King Louis XIV of France (Beau Bridges) has a twin brother named Philippe (also played by Beau Bridges) that he is unaware of. Philippe is a nice, honest man while Louis is a bit of a crook with a stronger taste for wine and women than for leading his country.
King Louis hopes to add to his riches by marrying Infanta (Sylvia Kristel of the Emmanuelle films), a lovely Spanish noblewoman, and combining his kingdom with Spain's. Unbeknownst to Infanta, however, Louis is still carrying on his torrid affair with Madame De La Valliere (Ursula Andress of Dr. No fame).
When Louis finds out about Philippe, he throws him into the Bastille so that no one will be able to contest his crown. In order to increase his popularity amongst the townsfolk, Louis decides to stage an elaborate assassination attempt with twin brother Philippe in his place. But Philippe escapes and hooks up with D'Artagnan (Cornel Wilde), who, along with his fellow Musketeers, teaches him the ways of the world. D'Artagnan finds that Philippe is a far braver and more honorable man than the king himself and they strike up a friendship. After hanging with the Musketeers for a while, Philippe comes up with a daring plan to take the place of his brother as King of France and to win over Infanta's heart.
The 5th Musketeer is basically a rehashed version of Alexander Dumas' classic book, The Man In The Iron Mask. We know how it's going to end and there aren't any real surprises here for anyone familiar with the story (which was recently made again in 1998 with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jeremy Irons). The great cast makes up for the predictable plot though, as does the stoic but competent direction from Ken Annakin.
Andress and Kristel are decent in their opposing roles and certainly add some nice visuals to the proceedings, while Beau Bridges is his usual smarmy self in his dual role as the two royal twins. Look for Beau's father Lloyd as Musketeer Aramis, and a brief appearance from silver screen legend Olivia de Havilland as Queen Anne. B-movie favorite Jose Ferrer also appears as Musketeer Athos and the late, great Rex Harrison even shows up as Colbert. Cornel Wilde is probably the most proficient in his role, however, as he struts his way through a slick and charming turn as France's favorite swashbuckler. His D'Artagnan is at once likeable and easy to root for – we know he'll do the right thing no matter what, even if he has to be tricky about it.
So while the story may not be anything original and the film doesn't even attempt to break any new ground whatsoever, the film entertains and breezes by on the power of its cast and its fancy period sets. It's not a deep or life changing film but it makes for a decent popcorn film on a day when you can't think of anything else to watch.
The 5th Musketeer is given a nice 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that, aside from a few stock footage inserts, is clean and free of major blemishes. There is a natural coat of grain throughout but it's not distracting in the least. Colors and flesh tones look dead on and while minor edge enhancement is noticeable in a few spots, edge enhancement isn't a problem at all and black levels remain stable throughout.
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono soundtrack is adequate with a clean and clear sound from start to finish. There is an odd hiss or pop here and there but these happen very infrequently and there aren't any serious issues to complain about on this track. It's a good, solid mono affair. There could have been more bass in the mix during some of the action scenes but aside from that, this track is just fine.
Aside from chapter selection, there are some theatrical trailers included for other, unrelated films available on DVD from Columbia/Tri-Star such as Lawrence Of Arabia and From Here To Eternity but no trailer for the feature itself or any other supplements.
The 5th Musketeer is an average period adventure film with an above average cast that really doesn't give them a whole lot to do. Still, it proves to be a reasonably entertaining adventure film with some nice sets and high production values. You could certainly do a lot worse on a rainy afternoon than check this one out, and it's very much worth a rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.