Oliver Reed as Athos.
Long before the makers of the Harry Potter and Twilight films decided to break a book into two movies, Richard Lester did it with Alexander Dumas's The Three Musketeers. In fact, the cast was not originally aware that they were making two movies during filming. They later sued when they found out they were paid for one film but actually made two.
With Cardinal Richelieu's plan to expose the Queens affair foiled, D'Artagnan is made a musketeer, thus turning the three musketeers into four. Some protestant rebels control La Rochelle in France. Lord Buckingham plans to send troops to support the rebels. While the musketeers are fighting the rebels. Richelieu has Rochefort kidnap Constance, to break the line of communication between the Queen and Buckingham. Milady de Winter attempts to distract/seduce D'Artagnan, but he quickly discovers she is no good. She unsuccessfully attempts to kill D'Artagnan after they have sex. She is then sent to England to assassinate Buckingham.
Although Welch is still second billed, Constance only appears in a hand full of scenes. Dunaway gets far more screen time and is easily a more interesting character. Milady has a romantic history with Athos. The final scene of the film is the movies best story arc as it brings their relationship some much needed closure.
The Four Musketeers still has plenty of action and adventure. The musketeers must save Constance, fight in a large siege, defeat Rochefort and his many men. The comedy seems a bit less this installment, but there are still moments. The best being when Milady arrives home and unknowingly interrupts her maid having sex with D'Artagnan. She asks if D'Artagnan has arrived, and the maid responds, "He did not come."
As in the first film you must listen for the jokes. As Milady gets out of her servant carried carriage, one of the men remarks quietly, "She's put on weight." while the other asks, "Why doesn't she get a horse?"
The tension is greater this time. Several featured characters are killed. Often the fight scenes were filmed as slapstick, but this one contains some serious ones as well, particularly when D'Artagnan fights Rochefort in the church. Lester again uses the location to his advantage as part of the fight takes place over a spot on the floor colored by the sun streaming through a stain glass window.
Although the film includes some brief flash backs, this is only a film that should be watched after seeing the first. The Three Musketeers stands as an independent film, with a beginning and ending. This one actually has a much better ending, but if you had never seen the first you are missing out.
Photos © Copyright Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (1975)