More recent versions (both English and French) have been marred by a tendency to meddle too much with Dumas' winning formula, miscasting (Charlie Sheen as Aramis!) and trendy directing tics that rapidly look dated.By the time 38-year-old Douglas Fairbanks played D'Artagnan in Fred Niblo's 1921 film, there had already been at least 10 silent adaptations of The Three Musketeers, including one by George Méliès that has since been lost.

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Vincent Price plays that well-known ailurophile, Cardinal Richelieu, with a cat in his lap (at the time of the Cardinal's death in 1642, he reportedly had 14 of them) and Lana Turner is absolutely luscious as Milady.

READ: The Musketeers: On set with Peter Capaldi and Vinnie Jones The best film version, most musketeer-completists agree, is Richard Lester's diptych The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974), adapted by George Mac Donald Fraser, and originally conceived as a vehicle for The Beatles.

It really is the definition of a thumping good read.

More surprising is how so many screenwriters have decided their own plotting and characterisation skills are superior to those of Dumas and his collaborator, August Maquet, even above and beyond the inevitable changes necessary for any screen adaptation.

Her methodical five-day seduction of the Puritan jailer, John Felton, is a thrilling, chilling depiction of evil at its most manipulative.

Little wonder there have been several attempts to tell the story from her perspective, including a 1952 Italian film called Milady and the Musketeers, and a 2004 French telefilm starring veteran exhibitionist Arielle Dombasle.

) and being repurposed for Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy.

It has even survived being pillaged for an ugly computer-animated Barbie film.

It was shot as a single film but released as two separate features by producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind, which came as a surprise to actors who has signed up (and presumably been paid) for just the one movie, triggering lawsuits and adding a "Salkind Clause" to SAG contracts so that trick couldn't be played again.

There's not a weak link in the all-star cast, with Charlton Heston a wily Richelieu, Faye Dunaway on top icy form as Milady, Oliver Reed as a brooding Athos, and Raquel Welch, in a career-best turn, as a comically bumbling Constance Bonacieux.

Europe has been a place of battles and political intrigue for centuries.