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King Louis XIII of France is thrilled to have born to him a son - an heir to the throne. But when the queen delivers a twin, Cardinal Richelieu sees the second son as a potential for revolution, and has him sent off to Spain to be raised in secret to ensure a peaceful future for France. Alas, keeping the secret means sending Constance, lover of D'Artagnan, off to a convent. D'Artagnan hears of this and rallies the Musketeers in a bid to rescue her. Unfortunately, Richelieu out-smarts the Musketeers and banishes them forever. Richelieu enlists D'Artagnan to look after and protect the young prince. Meanwhile, de Rochefort learns of the twins and Richelieu's plans, and kidnaps the twin, raising him in secret. Many years later, with Richelieu dead and the young prince crowned King Louis XIV, Rochefort launches his plan. The king is kidnapped, replaced with his twin, put in an iron mask so as not to be recognized, and led off to a remote castle to be held prisoner. Louis XIV is able to ... Written by
Theron Trowbridge <Tmonk@concentric.net>
In Kevin Brownlow and David Gill's extraordinary 1980 documentary about the silent era "Hollywood" the final sequence of "The Iron Mask" is described as Fairbanks' farewell to the silent film. And it is.
Generally this is an inferior film to the amazing 1921 "Three Musketeers". Allan Dwan is not the visual stylist that Fred Niblo is, and so "The Iron Mask" becomes much more of a straightforward action film. But as such it is splendid. I think we tend to forget what a good actor Fairbanks was. His emotional journey here is quite powerful as he faces the death of his lady and of his friends - and he ages convincingly as well.
Most of the cast is different to the "Three Musketeers" but Margueritte de la Motte returns as Constance and the unforgettable Nigel de Brulier again plays Richilieu with extreme venom.
Fairbanks has an athletic field day as well. There seem to be a number of versions of this film around. The one I saw ran 95 minutes and had tinted sequences. I've seen some advertised as having talking sequences, and others with narration by Douglas Fairbanks Jr - the one i saw had neither of these.
It was probably the last large scale silent feature made in Hollywood. And that is what gives those gorgeous last minutes such power. The silent era was truly the golden years of Hollywood and Fairbanks was its king - in this film he sadly abdicates.
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