The Return of the Musketeers

Role: Oliver Cromwell

All for one, and one for all - one more time! The title speaks for itself, and director Richard Lester is aboard as well as all the original stars. "A lot of people," says Lester, "seem to remember the first two films with affection and Dumas, in Twenty Years After, wrote probably a better plot than he did with The Three Musketeers.

"It would have been unwise to have made a sequel very soon after the original films, but the thought of us all meeting up again to examine our operation scars and to discuss our arthritis was too good to miss."

To shoot the film, Lester turned to the Spanish countryside. The architecture in Castile also closeley approximates 17th-century France - thus Castile and its environs became the perfect spot. Lester, however, demands realism if only to make the surreal work. Extras were constantly appalled to appear on the set spick and span only to be dirtied down by harried wardrobe assistants who hurled dust, debris and mud at them.

There is realism in the smallest aspects. Costumes, for example, couldn't be repeated from the earlier film - 20 years is a long time in fashion terms. But perhaps the greatest effort towards authenticity lay in getting the sword-fighting right. There was none of the finesse of fencing or the fabulous grace of Fairbanks.

Fights then were bloody brawls where fighting dirty was the norm if you expected to survive. And the swords were enormously heavy. Only the strongest could be expected to wield them with ease, making it a case of lunge and swipe rather than cut and thrust. It required painstaking 'choreography' to ensure that all the duellers finished in one piece.


Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and Frank Finlay are all back for more swash and buckle in this sequel to the Musketeers films of the 70s, an adaptation of Dumas' Twenty Years After. As an action film it works quite well. As a comedy, though, it doesn't work at all, which is a pity, as the comedy element is clearly meant to be its trump card.

The problem here is that director Richard Lester doesn't treat this as a comedy of character, making fun of the heroes' ageing bones, but rather as one of incidental (and very heavy-handed) humour, with peripheral characters rhubarbing away to themselves as they comment on the action.

Never mind. Kim Cattrall enjoys herself lustily as the treacherous Justine, fencing, fighting and leaping with an energy unparalleld since the days of Maureen O'Hara. And Geraldine Chaplin is delightful as a feather-headed, flippertigibbet Anne of Austria. Philippe Noiret and Jean-Pierre Cassel are mysteriously dubbed, and Roy Kinnear, who tragically died during the making of the film, disappears from the plot every so often. The best acting performance, though, is Alan Howard's cool and calculating Cromwell.

Although Frank Finlay appears to be killed in the final fight, he is magically resurrected for the triumphant brotherly fade-out, although further sequels seem unlikely following this one's inevitable capitulation to the law of diminishing returns.

Critic's score marks out of 10:

Performances 7
Direction 5
Script 6
Production 7
Entertainment value 6

David Quinlan

Film Monthly, August 1989.

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