Monday, 27 March 2017

Review: The First Musketeer (2014)

The First Musketeer is a 6-part mini web series created in 2014 with the help of an Indiegogo funding campaign. It is a prequel story to Dumas' The Three Musketeers and introduces Athos and Porthos as somewhat younger men when they engage in their first shared adventure.

The story begins with an innkeeper who hires two guardsmen to toss out an unwanted drunk visitor, a young man who turns out to be Athos. The guardsmen and Athos soon become friends and have time to meet with another familiar hero, Porthos, before they are all drawn into an adventure.

The actors are surprisingly good for such a low budget series. There are some bouts of overacting and somewhat ill-paced or stiff dialogue, but these issues do not get in the way of the fun. The costumes are a mix of fantasy and 17th century, but more tasteful than the leather outfits we saw in BBC's The Musketeers. The swordfights are more about dramatic, backlit postures than realistic bloody conflicts, but they are entertaining to watch. The indoor sets are sometimes clumsy, especially when we are supposed to believe that some of the scenes are taking place in the Louvre, but this is compensated by the outdoor scenes that are filmed in actual southern France locations.

The episodes are short, ten minute chapters, which makes the whole series about 60 minutes in length. There's not much room for story, especially as the writers spend most of the first two to three episodes introducing the characters. But there are swordfights and lighthearted humour enough to keep you entertained for the entire length of the "season" and the end leaves the door open for season two. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be happening - a pity, since the cast and crew show promise and a second season would surely have improved from the first.

For a Dumas fan, this series is a must watch, especially since it is freely available on Youtube.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Memoirs of the Count De Rochefort by Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras

Comte de Rochefort is one of the most memorable secondary characters in Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. But Dumas did not make up the character himself. He got it from an earlier novel written by Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras in 1678 (translated into English in 1696). In Dumas' handling, Comte de Rochefort was a cunning antagonist and later a friend to titular character d'Artagnan, as well as a loyal servant to Cardinal Richelieu. Because of my enthusiasm with the 17th century, I was more than eager to read fiction both set in the era and written during it.