Richard Lester | 98 mins | TV | 16:9 | UK, France & Spain / English | PG / PG
16 years after they first swashed their buckles for director Richard Lester, Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay and Richard Chamberlain return as the titular swordsmen in an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ Vingt ans après, aka Twenty Years After. As feats of sequalisation go, there’s something inherently pleasing about reassembling a cast and crew the best part of two decades later to adapt a tale set at a similar distance.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go down so well: although it did receive a theatrical release in Europe, in the US it wound up as a cable TV premiere a couple of years later. This may in part be due to the fact that it looks like it was shot close to the early-’70s originals, not in the late ’80s. It’s also tonally similar, a scrappy style that perhaps didn’t sit so well in the multiplexes of a decade-and-a-half later, despite a pulpy structure and emphasis on fun japes rather than serious-minded storytelling.
Despite being sourced from an Old Novel, The Return of the Musketeers is — just like its two forebears — far from being a Literary Adaptation. It may not scale the same heights of fun and frivolity as the first Lester-directed Musketeers movie, but it’s more or less on a par with the second, with moments (such as a clever opening) that shine through. Rough around the edges certainly, but likeable heroes, hissable villains, and widespread irreverence keep it the right side of entertaining for those who enjoyed this cast’s previous adventures.
This review is part of the 100 Films Advent Calendar 2012. Read more here.