I wish I had a quarter for every time I’ve written “they’d never make this film today,” but there’s no present-tense director or producer who would or could make anything like Richard Lester‘s The Three Musketeers (’73) and The Four Musketeers (’74), which I regard as a single entity. Nobody.
That ace-level cast (Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay, Richard Chamberlain, Charlton Heston, Geraldine Chaplin, Faye Dunaway, Christopher Lee, Simon Ward, Raquel Welch) plus that jaunty, dryly satirical Richard Lester flavoring mixed with David Watkin‘s period-appropriate cinematography, Michel Legrand‘s score plus the superb sets and costumes and half-realistic, half-slapstick fight choreography.
Actor/Comedian Greg Proops on The Four Musketeers, posted by FilmStruck on 9.5.17:
Cyborg rules of Furious 7 franchise state that everyone is a T-1000 so nobody ever gets hurt (even if they’re in a car that somersaults down a rocky mountainside at a 45-degree angle) or the least bit tired. Then again vulnerability and fatigue haven’t been much of a concern in action films over the last..what, 30 or so years?
I’m mentioning this because last night I happened to watch a high-def stream of Richard Lester‘s The Three Musketeers (’73), which is still far and away the finest of all the Musketeer films (1921 version with Douglas Fairbanks, 1935 version with Walter Abel, 1948 version with Gene Kelly, Lana Turner and Van Heflin, 1993 version with Brat Packers and 2011 version that everyone either hated or didn’t see) and then about half of the 1974 Part II portion (The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge) that wasn’t as good.
And I was delighted to note that guys in sword fights in both films always seemed to get exhausted after four or five minutes, particularly in the final duel between Michael York and Christopher Lee [immediately below]. I started to compose a list of action/fight scenes in which the participants seem noticably whipped at the end, and all I could think of were the two first-act sword fights in El Cid (Charlton Heston vs. Sophia Loren‘s father, Heston vs. the brawny bearded guy in the formal jousting match with poles and swords) and the prolonged fist fight between Heston and Gregory Peck in The Big Country. There have to be others. I’m not talking about fights in which the parties are bloodied or somewhat winded — I’m talking about fights in which both combatants are so depleted that they’re barely able to breathe.