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Friday, September 9, 2011

THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948)

Painfully cheerful, and about as convincing as a Renaissance Fair, this over-stuffed version of the Dumas perennial, from producer Pandro Berman & megger George Sidney, shows the rapid post-war decline in just about every department @ M-G-M. With his whippet frame & athletic panache, Gene Kelly should be a fine D’Artagnan, and at 36, he’s a tad younger than Doug Fairbanks was in the 1921 version. But he piles on so much youthful zest & enthusiasm, you want to give him a sedative instead of a sword. (Kelly’s equally manic in THE PIRATE this same year. It’s his default swashbuckle mode.) As the musketeering trio, Van Heflin, Gig Young & Robert Coote may be oddly cast, but they’re to the manner born next to the ladies! Lana Turner is Milady of the Streets; June Allyson, the drabbest of sacrificing virgins; Angela Lansbury, clueless as Queen of France; and two truly bizarre turns from a silent Marie Windsor and a shrieking Patricia Medina in support. As the villainous Richelieu, Vincent Price looks positively subtle in comparison. Now & then, Robert Planck (who lensed the indie MAN IN THE IRON MASK/’39) pulls off an atmospheric shot, but Walter Plunkett’s risible costumes & Herbert Stothart’s kitschy-Tchaikovsky score are shockingly bad. And wait till you see what passes for a Parisian park!

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: A 1993 version with Chris O’Donnell, Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt & Charlie Sheen was mockingly dubbed YOUNG SWORDS. But the boys are good company and there are nice turns from bad-girl Rebecca De Mornay & good-girl Julie Delpy, plus a delicious villain in Tim Curry’s Richelieu. (For Dumas' sequel, THE IRON MASK, stick with Douglas Fairbanks’ dashing & melancholy masterpiece of 1929. Best on KINO’s restored 103 min. cut.)

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