Paul W.S. Anderson sees “The Three Musketeers” as the perfect brand, a classic on which each generation gets to produce its own take. He and his producer Jeremy Bolt credit their defining intro to the Musketeers to Richard Lester’s signature “The Three Musketeers” and its sequel “The Four Musketeers,” while younger generations may more readily identify with the 1993 Disney version starring Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen.
In fact, countless variations abound, with the Musketeers already there at the beginning of film history, clocking in with their first version in France in 1903.
By 1929, Douglas Fairbanks’ iconic swashbuckler was already version number four.
The first sound version was appropriately in French, “Les Trois Mousquetaires” (1932) with Edith Mera as Milady de Winter, billed as “une aventuriere sans foi ni loi” (a godless and lawless adventuress). Arguably the deadliest — looking, if nothing else — would be Lana Turner’s Milady in MGM’s 1948 Technicolor extravaganza starring an acrobatic Gene Kelly, and featuring a very evil Vincent Price.
Inevitably, our heroes were ripe for comedy. The Ritz Bros. kicked it off in 1939 for Fox, followed by a 1942 Mexican comedy starring Cantinflas, and in the ’70s the French comedy quartet, the 4 Charlots, provided the laughs for two films. And of course Mickey, Donald and Goofy got in their licks.
In 1928, the Musketeers conquered Broadway in a Ziegfeld-produced stage musical, which later led to TV tuners made by the Russians in 1978 and 1993, and the Dutch in 2003.
And yes, there’s even the inevitable ’70s softcore porn version, “The Sex Adventures of the Three Musketeers,” from West Germany. And as if to redress the karmic balance, we have “Barbie and the Three Musketeers” (2009), whose battle cry is “Don’t mess with the dress!” As D’Artagnan’s daughter Corinne, Barbie wants to become the first female musketeer, but hers is only one of four distaff Musketeer films.
And none of this counts the many transpositions of the characters that have to include “The Three Shaolin Musketeers,” the Spaghetti Western adventure “Zorro and the Three Musketeers,” the B-movie Western “The Three Mesquiteers,” Tom and Jerry in “The Two Mouseketeers” plus a 1933 serial, which morphed our Musketeers to the French Foreign Legion, starring a young John Wayne.
And how about “The Ring of the Musketeers” (1992) that, starring David Hasselhof, Thomas Gottschalk and Cheech Marin, must surely count as the horror version. Which begs the question, where’s the Roger Corman sci-fi version? It must be out there somewhere.