The Three Musketeers and Other Classic Re-envisioned Classics

ALTWrite down the date: Friday, October 21—it’s one you won’t want to forget. For, this date will mark the first time that the age-old adventure story of The Three Musketeers will be made into a film!… this year.

Truth be told, the movie has been made countless of times, in countless different ways. There have been the straight-forward adventure tales, the family friendly animated versions, and, of course, the comedic re-imaginings. Every generation, every group of people gets their own version of their stories. They’re classics for a reason.

And while few other literary achievements reach the degree of The Three Musketeers retell-itude, there are plenty of timeless stories that have also been remade in each of these (and other) film genres. Here are a few of the more notable, diverse iterations:

Robin Hood

Robin HoodThe Straightforward: There have been a handful of big screen attempts to capture the original spirit of the Redwood Forestian who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. Two of the more recent examples would be the 2010 Russell Crowe-starrer Robin Hood and the 1991 just-hearing-the-title-gets-Bryan-Adams-stuck-in-my-head film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner

The Animated: One of my favorite childhood movies was the 1973 Disney cartoon Robin Hood, which gave the hero the form of a fox, his pal Little John the form of a Baloo-esque bear, and the tyrannical Prince John the form of a lion—all narrated by a merry troubadour rooster.
The Comical: Mel Brooks brands the Robin Hood story with his special flavor of silliness in the 1993 comedy, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, starring Cary Elwes as the titular hero and Dave Chapelle as his journeying partner, Ahchoo. This also marks the first Robin Hood adventure to feature prominently (or at all) a rabbi.

Peter Pan

The Straightforward: Faithful Peter Pan film incarnations have spanned many a decade. The movies date back to 1960, with the somewhat frivolous, but fondly remembered filmed stage production starring Mary Martin. More recently, another family-oriented version of the movie came out, starring Jeremy Sumpter in one of his earlier big screen roles.

The Animated: This is one of those occasions where the animated movie might be held in even higher regard than any of the live-action adaptations. In 1953, Disney released its take on Peter Pan, which featured Captain Hook as the second greatest Disney villain to date (I’m a Scar man).

The Comical: In the case of Peter Pan, the story itself is pretty innately comical. So the “comedy” version of this story might actually not even be the most comical. In fact, there’s an awful lot of sincerity in it. But Robin Williams’ stardom in the 1991 movie Hook keeps it remembered as a fun and funny new take on the story.

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock HolmesThe Straightforward: Naturally, the first ones we think of here are the 2009 Robert Downey, Jr., starrer and its upcoming sequel, A Game of Shadows. However, no one is more famous for playing the unstoppable detective than South African actor Basil Rathbone, who played the character in fourteen different films. A close second: Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC’s recent Sherlock series.

The Animated: Although this isn’t a direct adaptation, the similarities are pretty much all-encompassing. Except, of course, for the characters’ species. Disney’s 1986 animated movie The Great Mouse Detective planted Holmes and Watson into the bodies of mice, battling the dastardly Professor Ratigan.
The Comical: It’s not quite out yet, but it’s in the works. Judd Apatow is planning a Sherlock Holmes comedy starring Sacha Baron Cohen as the main character. I expect a lot of liberties will be taken.

Gulliver’s Travels

The Straightforward: In this case, one of the most faithful recent adaptations of the work was actually a television miniseries. In 1996, Ted Danson and Mary Steenberger starred together (isn’t that sweet?) in a Gulliver’s Travels two-part TV special, playing Lemuel and Mary Gulliver.
The Animated: The first film adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels, back in 1939, was actually its only completely animated feature film.

The Comical: Ah, last year’s Jack Black comedy version of the Jonathan Swift story. 2010’s Gulliver’s Travels may have been well cast, but it probably won’t go down in history as one of the great literary adaptations.

King Arthur

Holy GrailThe Straightforward: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley brought the legendary king back to the big screen in 2004, in the particularly gritty and “demystified” (as it is often billed) King Arthur. It may not capture the whimsical mood of the original King Arthur stories of indomitable swords and magical kingdoms, but it is a raw, human take on a timeless tale.

The Animated: The Sword in the Stone is more along the lines of the old fables. Disney produced this animated feature in 1963, telling a tale of the young orphan Arthur who rose to his fate as the rightful king of England.  

The Comical: Does it really need to be said? One of the silliest, strangest, and most beloved comedy films of all time: Monty Python and the Holy Grail could not exist if it weren’t for the legends of King Arthur and Camelot. Of course, I don’t know how many vicious bunnies were in the original tale…

Don Quixote of La Mancha

The Straightforward: Don Quixote really found his footing on television, rather than in film. In 2000, a Don Quixote TV movie was produced, starring the great John Lithgow as the delusional adventurer, and Bob Hoskins as his sidekick, Sancho Panza. The film and its two amazing leads captured the spirit of the character as created by Miguel de Cervantes. Slightly less simplistic is the 1972 musical adaptation Man of La Mancha, which features legendary actor Peter O’Toole with an enormous, prosthetic forehead (in which he dreams impossible dreams).

The Animated: In the early 1990s, Hanna Barbera produced the cartoon The Adventures of Don Coyote and Sancho Panda, starring the story’s hero and his timid partner as animal incarnations (who, despite being talking animals, still rode subservient, non-sentient horses…does anyone find that weird?).   

The Unfinished: There’s some strange mojo attached to this story, in that two film incarnations were attempted, and by prominent directors, but never finished. The first was filmed by Orson Welles between 1957 and 1969, but was never completed. The second, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, was attempted by Terry Gilliam after the turn of the millenium. However, rumor has it that Gilliam reopened the project sometime in 2009…