Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Three Musketeers (1948)

Look! I'm actually watching something without Ralph Meeker in it! Well, I did re-watch Paths of Glory the other night, and plan on savoring Kiss Me Deadly again for my birthday movie... but I decided I needed a happier movie this weekend.

Silly me. Not sure what I was thinking there, as this cheerful romp was soooo not what I wanted.

I'm quite fond of the Three Musketeers in general, but I was realizing that I have yet to see a movie version that gives me what I'm really looking for. And ironically, given how much I prefer older movies, my favorite movie rendition (so far) might actually have to be the 1993 one. How weird is that? But at least all the musketeers get stuff to do in it. The 1973 one is... bizarre (though Oliver Reed almost single-handedly saves the whole film anyway -- that is one fascinatingly charismatic, sexy but scary man), and I'm planning on watching the 1921 Douglas Fairbanks one off Netflix, see what it's like. The 1948 one is, well, just plain silly.

I think most of my problem might be that the older I get, the less I like Gene Kelly. Oh, he's still indisputably one of the greatest dancers, and I will always love Anchors Aweigh, Singin' in the Rain, Cross of Lorraine, and Brigadoon, but really, he's not the type of guy who appeals to me physically or emotionally. His movie characters often seem to face life with such cheer and abandon, he wears me out. This movie was no exception. But I wasn't watching Three Musketeers for him. I was watching it for Van Heflin. Gene Kelly just kept getting in the way.

Van Heflin, on the other hand, is immensely appealing for all the reasons Gene Kelly isn't. I prefer VH in noir films, like The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Act of Violence. (The latter is probably my favorite VH film.) In noir, he tends to be slick and tough and cool and smirky and if you push him he pushes back, and I love it. But he plays an interesting Athos. Less angry and unforgiving, more sad and resigned. I think I prefer angry, but that's okay. He gets plenty of nice moments in this movie. And he's still smirky and cocky and tough, and he's not too shabby with a sword either. And since all the movie versions of Three Musketeers seem to rely on humor (and why is that exactly?), he also gets the best one-liners of the characters in the movie too. "Will you stop looking happy?" is probably my favorite line of his at the moment. Sort of summed up my own exasperation with Gene Kelly's D'Artagnan. He actually made me laugh out loud a couple of times, where everyone else's dialogue made me roll my eyes.

The swordplay was all over the board... some of it was actually really good. Some of it... dude, I could have killed some of these people three times in the time it took them to flourish their swords in the air. Pointy end goes into the other man, remember? It doesn't wave around pointing out the pretty clouds in the sky. Sigh. I miss fencing regularly.

The other good thing about this movie was Vincent Price, who can ham it up with the best of them when he wants to... and here he doesn't. He's very restrained and quiet. Scheming without being over the top like everyone else. He and VH were the class acts in this otherwise quite cartoony film.


  1. Anonymous1:51 PM

    Now, I haven't seen the '48 version, but even with that proviso I can't imagine Gene Kelly as...well, as any of the musketeers.

    I've always been partial to the 1973 version myself. Yes, it's as daft as several brushes; yes, it's got Spike Milligan - who was brilliant in so many other things, not least The Goons - mugging away like nobody's business; yes, Charlton Heston often looks confused as to what he's got himself into; but Reed, Finlay, Chamberlain and York are great fun as the Musketeers, and Christopher Lee is fab as Rochefort. I liked the 1993 version - and Oliver Platt as Porthos in particular - but I'd always choose the '73 version over it.

    Oh, and this is case you hadn't guessed. :-D

  2. I swear to God, this is so strange...The Three Musketeers (1948) is in my Netflix queue right now, simply for the sake of watching Van Heflin!! :)

    I like Gene Kelly, though, physically more than anything. He does tend to be a bit too perky for me. Watching him on mute usually works. ;)

    Funny how much you and I have in common...our shared love of Dana and Van Heflin, we're both Libras, and by the looks of your blog address (which I just now noticed) includes the word 'nanowrimo'. I do that too. :)

  3. Ginger -- you and I are doing weird parallels with our movie watching. I watched and blogged about "On the Beach" in early Sept... you did too. Weeeeeird!

    Yeah, I've been doing nano for the last few years. Can't decide yet if I want to do it again this year, or pass. I really need to be editing the existing novels, not getting new material. But on the other hands, it's such an easy, quick way to get 50k down on paper... arrrrr, decisions, decisions.

    Hey, Rob -- speaking of nano, are you going for it this year? I think I'm going to do a Three Musketeers run, and watch all the versions again in a row, just for fun. So I'll check out the '73 version again too.

  4. Anonymous10:09 AM

    Yeah, I'll be signing up for it again. Fifth year in a row - we ought to be committed for this, you know... :-P

    That being said, I've absolutely no idea what I'll write this year. I've done so little actual writing since last year's nano it's frightening, and while I've got projects on the go, none of them are really playing ball. But then, isn't that always the way before nano? :-D

  5. Ahhhhhhhhhh, the 1993 version. I don't think it can be improved on. Well, okay, you could switch out a better Rochefort (Tim Curry sometimes works really well for me, and sometimes gives me indigestion). But those Musketeers are deelish! Especially Chris O'Donnell. I almost forgot how much I completely adore him, then watched "The Company" at Mom & Dad's in August and got the warm fuzzies all over again. Mmmm.

    Anyway, um, yes, I warned you the Gene Kelly version was silly! But I like it okay anyway, except for the amazingly bad plot-smooshage.