The ending of Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers saw D’Artagnan (Michael York) – having proved himself a courageous fighter and expert swordsman – ceremonially enrolled as one of the King’s Company of Musketeers.
It made sense, then, to produce a sequel with D’Artagnan joining forces with the original three – Athos (Oliver Reed), Aramis (Richard Chamberlain) and Porthos (Frank Finlay) in The Four Musketeers. The two movies, in fact, were filmed concurrently – much to the chagrin of the actors, who had been paid for just one movie.
Rochefort (Christopher Lee) is to be shot as a spy by the protestant Huguenots at the siege of La Rochelle. He is put against a wall and has to wait while the firing party load their muskets – which proves to be a long and tedious job. The delay gives Athos and Porthos time to improvise some hand grenades which they toss into the firing squad just as the order to fire is given.
Consternation reigns, and in the melee, Rochefort is rescued. The story then moves swiftly among all the intrigues and counter-intrigues surrounding the 17th-century court of Louis XIII.
Behind all the fighting, espionage, plotting and treason broods the towering figure of Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston), one of France’s greatest statesmen in that country’s long history.
Once again we follow the rumbustious, swashbuckling lives of the Musketeers, with their swordplay, their enjoyment of a scrap, their wining and their wenching. We also admire the lovely ladies of that fashionable court: the Queen, Anne of Austria (Geraldine Chaplin); Constance the Queen’s dressmaker (Raquel Welch) and the beautiful but utterly callous Milady (Faye Dunaway), who can charm a man with a single glance – but is always careful to conceal the brand of a harlot once burned into her shoulder by the hangman in a public market place.
Milady is sent by Richelieu on a mission to England, where she is to urge the Duke of Buckingham (Simon Ward) not to send a fleet to help the Huguenot rebels. If he refuses her plea, she must then arrange for him to meet with an “accident”.
She fails to make any impression on Buckingham, who consigns her to the Tower of London. There she meets the Duke’s aide, Felton (Michael Gothard) who is a fervent protestant so, feigning to be a devout Huguenot herself, she prevails upon the simple-minded man not only to allow her to escape but also to assassinate his master who, she says, is marching on France only at the behest of the lascivious Catholic Queen with whom he is in love.
Obedient to Milady’s promptings, he stabs and kills the Duke as he embarks for France.
The original regrouped again for the 1989 sequel Return of the Musketeers. The death during the production of series comic foil Roy Kinnear cast a pall over the piece and, sadly, helped expedite the conclusion of Richard Lester’s illustrious career.
Constance de Bonancieux
Queen Anne of Austria
Ángel del Pozo
Duke of Buckingham
Firing Squad Officer
Firing Squad Sergeant