN’S DIAMONDS) (Spain/USA/Panama/UK, 1973) ****½
     Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: Alexander, Michael and Ilya Salkind Productions  / Film Trust S.A. / Este Films; Release Date: 25 March 1974 (UK), 28 March 1974 (USA); Filming Dates: May-September 1973; Running Time: 105m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm (Eastman 100T 5254); Film Process: Panavision, Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U – Contains mild violence and innuendo.
     Director: Richard Lester; Writer: George MacDonald Fraser (based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas); Executive Producer: Ilya Salkind, Alexander Salkind (uncredited), Michael Salkind (uncredited), Pierre Spengler; Producer: Ilya Salkind; Associate Producer: Wolfdieter von Stein; Director of Photography: David Watkin; Music Composer: Michel Legrand; Music Supervisor: ; Film Editor: John Victor-Smith; Casting Director: Miriam Brickman (uncredited); Production Designer: Brian Eatwell; Art Director: Leslie Dilley, Fernando González; Costumes: Yvonne Blake; Make-up: José Antonio Sánchez, Cristóbal Criado, Charlene Roberson; Sound: Don Challis, Don Sharpe; Special Effects: Pablo Pérez; Visual Effects: .
     Cast: Oliver Reed (Athos), Raquel Welch (Constance de Bonacieux), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Michael York (D’Artagnan), Frank Finlay (Porthos / O’Reilly), Christopher Lee (Rochefort), Geraldine Chaplin (Queen Anna), Jean-Pierre Cassel (King Louis XIII), Spike Milligan (M. Bonacieux), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), Georges Wilson (Treville), Simon Ward (Duke of Buckingham), Faye Dunaway (Milady), Charlton Heston (Cardinal Richelieu), Joss Ackland (D’Artagnan’s Father), Nicole Calfan (Kitty), Michael Gothard (Felton), Sybil Danning (Eugenie), Gitty Djamal (Beatrice), Ángel del Pozo (Jussac), Rodney Bewes (Spy), Ben Aris (1st Musketeer), William Hobbs (Assassin), Gretchen Franklin (D’Artagnan’s Mother), Francis De Wolff (Sea Captain).
     Synopsis: The young D’Artagnan (York) arrives in Paris with dreams of becoming a King’s Musketeer. He meets and quarrels with three men, Athos (Reed), Porthos (Finlay), and Aramis (Chamberlain), each of whom challenges him to a duel. D’Artagnan finds out they are Musketeers and is invited to join them in their efforts to oppose Cardinal Richelieu (Heston), who wishes to increase his already considerable power over King Louis XIII (Cassel). D’Artagnan must also juggle affairs with the charming Constance Bonacieux (Welch) and the passionate Lady De Winter (Dunaway), a secret agent for the Cardinal.
     Comment: A joie-de-vivre permeates every frame of Lester’s definitive adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic adventure novel. This represents the first half of the story with the second following a year later. The result is a supremely entertaining swashbuckler filled with great sword fights, delicious humour, authentic production design and costumes. The whole cast enter into the spirit of the production with note-perfect performances, whilst Lester’s spirited direction and Watkin’s sumptuous cinematography make for a visual delight. York, Reed, Chamberlain and Finally are well cast as the Musketeers whilst Welch demonstrates a gift for comedy as York’s love interest. Heston is obviously enjoying himself as the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and Dunaway shows promise of what she would go on to deliver in the follow-up.
     Notes: Lester shot the film in conjunction with its sequel, THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974). Originally intended as a single film, the split prompted a lawsuit from the cast demanding payment for both films.

Film Review – JUGGERNAUT (1974)

JUGGERNAUT (1974, David V. Picker Productions/Two Roads Productions, 109 mins, Colour, 1.66:1, Mono, Cert: PG, Action Thriller) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Richard Harris (Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Fallon), Omar Sharif (Captain Alex Brunel), David Hemmings (Charlie Braddock), Anthony Hopkins (Supt. John McLeod), Shirley Knight (Barbara Bannister), Ian Holm (Nicholas Porter), Clifton James (Corrigan), Roy Kinnear (Social Director Curtain), Caroline Mortimer (Susan McLeod), Mark Burns (Hollingsworth), John Stride (Hughes), Freddie Jones (Sidney Buckland), Julian Glover (Commander Marder), Jack Watson (Chief Engineer Mallicent), Roshan Seth (Azad).
      Producer: Richard Alan Simmons (as Richard De Koker); Director: Richard Lester; Writer: Richard Alan Simmons (as Richard De Koker); Director of Photography: Gerry Fisher (De Luxe); Music: Ken Thorne; Film Editor: Antony Gibbs; Production Designer: Terence Marsh, Art Director: Alan Tomkins; Costume Designer: Evangeline Harrison.

Jug1Like GOLD, which I reviewed recently, JUGGERNAUT is another unfairly overlooked film from 1974. Set aboard the Britannic, a cruise ship crossing the Atlantic on which seven bombs have been planted by an extortionist, the story wittily plays around with standard disaster movie conventions. This is largely down to director Richard Lester’s observational and down-to-earth approach to filmmaking. Whilst the standard genre approach around establishing multi-character backgrounds amongst the passengers is adopted, Lester inhabits the story with a quirkiness in characterisation that somehow makes them more real than those seen in the bigger-budget blockbsuters of the day such as EARTHQUAKE and THE TOWERING INFERNO.

Lester is helped by an excellent cast including Hopkins as the detective tasked with tracking down the bomber, whilst his wife and family are aboard the Britannic. This situation could have become clichéd, but here comes across much more real due to the downplaying of the actors and Lester’s fly-on-the-wall approach to filming scenes. Harris is also on top form in the lead as the bomb disposal expert, Fallon, charged with de-activating Juggernaut’s seven bombs. Sharif plays the cold-hearted ship’s captain, involved in an affair with Knight whilst Kinnear is the other memorable performer as the ship’s entertainer, who won’t accept defeat in trying to lift the spirits of the passengers. Ian Holm, Julian Glover, David Hemmings, Freddie Jones and Clifton James all round out a diverse cast that keeps the film’s audience interested with their diverse characters.

The tension mounts during the bomb defusing sequences, and using an actual ship to film on adds to the sense of realism. Lester intersperses all of this with his trademark observational humour and overdubbed asides. Whilst acknowledging the conventions of its genre, Lester brings a fresh approach to it, which makes for a winning formula.