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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 the prologue, the four musketeers stand in a framing device, as a medieval stage booth, and D'Artagnan steps forward and speaks to the audience, then steps back and resumes his position with the other three, who remained motionless; after the mid-point intermission, the same situation is repeated, with D'Artagnan speaking again to the audience, finishing with the words, "once more, once more...", after which the film resumes with the title card "20 years later". These were the two Douglas Fairbanks' first scenes with spoken dialogue, in his last silent film. See more »
Musketeer par excellence Douglas Fairbanks (as D'Artagnan) is back, in this extraordinary sequel to his "The Three Musketeers" (1921). After some years, Mr. Fairbanks' main job becomes protecting the French King's good son. Unbeknownst to most everyone (except the movie audience), the Prince and heir to the throne, William Bakewell (as Prince Louis XIV), has an evil twin brother; the identical twosome were separated-at-birth, in order to assure one King ascended to the throne, without incident. However, "good" Prince Bakewell is abducted, and locked up in "The Iron Mask"; then, "bad" Prince Bakewell takes his place. Fairbanks and his musketeer pals must set things right.
With its superb acting, brilliant pace, and stunning photography, this is the one Douglas Fairbanks film you must see, if you only see one. "The Iron Mask" is among the best films in the swashbuckler and silent film genres. It's also (probably) Fairbanks' best performance as an actor. His quintessential performance, and film, might have been overlooked for "Academy Award" consideration due to Fairbanks being, at the time, President of the Academy. It was also apparent, to Fairbanks and others, that the popularity of talking pictures would soon silence the older style, despite the artful late 1920s silent film productions.
"The Iron Mask" featured a spoken word introduction (with Fairbanks in fine voice); currently, it is the rarer version. As the Fairbanks' introductory words invite viewers into the "shadows of the past", of a different "age", it's worth seeking out the original introduction. Another version featured Douglas Fairbanks Jr.'s narration, replacing intertitles; this version is interesting, to a point. Note, eventually, the "narration" version becomes distracting and obvious.
Fairbanks, with director Allan Dwan and photographer Henry Sharp, came up with an ending so memorable it's been said to symbolize the approaching end of its star's career, and the end of silent films in general. They could hardly have had a more suitable ending. For Douglas Fairbanks and company, "The Iron Mask" was a perfect fit.
********** The Iron Mask (2/21/29) Allan Dwan ~ Douglas Fairbanks, William Bakewell, Nigel de Brulier, Léon Bary
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