The Three Musketeers (1921)
Kino // Unrated // $29.95 // February 3, 2004
Review by John Sinnott | posted February 15, 2004
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Movie:

This movie is part of the Douglas Fairbanks Collection boxed set released by Kino. You can read a review of the whole set here.

After Douglas Fairbanks Mark of Zorro did so well at the box office, he tried another modern farce, the kind that had made him famous.  But 1921's The Nut did not draw the crowds in the way The Mark of Zorro did.  So he abandoned films with a modern setting a concentrated on historical costume movies.  For his next production, he decided to adapt Alexander Dumas' classic tale of chivalry and sword play, The Three Musketeers.
 
There is intrigue and deceit in the court of Louis XIII of France (Adolphe Menjou.)  Cardinal Richelieu (Nigel De Brulier) is trying to increase his influence over the weak willed king and sets a trap for his Queen (Mary MacLaren.)   Richelieu has discovered that the Queen has given a valuable broach, that was a present from the king, to her paramour, Duke of Buckingham (Thomas Holding.)  He suggests that the King request the Queen to wear the broach to a royal ball, knowing she will not be able to produce it.  When the Queen hears of the Kings' wish, she is distraught.  There is no way she can retrieve the broach in time.

Enter young D'Artagnan.  His father was a member of the King's Musketeers, and he wishes to become a member of that august organization.  As he leaves his provincial town for Paris, his father tells D'Artagnan to fight as much as he can.  That way he will quickly prove his courage and skill.

D'Artagnan takes his father's advice to heart.  Having been turned down for a position in the Musketeers due to his lack of experience, D'Artagnan has a run in with three of those soldiers and challenges them all to duels and sets the same time for all three.  When he arrives at the appointed place, the three Musketeers can not believe the audacity of the young swordsman.  No sooner do they start to fight, than they get interrupted by a squad of  Cardinal Richelieu's guards.  The guards try to arrest the Musketeers and D'Artagnan, but the four of them manage to defeat seven of the Cardinal's men.  Having come through this trial by fire, a bond is forged between D'Artagnan and his three new friends.

D'Artagnan takes lodging in the same boarding house that the Queen's seamstress, Constance (Marguerite De La Motte) lives.  The two become friendly, and when D'Artagnan saves Constance from being interrogated by the Cardinals guard, the Queen's aide learns to trust D'Artagnan.

Richelieu's trap is sprung on the Queen and Constance reveals the problem to D'Artagnan.  He, along with his three companions, set out to travel to England to retrieve the broach.  But Richelieu has been warned, and with the resources of a country at his fingertips, sets out to stop them.

This was a great follow-up to Mark of Zorro.  There is just as much action, if not more, a slightly more complex story, and a more interesting setting.  Fairbanks ramped up the production values on this film too.  The sets were much more elaborate, and accurately decorated, a trend that he would continue with.  The streets of Paris (though undoubtedly cleaner than they really were in the mid 1800's) looked authentic.  From the cobblestone roads to the street vendors, attention was paid to realism.

The movie itself was very enjoyable.  Fairbanks, though looking a little old to play D'Artagnan, does a magnificent job.  He leaps and runs and pounces all over the sets, and his swordplay, though not very realistic, steals the show.

The three Musketeers themselves are overshadowed by Fairbanks enthusiastic portrayal. They seem lifeless next to the exuberant Fairbanks.  Adolphe Menjou does an adequate job as the King, but the best supporting actor without a doubt was Nigel De Brulier as Cardinal Richelieu.  He played the role in a very understated manner, which made him seem all the more sinister.  An excellent performance by the man who would revive the character in Fairbanks' 1929 sequel, The Iron Mask, and even play the same role in the very forgetable1935 remake staring Walter Able.
 


The DVD:



Audio:

The sound track was a synthesizer version of the original 1921 score preformed by Brian Benison and the "Elton Thomas Salon Orchestra."  This is the same group that preformed the infamous score to Fairbanks Robin Hood.  While this score is much less objectionable than the one to Robin Hood, I still do not like the electronic sound that the synthesizers provide.

The sound quality is very good.  They high and lows come through loud and clear, and there is no evidence of hiss.  Minimal use was made of the front soundstage in the stereo mix.

Video:

The master that was used seems to be an amalgam of at least three other prints.  There it was fairly easy to determine which copy each scene came from due to the condition of the video.

The first source print looked outstanding.  Very clear with a full range of tones.  The detail was excellent.  There were only minor amounts of dirt and speckling.  This print was used most often through the film.

The second source print was also very good, but it was more washed out.  There was not as much contrast and the range of tones was less.  There still was a very good amount of detail, but the blacks were more a dark gray, and there were some details lost in bright areas.  This print looked a little like you were watching it with the brightness turned up a tad too high.  Still a nice looking copy.  This print was used a good deal too, but less than the first one.

The third print was the worse.  Luckily it was utilized the least of all of them. The picture in this source was very soft and blurry.  It was much darker than the other two, and it had a good deal of scratching.  These sections were still watchable, but in contrast to the other two prints, the differences were very evident.

The Extras:

This was the only DVD in the Douglas Fairbanks Collection Boxed set that did not have supplemental materials, unfortunately.

Final Thoughts:

In his second costume piece, Douglas Fairbanks solidified the type of role he would play for most of the rest of his career.  He was dashing and exuberant and really put on a good show.  This movie is a joy to watch, one of my favorite Fairbanks films.  It has action and romance, plotting and deceit, and D'Artagnan is a wonderful character.  You can't help but laugh as he challenges Musketeer after Musketeer to duels.  Highly Recommended. 



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