Leonardo DiCaprio, Gabriel Byrne, Gérard Depardieu, Jeremy Irons, and John Malkovich in The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)


(director: James Whale; screenwriters: George Bruce/adapted from the Alexander Dumas novel; cinematographer: Robert H. Planck; editor: Grant Whytock; music: Lucien Moraweck; cast: Louis Hayward (King Louis XIV/Philippe of Gascony), Joan Bennett (Princess Maria Theresa), Warren William (Philippe D’Artagnan), Joseph Schildkraut (Nicholas Fouquet), Alan Hale (Porthos), Miles Mander (Aramis), Bert Roach (Athos), Dwight “Renfield” Frye (Fouquet’s valet), Albert Dekker (Louis XIII), Queen Anne (Doris Kenyon), Marian Martin (la Valliere), Walter Kingsford (Colbert), Peter Cushing (King’s messenger); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edward Small; Video Treasures; 1939)
“Favors the duller romance parts to the action parts.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A stylishcostume pieceswashbuckler directed with aplomb by James Whale (“The Bride of Frankenstein”/ “Showboat”), but favors the duller romance parts to the action parts. It’s based on the classic Alexander Dumas novel of the same name. George Bruce is the screenwriter, keeping the complex plot intact. It was first brought to the screen as a 1929 silent movie starring Douglas Fairbanks and again in the dull 1998 version starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Warner: spoiler to follow in this paragraph.

It opens in Paris 1638 with the birth of twin heirs to the throne of France. Louis Hayward plays the dual role of the twins, as the evil tyrannical Louis XIV and his good kind-hearted identical ‘lost’ brother Philippe of Gascony. The brothers have been raised apart and are not aware of each other’s existence. The cruel monarch Louis XIV is engaged to Spain’s Infanta, Princess Maria Theresa (Joan Bennett). She consents to the marriage even though she hates him, in order to keep the peace in Europe. When Louis learns of his twin brother Philippe, someone loved by the commoners, fearing he will be dethroned, he has Philippe arrested and encased in an iron mask and sent to prison in the Bastille. Since Philippe was raised as a child by the venerable Three Musketeers (Miles Mander, Alan Hale, and Bert Roach), Philippe D’Artagnan (Warren William), the fourth musketeer, now calls upon their help and they outfox the prison guards and free him from the Bastille. The exciting climax has Louis rushing to the altar to marry Maria before his brother, but his carriage overturns while he’s wearing the iron mask and he dies a cruel death. Philippe is crowned king and happily marries Maria.

Joseph Schildkraut plays the wily Nicholas Fouquet, and says “It’s necessary for all of us to hang together, or we’ll all hang separately.” Marian Martin plays the courtesan, la Valliere. Peter Cushing makes his film debut in a minor role as the king’s messenger.