Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Three Musketeers (1933)

I was looking for another serial. Something I can watch an episode of when I didn't have time or didn't want to think too hard. The Three Musketeers sounded good. Besides it features early work by some big names. How quickly I was disappointed.

The Musketeers in this version resemble less the work by Dumas and more the work of some dumb ass. These musketeers are soldiers in the French foreign legion and closer akin to stooges than anything else. Anyhow, back to the story, as it were.

John Wayne is Lieutenant Tom Wayne (seriously?), hotshot American flyer. In the right place at the right time, Tom saves the lives of three men, Clancy, Renard, and Schmidt, who call themselves The Three Musketeers. The Musketeers in turn decide they will help out Lieutenant Tom whenever he needs it. Over the twelve chapters, that turns out to be a lot.

The French are fighting in the middle east, but in this picturesque setting there is controversy. Apparently there are Arabs who don't fully appreciate their French overlords. They actually want to throw them out, the ungrateful brutes! They are led by a mysterious person known as El Shaitan. Helping him out is a young Lieutenant Armand (Creighton Chaney credited as "Creighton Chaney") who also happens to be the brother of young Tom's sweetheart Elaine. Armand has a change of heart, and therefore is murdered by the villainous El Shaitan. Of course Tom has to stumble into the scene at just the wrong moment to get him accused of the murder.

There is a missing letter that clears Tom, some stuff about weapons trafficking, and lots of guesswork as to who this Shaitan character really is. Tom and the gang get into one pointless fight after another, there are narrow escapes typical of the genre, and lots of fancy horsemanship, if you're into that sort of thing. In the end, well, you can guess it.

I started this serial quite a while ago. Back in cold weather, actually. It took me so long to complete because it really wasn't all that interesting. In fact, I would certainly have given up on it had the likes of the Duke, Creighton, and a young Noah Beery Jr. not been in it (the later two, just barely). I'll be more selective for my next serial.

I'll say this, though. It was quite clear even then that Wayne could command a scene. Not knowing who he was, I could see guessing that he would go on to bigger things. The restored version still had fairly a poor audio tract, and the flashbacks made me think once I was accidentally watching the same episode a second time. Not intended to be a historical document, it succeeds in that modest goal. For me, I should have skipped it. AMRU 2.

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