Three Musketeers, The (1973)

The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974), directed by Richard Lester.

Just about perfect. I don't know how it could be improved. You seldom see a film so well envisioned and executed. Made as one movie but split and distributed as two. (Didn't the actors sue for more money?)

Funny and sardonic with great athletic swashbuckling and brawling. The elaborate entertainments of the nobility are juxtaposed with the grotty street life and snide asides of the commoners. I'm not even going to attempt to pick out thumbnail images; there is just too much to choose from. Fine composition and period detail throughout.

Screenwriter George MacDonald Fraser is in his element: history both as it was and as it should have been. It actually covers the book pretty well. This is his only great screenplay: titles like Octopussy (1983) and Red Sonja really can't compare.

Who do we have? (Fraser: "No screenwriter was ever so fortunate, or more grateful").

The second half turns darker with Athos's sorrow, the murder of Buckingham, Milady's corruption of her puritan jailer, her murder of Constance and subsequent execution.

D'Artagnan was a real person, by the way. Many of the others are mentioned in old memoirs as well. Buckingham's romance with the Queen of France and Richelieu's plot to disgrace her with the diamonds may be just stories, but they are authentic gossip from the period.

A trivia question: at the end of the cycle (in The Man in the Iron Mask, itself merely the final third of a larger book) only one of the four musketeers remains alive. Who would that be?