Shot at the same time as The Three Musketeers, Richard Lester’s The Four Musketeers (1974) covers the second half of Alexandre Dumas’ famous novel and returns with the kind of bawdy, fun swashbuckling entertainment that its predecessor had. StudioCanal has upgraded this sequel to 4K Ultra HD with a wonderful 2160p presentation aided by Dolby Vision HDR. Like its predecessor’s 4K release, this edition comes with a nice handful of supplements to accompany the feature. This release comes Recommended!
The Four Musketeers, or rather the production of it, is responsible for a landmark legal decision fought for by the Screen Actors Guild that dictates that any production must stipulate how many films are being made during it. This is because the original vision for The Three Musketeers was that of a four-hour roadshow with an intermission. As the production was already becoming lengthy enough, producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind opted to split them up and release two films to make the most profit. The actors were not happy with this decision, thus lawsuits were filed. The landmark case didn’t affect how great the film would come out, though.
As mentioned earlier, The Four Musketeers covers the second half of the original novel, with the majority revolving around the Anglo-French War and Cardinal Richelieu’s (Charlton Heston) dastardly plans to usurp the Queen (Geraldine Chaplin). D’Artagnan (Michael York) is a newly minted member of The Musketeers and is thrust right into another plot orchestrated by Milady de Winter (Faye Dunaway), who is quite mad about having her plans foiled in the first movie.
The Four Musketeers is less of a whole than the first film, which naturally ends on D’Artagnan’s induction into the King’s Musketeers, and there’s a lot less to laugh about with all the death, plotting and broken emotions going around. The conundrum of Milady de Winter is complicated by Athos’ (Oliver Reed) previous relationship with the woman, and the duo really let their talents flex in their scenes together. This is a much more straight-laced affair than its predecessor, and it gives the characters in the background much more time to shine. Christopher Lee is at his devilish best as Rochefort, and he’s the perfect mark for Lester’s dislike of egocentric officials. And in the fashion of its predecessor, the film is quite lusty and bawdy for a PG-rated work.
The result of splitting the two films makes The Four Musketeers look like the lesser entry for being so heavy on action and incidents, but it’s still massively entertaining nonetheless. Plus, as in most great movies with Oliver Reed, the English acting powerhouse looks absolutely soused and still performs incredibly.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
En garde…encore! The Four Musketeers is presented as a two-disc (4K & Blu-ray) release from StudioCanal UK with a thick black case for the two discs. The 4K discs is a BD100, while the standard Blu-ray is a Region B-locked BD50. Both discs boot up to standard menu screens with options to play the film, set up audio and video, browse chapters and explore special features.
NOTE: Images are not disc-sourced. We haven't been able to pull images from discs yet, but as soon as we can we'll circle back and update this review and hopefully add a video sample as well.
Just like its predecessor, The Four Musketeers was shot on Eastman 10T 5254 35mm stock and with Panaflex cameras and lenses from Panavision, making it a great candidate for a 4K upgrade. The new 4K restoration was reportedly struck from the original negative, and from the beginning you can tell that this is a massive upgrade over previous Blu-ray transfers. Some sequences fare better than others in terms of color grading, with Milady’s execution looking rather unstable from shot to shot, but luckily that’s not something shared by the rest of the film. The teal push mentioned in our review of The Three Musketeers is less oppressive here and, in my estimation, having seen the first film on a 35mm print, I’d say this new color grade is very accurate to the original production.
In particular, flesh tones look very good and not too flush. You can tell that clearly by judging Oliver Reed’s beat-red face versus the painterly white that Faye Dunaway’s visage gives off. Some of the optical effects reduce clarity, though grain is still managed very well and no DNR seems to have been applied. White levels look terrific as well, with the production looking just as soft as the spherical shooting process provides. Fans of the film will find much to enjoy here.
Same as its predecessor’s 4K release, The Four Musketeers comes with three different LPCM 2.0 mono tracks in English, French and German. Michel Legrand’s sweeping score is rendered beautifully and balanced nicely with dialogue. The source seems to be in terrific condition, with nary a drop-out, scratch or nick heard throughout. The post-sync dubbing used in some sequences is handled well, although you can tell there’s a very, very small delay when those sequences hit.
The Four Musketeers comes with another new interview with Neil Sinyard that is similarly informational and breezy, with great stories about how dangerous the production was because of all the real swords and props. The vintage featurette has some fun anecdotes from Christopher Lee as well, as he details one time where Oliver Reed took his performance much too seriously and almost hurt Lee in a scene.
The Four Musketeers ride high and mighty into history with this new 4K Ultra HD release from StudioCanal. Sourced from a newly struck 4K restoration from the negative, the new transfer offers a major upgrade over previous iterations, and some special features have been added to round out your enjoyment of the film. This underrated swashbuckling sequel comes Recommended in 4K Ultra HD!