THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1933). 12 chapter Mascot serial. Directed by Armand Schaefer and Colbert Clark.
Described as an “updated” version of the story by Alexander Dumas, this is an entertaining cliffhanger with John Wayne taking center stage and the “musketeers” pushed into a subordinate position. In a battle between members of the Foreign Legion and gunrunners, all but three members of the legion forces are wiped out. The last three are saved by the timely intervention of Lt. Tom Wayne (John Wayne) in his plane. This first scene is a little weird, as the “heroes” have absolutely no reaction to the sudden deaths of their colleagues (one who "steals" a cigarette from a fallen comrade is shot and killed himself a moment later) and indeed remain jaunty and insouciant as they stand there afterward with the bodies of fellow legionnaires presumably lying all around them. Smiling in the face of death and remaining cool and philosophical about warfare is all well and good, but these musketeers come off as callous idiots. In contrast, John Wayne shows genuine emotion and concern when his buddy Stubbs (Noah Beery Jr.) is shot in front of him. Lon Chaney Jr., billed as Creighton Chaney, appears briefly as a friend of Wayne's who is murdered, with Wayne becoming the chief suspect. The real culprit is the villain El Shaitan (The Devil), who is plotting an Arab rebellion against the Legion. Wayne's girlfriend, Chaney's sister Elaine (Ruth Hall), has a letter which will clear Wayne of murder charges, and naturally there's a lot of running after this letter as well as many shots of men fairly leaping onto horses. The Musketeers are played by Francis X. Bushman, Raymond Hatton, and Jack [The Clutching Hand] Mulhall.
Verdict: Fairly entertaining, with a generally fast pace and some exciting moments. **1/2.