Then, there's Charlton Heston, still, at the time of filming, one of Hollywood's major leading men, and who assumed, when offered the script, he'd be playing one of the Musketeers. After all, he was still a top draw at the box office, having essayed his way through the at-the-time in-fashion disaster movie cycle, and had trained as a swordsman for the various roles he'd played in his career.
But, Lester had other ideas.
"Chuck, take a look at Richelieu," Lester offered. "Do a little reading about him." Heston did and came away determined to take the smaller role, even suggesting some of Richelieu's quotations to Lester (one that made it into the film was Richelieu's "I have no enemies. There are only enemies of France."). In a lifetime of wonderful roles, and holding up the slimmest of movies on his broad shoulders (Planet of the Apes, anyone?), The Three Musketeers was a juicy role that Heston played subtly, slyly, and to the hilt. With all those stars, doing excellent work, Heston seems to stand apart...and above...them all.
The Set-Up: There is intrigue in the high court of France. The Duke of Buckingham is rumored to be consorting with King Louis' wife, the Queen of France. To get to the truth, Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston) has dispensed one of his guards, the Comte de Rochefort (Christopher Lee) to bring in the husband (Spike Milligan) of the Queen's confidante, Constance Bonancieux (Raquel Welch), who has been rousted from his bed and brought before the diabolical Cardinal.
GUARD: In you go...in!
MNSR. BONANCIEUX: Why won't you tell me?
I did nothing at all! I was lying in my bed! I was alone in my bed, when these enormous men broke into my room!
I swear I've done nothing! Nothing! What will they do to me?
Everything! You're in the Bastille, you must have done something.
MNSR. BONANCIEUX: but, but, wha...
CARDINAL RICHELIEU: What you have done is high treason!
You are accused of conspiring with your wife and with the Duke of Buckingham.
No, no, no...
You know your accuser. Who brought you here?
That is the man!
CARDINAL RICHELIEU: Take him away!
That is NOT the man!
It's another man altogether. This is a thoroughly honorable gentleman! I tell you he's an honest man, I tell you...
(he's beautiful, and generous and...)
ROCHEFORT: They have met, the Queen and Buckingham...
CARDINAL RICHELIEU: Where?
At the palace. I learned of this when it was too late.
CARDINAL RICHELIEU: You mean he slipped through your fingers?
ROCHEFORT: He slipped through your Eminence's fingers,
...I had no orders.
CARDINAL RICHELIEU: What happened?
ROCHEFORT: The woman Bonancieux took Buckingham to the palace.
The woman Bonancieux?! I thought I told you to arrest her and to hold her.
I failed. One does, occasionally.
If I blundered as you do, my head would fall.
I would say from a greater height than mine, Eminence.
The height of vaulting ambition.
CARDINAL RICHELIEU: You have none?
You fear me, Rochefort?
(pause) Yes...I...fear you, Eminence.
Richelieu begins to walk away.
I also hate you.
I love you, my son.
Even when you fail.
The Three Musketeers: The Queen's Diamonds
Words by George MacDonald Fraser (after Alexandre Dumas)
Pictures by David Watkin and Richard Lester
The Three Musketeers is available on DVD from Lionsgate Entertainment
* Milligan is an inspired choice and makes the best, dramatically and comedically of lines like "I wish not to be sent to the Bastille! Because it's got very deep dungeons, and terrible instruments of torture operated by very unsympathetic men and they snip very important parts off people!"