Related Titles and Adaptations

Because of the huge success of The Three Musketeers, Dumas wrote two sequels to it. Both of them are set much later than the original novel and show the effects age has on the musketeers and the friendship they share. The events of Twenty Years After occur, as the title suggests, two decades after the events of the first book. France is suffering from political turmoil, and the musketeers, now in their 40s, find themselves in opposite factions. Their differences threaten their former friendship and loyalty; even after resolving not to let politics destroy their unity, they often end up working against each other. They are no longer the invincible foursome of their youth. Readers who know little about French political history will probably find much of the book hard to follow, for the events are much more complex than those of The Three Musketeers. The portion of Twenty Years After that lovers of the original novel will probably enjoy most concerns the musketeers’ adventure in England, where they try to rescue Charles I from execution but are foiled by Mordaunt, the son of Milady.

The second sequel, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, is a massive, three-volume tome that is twice as long as the first two books put together. It is difficult to find in full length, but the last third has been published under the title The Man in the Iron Mask and is more readily available. It starts approximately ten years after the previous sequel, with the musketeers in their 50s, and follows their fortunes up through their deaths.

Since its earliest days, Hollywood has adapted Dumas’s stories to film, and much of the popular image of The Three Musketeers derives from film and television productions. These vary in quality and often use only the most basic elements of the novel’s plot, but they are good fun, filled with swashbuckling adventure, and enjoyable for viewers of all ages. Of the various motion-picture versions, the two most important are the 1948 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production and the 1973 British production. The first of these features a screenplay by Robert Ardrey that emphasizes action and swordplay, and provides a happy ending. Gene Kelly, playing d’Artagnan, turns swordfights into ballet. The movie also features Lana Turner as Milady, June Allyson as Constance Bonacieux, Van Heflin as Athos, Gig Young as Porthos, Robert Coote as Aramis, and Vincent Price as Cardinal Richelieu. Although much of the story has been cut out, this version of the novel, taken as it is, is highly entertaining.

The second important motion-picture adaptation of the novel was made into two films, filmed simultaneously in 1973 but released separately: The Three Musketeers, released in 1974 and The Four Musketeers, released in 1975. Some of the events have been changed (Constance is strangled, not poisoned, for instance), but all the major plot elements are reproduced. George MacDonald Fraser’s screenplay emphasizes the romance of the novel, and it includes much humor and fine wordplay. Director Richard Lester creates a minor masterpiece of rich images and earthy action. The movie features Michael York as d’Artagnan, Oliver Reed as Athos, Richard Chamberlain as Aramis, Frank Finlay as Porthos, Faye Dunaway as Milady, Raquel Welch as Constance, Charlton Heston as Cardinal Richelieu, and Christopher Lee as Rochefort. This superb version of Dumas’s novel received an “R” rating when first released because of its bawdy humor and its violence. Parents may wish to preview these movies before letting their children see them, but most teen-agers will find them entertaining.

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