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  Three Musketeers, The All For One
Year: 1939
Director: Allan Dwan
Stars: Don Ameche, Al Ritz, Jimmy Ritz, Harry Ritz, Binnie Barnes, Gloria Stuart, Pauline Moore, Joseph Schildkraut, John Carradine, Lionel Atwill, Miles Mander, Douglass Dumbrille, John 'Dusty' King, Russell Hicks, Gregory Gaye, Lester Matthews, Egon Brecher
Genre: Musical, Comedy, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: D'Artagnan (Don Ameche) is travelling from his hometown in rural France to the capital in the hope that he will be accepted as one of the King's Musketeers. He is confident that he will get the job as he is the most skilled swordsman around where he hails from, and on the way he stops to ask directions and let his trusty, if elderly, steed have a rest. As he converses with a group of country folk, a member of the King's guard appears and demands that D'Artagnan's horse move out of the way: incensed, the young man has a brief duel with him that sees the guard flee, an incident that only boosts D'Artagnan's confidence. However, there's a surprise for him on the way...

If there's one story that never seems to go out of fashion, it's The Three Musketeers, and here Alexandre Dumas' novel inevitably succumbed to the parody treatment. Or did it? For much of the film, although ostensibly a musical comedy, is played straight, with Ameche a self-assured hero who is notably lacking in a sense of humour. If you're hoping for a faithful adaptation then look elsewhere, as this one clocks in at hardly over an hour long, so a race through the most basic variation on the well-worn tale is about your lot here.

However, the comedy is provided by the now almost forgotten Ritz Brothers, greatly admired by but not as famous as the Marx Brothers, and their humour, mainly composed of pulling faces and jittery slapstick, is well and truly shoehorned in this time around. They could easily be excised from the film for a half hour adpatation and nobody would be any the wiser. They play three tavern workers who are introduced singing a song about chicken plucking and soup making, but through convoluted means they end up dressed as the Musketeers, who have each appeared at the establishment to give satisfaction to the duel-hungry D'Artagnan.

After drinking the real Musketeers under the table, the Ritzes don their uniforms for reasons purely of propelling the plot forward, and end up battling with the King's troops when D'Artagnan turns up and starts a fight. The comedians might look as if they're overdoing their schtick to modern eyes, but if you relax into their style they're not too painful to watch, and do raise the odd laugh with their energetic antics. You certainly can't accuse them of not trying. This is a musical as well, but the songs are far less memorable than the action or comedy; better to get caught up in the spirited dashing about as the Queen (Gloria Stuart) loses her brooch and must regain it before the King finds out, something the baddies (a game Binnie Barnes stands out as Milady de Winter) are determined to expose. They cram a lot of incident into their short movie, but this is a minor effort in comparison with better known adaptations.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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