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.