Friday, May 17, 2024

Even More Swashbuckle Watch: The Four Musketeers - Milady's Revenge (1974)

Watched:  05/16/2024
Format:  BFI trial on Amazon 
Viewing:  First
Director:  Richard Lester

The Four Musketeers (1974 or 1975, depending where you look) is basically just Part II of the prior year's Three Musketeers, which we just watched.  For a bit more on this, I'd start with that post.  


So, yeah.  This movie was a slog for an hour and change of the 1:48 runtime.  It's got all kinds of pacing issues, is kind of plot-heavy, decides to pack in some characterization the first film sorely needed, and then, after 3 hours of movie insisting this is all slap-stick goofiness, wants for you to take this stuff all super seriously, and to be a drama which matches the events of the novel.  

With most action-comedies, that's not a problem.  We've seen The Guardians of the Galaxy pull it together into a tear-jerking sequence that feels like a fulfillment of the prior parts of the movie, and we're all in when the action hits and character threads are resolved.  But with this movie, the pacing is so deadly, the motivations of characters so wishy-washy (I have no idea if that's a book or movie problem) and kookily disproportionate to the actual matters-of-state at hand...  I really was having a hard time knowing why anyone was doing what they were doing for the last 70 minutes of runtime. 

I'll not quibble with a nearly 200-year-old novel that remains popular, at least in the zeitgeist.  

What I will say is that this is a directing and editing problem.  And likely a problem conjured by the Salkinds' desire to have two box-office returns for the price of one.  

I'm not even sure if the acting in this movie is good or bad.  I mean, it's *good*.  Oliver Reed turns in some great sequences in this movie, and Heston reminds you he's got swagger to spare.  But it's so hampered by everything around it.  Faye Dunaway is likely good, but Milady is an exposition machine.  And the sequence in which she murders Constance is barely motivated, overly contrived (how did Constance not recognize Milady?  they were face-to-face in the prior movie for several minutes) and in the framework of this movie, feels pettily unmotivated.  

And how we're supposed to feel other than "okay, I guess all that happened" at the end of the film seems completely broken.  Constance was the driver for the entire second movie's A-plot, and her death is treated as a "well, that sucks" moment.  And then we're treated to a montage about all the good times from the past two movies.  It is super, super weird.  

I mostly just felt like these two movies should have been one movie.

I'm mostly glad I watched it insofar as I now feel like I've got a grip on what's in the novel, to an extent - I literally can't remember the Disney movie anymore.  And cultural literacy can be helpful!

But, yeah, once again, I can see how these movies have kind of gotten lost over the years, especially as new versions keep coming out.  Apparently there's another two-movie series that's got a second installment coming or arrives, is in French and stars Eva Green (!).  And I recall a sort of steampunk version was out in 2011 or so.


Nate Capp said...

I LOVED the Paul W.S. Anderson movie from 2011. So much fun.

The League said...

I don't think I knew that was Anderson. Certainly makes me reconsider having had not seen it.