Monday, July 13, 2009


There are so many film versions of the great Alexander Dumas story The Three Musketeers that it can be a challenge just to pick one! We had both the 1973 and this 1948 version on our list for a while, and the 1948 version ended up arriving first. We may keep the other in the queue, as it’s apparently a sillier, more comical version (it stars Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and even Charlton Heston) that is a lot of fun, and quite different from the others.

The earliest Musketeers film is the 1921 Douglas Fairbanks version, a black and white silent vehicle that is no doubt glorious on its own terms. (The choreography is said to be quite stunning.) But the 1948 version caught my eye for a number of reasons, including Vincent Price starring as the evil Cardinal Richelieu and a young Gene Kelly as the earnest and dashing D'Artagnan who joins the Three Musketeers in interrupting Richelieu’s dastardly plot to overthrow the king.

Filmed in Technicolor, the visuals are very appealing for kids (and adults!), with gowns and jewels and the French countryside drenched in rich color. As I suspected, Kelly is superb as D’Artagnan, who is a bit green -- coming from a small country village to the big city of Paris -- but reliably cocky and self-assured, and rightly so; his sword skills are astonishing to all who unfortunately cross his path, and his footwork is magical. (You know, of course, that Gene Kelly is even better known for his dancing, in movies such as Singing in the Rain, right?)

The writing sparkles and jabs, it’s fast moving and witty. If your kids aren’t totally absorbed by the film in the first 15 minutes or so, when an acrobatic swashbuckling scene unfolds with all kinds of smart visual jokes neatly woven in, I would be surprised.

If that happens, then get them the animated, Disney version, and save this one for your own date night.
(PS: Note that the G-rating is my own, and it may in fact be more of a PG movie as far as younger kids go ... it's officially labeled NR, meaning Not Rated.)

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