The Man in the Iron Mask (movie)

From Academic Kids

There have been several movies entitled The Man in the Iron Mask, all based on the final section of the novel The Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas, which was itself based on the 18th century myth of the Man in the Iron Mask. The plot involves D'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers and an identical twin brother of King Louis XIV of France.




The 1929 silent version, titled The Iron Mask, was the last silent film produced by, and starring, Douglas Fairbanks It starred Fairbanks as D'Artagnan, Marguerite de la Motte as his beloved Constance (who is killed early in the film to protect the secret that the King has a twin brother), Nigel De Brulier as the scheming Cardinal Richelieu, and Ulrich Haupt as the evil Count De Rochefort. William Bakewell appeared as the royal twins.

The original 1929 release, though a silent film, actually had a soundtrack: several short narrations delivered by Fairbanks (in a rather orotund manner -- it was no wonder he was much less successful in "talkies" than he had been in the silent era), and a musical score with a few sound effects. In 1952 it was reissued, with the printed intertitles removed and a narration voiced by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. added.

In 1999, with the cooperation of the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art, Kino Video released a DVD of the 1929 version. No film copy with the soundtrack of the Fairbanks speeches existed, but phonograph records of them did exist, so using digital techniques the sound from these was synchronized with film footage. For this reissue, a new score was commissioned from composer Henry Sharp. The Kino disk also includes excerpts from the 1952 version, some outtakes from the original filming, and some textual background material from the program for the 1999 premiere showing of the reconstruction.


The 1939 film was directed by James Whale. It starred Louis Hayward as the twins.


A 1977 television movie starred Richard Chamberlain as the twins, Patrick McGoohan as Fouquet, and Louis Jourdan as D'Artagnan.


The 1998 movie was written and directed by Randall Wallace. Its cast included Leonardo DiCaprio as the twins, Gabriel Byrne as D'Artagnan and Anne Parillaud as Anne of Austria. The three musketeers were portrayed by Jeremy Irons (Aramis), John Malkovich (Athos), and Gérard Depardieu (Porthos).

In this version the "man in the iron mask" is introduced as number 24601 - the prisoner number Victor Hugo gave to Jean Valjean, his character in Les Misérables.

Differences between versions

The novel and the filmed versions of the tale have some very interesting differences in how they portray the Royal Twins and in how the present the plot to switch them. It is well worth renting both the 1929 silent version and the 1998 remake, as well possibly as the 1977 television version, and contrast them with the novel and with one another.

In Dumas' original novel, although the plot to replace King Louis XIV with his twin brother is foiled, the twin brother is depicted as a much more sympathetic character than the King. In the 1929 silent version starring Douglas Fairbanks as D'Artagnan, the King is depicted favorably and the twin brother is depicted as a pawn in an evil plot, so the plot's being foiled by D'Artagnan and his Three Musketeer friends is made to seem condign.

But in the 1998 version, the King is depicted very negatively while his twin brother is portrayed with considerable sympathy. So the plot to switch the two brothers is presented as an attempt to save France from a very bad king, by replacing him with the one man in France who has an equal claim. D'Artagnan finds himself torn between loyalty to his King and loyalty to his Three Musketeer friends; the way in which this conflict is resolved provides much of the dramatic tension in this version.


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