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The Three Musketeers (1974)
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What's the story?
D'Artagnan of Gascony (Michael York) is an adventurous youth and swordfighter from the French countryside, sent by his ex-soldier father to Paris with recommendations to become a Musketeer, illustrious personal guard to the king. But not only does d'Artagnan get a dismissive reception, he manages to offend, individually, three veteran Musketeers, Athos (Oliver Reed), Porthos (Frank Finlay), and Aramis (Richard Chamberlain), who all determine to duel him the same afternoon. Fortunately they are interrupted to unite against a common foe, a rival group of guards and villains, led by Rochefort (Christopher Lee) who serves the King's powerful prime minister, Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston). The cardinal wants to use a secret, dangerous extramarital affair between the queen and a British diplomat as a public scandal to undermine the royal family and increase his own power. D'Artagnan and his new friends must race to intercept the incriminating evidence.
Is it any good?
If you don't mind a heavy concentration of British and American actors playing French folk, this is a surprisingly faithful rendering of the oft-filmed Alexander Dumas novel. Relaxed studio censorship met up with the fun and occasional raunchiness of the classic prose, while very good stuntwork, charismatic acting, fleet direction, and exquisite 17th-century detail make it effortlessly enjoyable. The producers actually shot a super-sized movie, covering the entire Dumas novel, then released it split into two parts; the followup, The Four Musketeers, is also breezy and entertaining, though it concludes with deaths of some key characters.
Fun fact: It's alleged nobody told the actors involved that they were going to be in two movies, not one, and they sued for double payment. Which is still faithful to the book, as the fictional Musketeers are frequently squabbling about money.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of d'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers. Past generations of kids aspired to be like them. Can young viewers of today see why?
Talk about the effects of watching onscreen violence. How do production values and the tone of a movie make a difference in the viewing experience?
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