TV Cream

Films: T is for...

Three Musketeers, The

Don Ameche is a singing D’Artagnan in this old spoofy swashbuckler, but never mind him as, playing three cooks who get hilariously mistaken for the musketeers proper are – The Ritz Brothers! Best described as a low-rent Marx-esque vaudeville knock-off, this trio of less-than-inspired comedy dancers was bought up first by Warners (which explains why they appear in those Warner Bros cartoons that charicature loads of the studio’s live action stars – you know, the ones Rolf Harris had to preface with two minutes of spiel explaining who the hell everyone is meant to be) and later snapped up by Fox. To modern scholars it may seem a mystery as to why, but at the time they were boffo BO on a par with the big names, despite their piece de resistance being a routine where they – get this – eat a really big sandwich all at the same time. They’re cited as a major influence by Mel Brooks, but by gum that must be a case of showbiz alchemy, as what we’ve seen of the original comes up as pure lead. Anyway, here they are plucking fowl and singing a merry ode to the joys of chicken soup, and doing an admittedly very impressively choreographed acrobatic dance number, although never, not once, being actually funny in a way you might recognise. They just yammer. Idiots who don’t like the Marx Brothers complain how they “just yammer”, not appreciating the fine construction that goes into their best scenes – you’ve got to have a proper escalation for mayhem, otherwise it’s just a noise. The Ritzes are just a noise. Next time anyone berates Night at the Opera, stick them in front of this and see how loud their opinions are expressed in future. Another thing that doesn’t help is that Harry, Jimmy and The Other One don’t have properly defined comic personalities a la the Marxes and indeed every other half-decent comedy troupe in history. In fact in long shots they look pretty much all the same. The joke told against them back in the day was that the funny one was “the middle one”. Oh, and the double takes. Endless double takes! Even Abbot and Costello rationed their “Heeeey now, wait a minute!” quota to half a dozen per picture. In short, by no means a classic film from by no means a class act. But, for curiosity’s sake and curiosity’s sake alone, we still say it’s worth a brief glance.

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