The BBC does The Musketeers

I always liked a good Musketeers movie, so I will probably give this a try. The ads on TV look decent but I reserve judgement until a see a full episode or two.

A 10 episode show on BBC beginning this Sunday night.

Don’t forget the best part - Peter Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu.

Ah, I remember role-playing GURPS Musketeers (okay, we were Arquebusiers, but we aspired to be Musketeers), so yeah, I’m in. But then, pyratical things kinda go along with the whole pike and shot era, so one can expect that from my handle alone.

AVclub gave it a pretty decent review:

Slow summer. Looks like it could be fun.

Hmm… will have to check this out. Three Musketeers is actually one of my favorite books of all time.

Someone tell me they hired a master at arms for the fencing scenes, instead of these goddamn jump cuts and chaotic camera-shaking bullshit as in most recent movies with fencing?

Swordplay in the first episode was quite good. Minimal jump cuts no shakey cam. Best bit was one of the musketeers fighting with sword and cloak, very cool.

Thats how Oliver Reed fought in the 1978 wonderful edition of The Three Musketeers. Take a look near 3.37 where he fights like that - so damn cool, and its no wonder BBC wanted to do homage to that.

Ah, Oliver Reed. They don’t make them like that anymore.

He died of a heart attack in a bar after downing three bottles of Captain Morgan’s Jamaica rum, eight bottles of German beer, numerous doubles of Famous Grouse whiskey and Hennessy cognac, and beating five much younger Royal Navy sailors at arm-wrestling. His bar bill for that final lunch time totaled 270 Maltese lira, almost £450.

Lot of interesting and authentic techniques used in that Oliver Reed scene from 1973. Combat was generally fatiguing, sword and side-sword, sword and cloak, pommel used as a club, fending/catching slashes with gloved hand. Obviously not entirely authentic to fit the lighter tone of the film, but truly awesome scene.

The first three episodes are promising. I like it!

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t compelling drama. But as action adventure, it’s great fun and I found myself smiling through much of it. While there is a disturbing lack of the naked flesh we might expect had this been produced by Starz, the acting is a little better and the green screens and sets are very commendable. Swordplay is often quite Hollywoodish, but satisfying enough. Cheese, without being outright cheesy.

In particular, I like d’Artagnan which is the most important thing for me. Of all fictional heroes, d’Artagnan is my favourite - and Luke Pasquilino rolls with it nicely. He’s plays the dashing romantic hero well.

I will say that James Callis’ (of BSG fame) proves in episode 3 that he would have made a great Littlefinger.

It reasonably captured the spirit of the book without reproducing the actual story, though it would seem that they are going to overplay Richelieu as the villain rather than the antagonist. Swordplay - I’m not sure they are trusting these guys to handle more than a brief exchange, and thus too much camera cutting. At least they keep the camera at a reasonable distance rather than making it so tight you can’t figure out what the hell is going on.

I imagine that the supposed essence of pure evil that is Milady de Winter is deemed not to play all that well to a modern audience. Even if it was justified (which it arguably isn’t even in the book, despite Athos’ opinion), having the heroes treat a woman as a scorpion to be crushed will not make many friends these days. But it would be a pity if Richelieu or Mazarin is treated as a straight-up villain too. You’re right that “antagonist” is much more to the point. I hope whatshisname, the other swordsman in Richelieu’s pay who the musketeers keep on defeating is treated well, anyway…

They really don’t. It’s good that people aren’t hastening their deminses through feats of drinking that seem impossible on paper. But man Britain had a run of really entertaining and talented guys who were doing just that. Some of them seemed to more or less beat it (Harris). But some did not (Burton, Reed). Reed was a great Athos.

Dumas-related tangent: the most hilariously awful take on the 3 Musketeers I ever saw was a 2005 French film - released as The 4 Musketeers here - in which Milady de Winter (Emmanuelle Béart) has sold her soul to the devil in exchange for demonic powers, including wire-fu, witchy eyes, and Ethan Hunt’s gift for disguise. It’s as if the producers had watched supernatural martial-arts films like The Bride with White Hair and thought, “Yes, this is exactly what Dumas’s work needs. Yes.”

Adding to the Rifftraxability of this film, it was released in the U.S. with a truly terrible English dub - and no option for the original French. The Bored Dinner Theater dub is so deadpan and monotone, lines like “So, she has made a deal with the devil” are delivered with all the panache of “I’ll take the kung pao chicken, hold the peanuts.” I don’t know if the dub is consciously aping bad kung-fu dubs the same way the film as a whole apes HK cinema, but it adds to the whole “Saturday afternoon syndicated TV movie” vibe.

Some adaptations are truly clever reinterpretations of their source material; while others are such LOLWUT train wrecks they are accidentally(?) a hoot. This film is definitely the latter.

The Richard Lester Musketeer movies were very well cast pretty much down the line. Reed, Finlay, Heston, York, Chamberlain, Dunaway, Kinnear, Ward, Chaplin, Cassel, and of course, Christopher Lee. Even Welch worked in her part. I’ve seen any number of Three Musketeers movie since, and they all pretty much pale in comparison.

Yup, I loves me some Lester. They’re great fun that also doesn’t insult the source material. Unlike some versions I know of.

Oh, and nice variety to the weapons. I note they placed this in 1630, which would be after the Siege of La Rochelle (1627?), so you’d still have matchlock, snaphaunce, flintlock, and wheel-lock. Not that I saw all those (and not always recognize them if I did - I’m kinda vague about snaphaunce and snaplock), but I gotta hope they get a wheel-lock. About the only time I’ve ever seen one in a movie was when Oliver Reed wound his up in the Four Musketeers and pointed it at Milady. They did seem fond of shorter barrel blunderbuss/musketoon type longarms for the opening episode.

Now I want to watch Cheech & Chong’s Corsican Brothers again…

This show seems to pay homage to the Oliver Reed/Lester version of the Musketeers, which is perfectly fine with me. The action is done well for TV and the show “looks” good. I have set the DVR to record the rest of the show.