King Louis XIV has without his knowledge a twin brother, Philippe, but when he is told, he immediately locks up his brother in the Bastille. The king wants to increase his popularity and ... See full summary »
King Louis XIV has without his knowledge a twin brother, Philippe, but when he is told, he immediately locks up his brother in the Bastille. The king wants to increase his popularity and stages an assassination against himself where Philippe is dressed as king Louis. But Philippe manages to escape the assassination and everybody believes him to be the real king... Written by
Since the copy I acquired of this film bears the year of copyright as 1977, I can only assume it was delayed by 2 years because it was preceded by the 1977 TV version of THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK given that the title under review is merely another adaptation of this classic Alexandre Dumas tale! Made on a grand scale, with a large and international star-studded cast, the film apparently intended to ape the jokey style of Richard Lester's recent two-part (1973/1974) rendition of Dumas' "The Three Musketeers". However, director Annakin was too much of an old-style film-maker to make that work and, in any case, his handling is generally uninspired merely content to let the script (reworking James Whale's superior 1939 version!), the actors and Jack Cardiff's gorgeous color photography tell the tale, as it were (aided, of course, by Riz Ortolani's suitably rousing score).
Amusingly, top billing here goes to the ladies: heroine Sylvia Kristel (fresh off the erotic "Emmanuelle" series, she even gets away with some very mild nudity!) and villainess Ursula Andress (at the tail-end of her stardom really but surprisingly enthusiastic). Incidentally, one of the novelties here is that Andress' Mademoiselle La Valliere (I was not familiar with the character when I encountered her in J. Sheridan LeFanu's "The Room In The Dragon Volant", which I subsequently turned into a script!) gets much more screen-time than her equivalent in the 1939 'original'; indeed, the two women have a number of confrontations throughout notably when Andress sets a falcon on Kristal. The male lead, however, was a gross miscalculation as Beau Bridges' style of acting is too modern to pass muster in a period romp and in this company (though he must have relished getting close to two beauties such as he is flanked by here)! A measure of the (cynical) times, however, is the fact that the assassination attempt on the King (for which, being aware of it, he has deliberately sent his unwitting twin) resolves itself not by a persuasively sympathetic speech as in the 1939 version but rather a full-bloodied yet highly improbable action sequence! The Four Musketeers, then, are played up as much older than in the earlier version (they still get involved in plenty of derring-do but only 2 expire at the end): Cornel Wilde is D'Artagnan, Jose' Ferrer Athos, Lloyd Bridges (yes, Beau's dad!) Aramis and Alan Hale Jr. in his own real-life father's old role as Porthos interestingly, 27 years prior to this, Wilde and Hale had appeared together in a similar swashbuckler, actually playing the sons of their respective characters here, AT SWORD'S POINT (1952)!
Likewise, an over-age Rex Harrison 'replaces' Walter Kingsford as the Musketeers' court insider though the muddled script fails to properly explain the reason behind the beating he receives towards the end! Ian McShane, on the other hand, is perhaps too young for the villainous Fouquet and, again, he emanates from a school of acting which jars with the rest of his colleagues (though he is certainly fun to watch). Olivia De Havilland (in her final theatrical appearance), then, is something of an embarrassment popping up in a couple of scenes (confronting one Bridges and acknowledging another) as the former Queen-turned-Nun and Bernard Bresslaw (who seems to have strayed in from the "Carry On" series) is a blind inn-keeper! The prologue depicting the children's birth and enforced separation has been dropped here presumably to instill an air of mystery into the proceedings; oddly, too, the all-important mask is given an impossibly clunky design (looking very much like a cooking-pot!). Finally, I have just realized that the version of the film I acquired and watched was 13 minutes short of the full-length running-time!
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