There’s been a lot of talk, maybe too much talk, about Charlton Heston. The Right is praising him as the greatest living actor since St. Reagan while the Left is spewing about his turn as mouthpiece for the gun industry. But I say have some respect for the dead this week – let it be, no matter how deserving. And remember that he was one of the few Hollywood icons to appear consistently in genre movies: Omega Man, Soylent Green, Planet of the Apes.
And then there’s his turn as Cardinal Richelieu in one of my favorite films of all time: Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers. Heston, Christopher Lee, and Faye Dunaway were the perfect villains; evil yet not over the top. The rest of the cast was just as sublime, especially Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, and Michael York. Even Raquel Welch didn’t suck. Lester was note-perfect on balancing humor, swashbuckling, and steadily getting darker as the saga unfolded. George MacDonald Fraser (of Flashman fame) delivered a nuanced script that stripped all the dross from the Dumas novel and kept its timeless spirit. This is the very definition of a rollicking film(s). And as proof check the clip above, the opening sword fight with the Cardinal’s guards.