Film Trust S.A.,1973 & 1974, Color, 107 mins. each- Anchor bay DVD

Michael York: "Oh, a gallop, a skirmish, a thrust or two, what would you- it's a day's work."

Well, it is if you manage to live long enough to develop such a cavalier attitude- and when the sword-trained but naive York heads to Paris to pursue his dream of becoming a Musketeer, it's an even bet as to whether he'll survive or not. Hooking up with flawed-but-honorable Musketeers Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay and Richard Chamberlain, York becomes embroiled in a plot involving French Queen Geraldine Chaplin, English nobleman Simon Ward, scheming Cardinal Charlton Heston and his one-eyed henchman Christopher Lee, shady Lady Faye Dunaway, and comely klutz Raquel Welch.

The various intrigues that ensue are just the pretext needed to stage scenes of action, slapstick comedy, and romance, all of it filtered through the anarchic viewpoint of "Hard Day's Night" director Richard Lester, who brings a decidedly irreverent flavor to the proceedings. The handsomely-mounted story- which is split into two parts- has its dramatic moments, but comedic elements are interwoven throughout. One notable success in this approach is the fight scenes, which run the gamut from lighthearted romps to realistic life and death struggles- sometimes all in the same scene. So if you're in the mood to buckle a swash and want something with a different slant to it, these Musketeer tales will fill the bill. And the two-disc set has some nice extras including documentaries and still galleries.

Fox, 1972, Color, 100 minutes- Fox DVD

Robert Redford: "I just keep wondering what's gonna screw up this time."

Career criminal- and frequent prison inmate- Redford manages to go straight for about five minutes after his latest release from the slammer, as brother-in-law George Segal is waiting for him with a criminal proposition. It seems that UN representative Moses Gunn wants to circumvent the tiresome legalities involved with returning a famous and oft-stolen diamond to his African homeland, which believes itself to be the rightful owner. A team soon forms, with questionable head honcho Redford, has-been locksmith Segal, unproven explosives enthusiast Paul Sand, and nutty wheelman Rob Leibman.

You just know that this team is primed for mishaps- and indeed, their clever plot to spirit the diamond out of a museum doesn't quite go as planned, forcing them to pursue increasingly outrageous schemes to recover the gem. Redford, already well on his way to an ulcer, doesn't do his stomach any favors as he masterminds a prison break and a helicopter assault on a police station(!). Adding to the stress is Zero Mostel, doing his patented schtick as a lawyer who gets dragged into the ongoing fiasco. Taken from a story by noted crime novelist Donald Westlake, this is a lightweight caper picture, pure and simple, and director Peter "Bullitt" Yates keeps everything clicking right along. There are no extras of note on the disc, but it's a nice little diversion nonetheless.

Warner Bros., 1943, B&W, 102 mins.- Warners Spec. Ed. DVD

Humphrey Bogart: "I stick my neck out for nobody."

With that mantra, and the eventual repudiation of same, Bogart creates one of the most iconic figures in cinema history- but then, just about everything in this picture became a cultural touchstone as time went by. After a broken romance conducted in the shadow of the Nazi advance into Paris, Bogart has taken up cafe-keeping in exotic Casablanca, building up an oyster-like shell around himself- but just like an oyster, he has a pearl in his center. It takes a while for that something special to appear in him, spurred by the reappearance of his Paris flame Ingrid Bergman, who with her resistance leader hubby Paul Henreid is trying to bail out of war-torn Europe. Bogart snaps at the woman who betrayed him, fences with cheerfully-corrupt local cop Claude Rains and Nazi heavy Conrad Veidt, and deals in an aloof fashion with crooks Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet. Everybody's after some stolen "Letters of transit," which will allow the bearers to hightail it to America- the dream of every one of the teeming refugees in the city.

This picture is packed with scenes, characters, dialogue and music that are familiar to all classic movie fans- and with good reason, for it's a crackling piece of entertainment. Sure, it's corny, and the anti-German sentiments are laid on a bit thick- but it was made during World War II, after all......and you can't fault the story's message, that sacrifices have to be made for the greater good in times of trouble. This is driven home in a climax that is still, some 60 years after it was made, one of the greatest movie endings ever. This two-disc set comes with numerous extras, including audio commentaries and a pair of documentaries hosted by Bogey's widow Lauren Bacall.


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© Melt Magazine 2003