The Return of the Musketeers

The Return of the Musketeers is a 1989 film adaptation loosely based on the novel Twenty Years After (1845) by Alexandre Dumas. It is the third Musketeers film directed by Richard Lester, following 1973's The Three Musketeers and 1974's The Four Musketeers. Like the other two films, the screenplay was written by George MacDonald Fraser.

The Return of the Musketeers
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
Directed byRichard Lester
Produced byMichelle de Broca
Pierre Spengler
Written byGeorge MacDonald Fraser
Based onTwenty Years After
by Alexandre Dumas
StarringMichael York
Oliver Reed
Music byJean-Claude Petit
CinematographyBernard Lutic
Edited byJohn Victor Smith
Distributed byEntertainment Film Distributors(UK)
Universal (U.S.)
Release date
  • 19 April 1989 (1989-04-19)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The character of Mordaunt, Milady de Winter's son in the original novel, is replaced by Milady's daughter, called Justine de Winter.

Several cast members from the first two reprised their roles in this one. Jean-Pierre Cassel, who played Louis XIII in the original films, has a cameo appearance as Cyrano de Bergerac.

While filming in September 1988, character actor Roy Kinnear died following an on-camera accident in which he fell off a horse. His role was completed by using a stand-in, filmed from the rear, and dubbed-in lines from a voice artist.


Twenty years after the events of The Four Musketeers, Cardinal Mazarin has imprisoned the Duke of Beaufort. Mazarin hires d'Artagnan to bring together Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, to work for him. Porthos accepts, but Athos and Aramis decline. By this time, Athos has a son named Raoul.

Milady de Winter's daughter, Justine, questions the headsman that the musketeers hired to kill her mother. After finding out from the headsman that "Comte de la Fere" hired him, she kills the headsman. Raoul happens upon the aftermath of this event and chases after Justine, who is disguised as a priest. After a swordfight, when he discovers who she really is and her plan, Raoul leaves and tells d'Artagnan, Porthos, and Athos that Justine wants to kill them.

Comte de Rochefort is unable to prevent Beaufort from escaping from his prison, and he is subsequently arrested by Mazarin. Mazarin sends d'Artagnan and Porthos after Beaufort, but Beaufort escapes them due to interference from Athos and Aramis, who are working for Beaufort. This starts a fight amongst the Musketeers, in which d'Artagnan slices Aramis' hand. Aramis breaks his sword and rides away. d'Artagnan and Porthos are fired by Mazarin for not catching Beaufort.

Rochefort goes into hiding until he finds Justine, and tells her the names of d'Artagnan, Porthos, and Aramis, revealing to her that the Comte de la Fere is Athos.

King Charles I of England is to be executed, so Queen Anne of Austria sends d'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Raoul to rescue him. They attempt a rescue by knocking out the headsman, but Justine takes his place and executes Charles.

The musketeers have several encounters with Justine: in one, Raoul's true allegiance is revealed to her; in another, Justine and Rochefort attempt to kill the Musketeers by blowing up their ship (the Musketeers escape and Rochefort is killed by his own bomb).

Justine attempts to kill King Louis XIV, but is stopped by the Musketeers, and their battle concludes with Justine jumping out of the window into the water. Aramis rejoins the musketeers, and they force Mazarin to sign several forms in favour of them, including making Porthos a baron, Aramis a bishop, and Raoul being commissioned into the Guards. The film ends with the Musketeers riding together again.



The film was Richard Lester's first movie in four years. It reunited him with the main cast of the first two films.[1]

Author George MacDonald Fraser said that in the film "Charles I is seen playing golf, which is, incidentally, true. He was playing golf just before he was captured.[2]

Lester said the two main problems with the film were a lack of money, and a refusal of the Salkinds to let him use footage from the first two films. "The whole concept of making Dumas' Twenty Years After was destroyed," said Lester. "It was the hole beneath the water line."[3] (However Lester did admit even that may not have worked as the target audience were unlikely to have been familiar with the original films.[4]

The film was shot in Spain.

Death of Roy Kinnear

Roy Kinnear was accidentally killed during production in Toledo, Spain. The Spanish crew misunderstood the instructions of director Lester and washed down the cobblestone street prior to filming, making the stones wet. Kinnear and other cast members had to travel on horses across the Alcantara Bridge above the River Tagus. Kinnear was given one fifteen minute practice ride before the take.

When Kinnear and other cast members rode into the shot on horses and stopped, Kinnear's horse slipped, and Kinnear (not a confident horseman) fell off, breaking his pelvis. He was treated at the Ruber Internacional Hospital in Madrid and on September 20 was transferred to a nearby clinic but died soon after from internal bleeding.[5]

After a six year legal battle Kinnear's widow was awarded £650,000 in damages from the production company, Falconfilms - consisting of producer Pierre Spengler and director Richard Lester.[6][7] A court later ruled that the hospital was 60% liable for his death and ordered them to pay 60% of the payout figure.[8]

"It was ghastly," said Fraser. "He was such a jolly, witty character in the prime of life. His death put paid to any chance of the movie being a success."[9]


Completed in 1988, The Return of the Musketeers was released for cinemas in the European market in April 1989, and while it was given positive reviews by the critics, it was not well received at the box office. It was released on video in the spring of 1990. The film was acquired by Universal for U.S. theatrical release, but given its lackluster European box office, the studio chose instead to give the film its U.S. debut on cable television's USA Network (which was part owned by the studio) two years later, on 3 April 1991.[10]

Years later in a career interview Lester said, "I really won't talk about The Return of the Musketeers...I never have and I won't now. But I think you can draw your own conclusions."[11]


The Return of the Musketeers received mixed reviews: the online review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes currently rates it at 60%, based on 5 reviews.

See also


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