I caught a French flick called “Revenge of the Musketeers” the other night. I watch a lot of Netflix late at night while feeding my little bobblehead of a daughter. Some viewing choices are better than others. This one was pretty good. It got me to thinking about Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” and how that tale has enriched the entertainment I enjoy.
“Revenge of the Musketeers” (or “La fille de d’Artagnan”) is a 1994 movie starring Sophie Marceau. Marceau, I believe, was once a Bond girl in one the Brosnan era James Bond outings. If you don’t mind reading subtitles, I recommend checking out “Revenge of the Musketeers.” It is nicely photographed and well-acted, reminiscent (deliberately so, I assume) of the terrific Richard Lester “Musketeer” films. It employs similar styles of humor and the scenes, acting, and fight choreography are evocative of the earlier films. My guess is that the actors quite consciously played their roles as older versions of Michael York, Richard Chamberlain, Oliver Reed, and Frank Finlay. In fact, in one scene, Ms. Marceau (playing d’Artagnan’s daughter Eloise) wears a dress that appeared to me identical to one worn by Raquel Welch as Constance.
“The Three Musketeers” and “The Four Musketeers” remain two of my favorite films. For me, everything in those movies is note perfect. I wonder if the script writer of “Revenge of the Musketeers” read George MacDonald Fraser’s screenplay before setting to work? Mr. Fraser is worthy of a web log post in his own right for his “Flashman” novels alone, and that would mean ignoring a tremendous body of work in both fiction and non-fiction. But his film work was – spotty, having written a couple of duds (“Red Sonja” and a decidedly minor Bond film, “Octopussy” come to mind.) But the “Musketeer” films are a master class in screenwriting. Perhaps it helped that he had such terrific source material. (“Red Sonja” was based on the Marvel Comic character, not the REH heroine, and “Octopussy” was a Fleming vignette, with hardly enough meat on it for a film.)
And it is terrific source material. I’ve got a pretty recent translation, Richard Pevear’s from 2006. The more contemporary language works well. Near 700 pages of dialogue, intrigue, and minor sub-plots gallop by. For a mid-nineteenth century pot boiler it holds up well. Just look at all the adaptations (or, better yet, don’t look at most of them, simply acknowledge their existence.) And the adaptations keep coming; I understand a BBC series is impending.
And then there’s Steven Brust’s “Phoenix Guard” novels. Mr. Brust adeptly transplanted the story and characters into fantasy, adapting the humorously affected, wisecracking dialogue to his own world and altering the characters sufficiently that they are his own and yet retain an obvious debt to their models. Good stuff.
Thank you Dumas pére. The DNA of your creation continues to flourish and propagate, not always successfully, true, but one must deal with the chaff to enjoy the wheat.