Doug's Last Great Film
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 06/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Iron Mask is Douglas Fairbanks's last great film. It is one of those rare birds, a sequel which improves on the original. The Three Musketeers is a fine film, a fun swashbuckling romp, but The Iron Mask has a better story and has a depth which the earlier film lacks. Fairbanks was coming to the end of his career when he made The Iron Mask and seems to have put everything into it. The sets and costumes look authentic, the extras are numerous and the cast are uniformly first rate. Nigel de Brulier reprises his role as the scheming Cardinal Richelieu. He is a good villain because he is not wholly malevolent. He is the enemy of D'Artagnan, but the two respect each other and behave towards each other honourably. Richelieu is cruel but it is the cruelty of the statesman who will do anything in the interest of the state. Marguerite de la Motte is, once again, the lovely Constance. Her romantic scenes with D'Artagnan show why he will go to any lengths to save her from Richelieu's plots. Fairbanks is his usual athletic self. He performs amazing stunts, all the more remarkable because he was nearly fifty when he made The Iron Mask. But Fairbanks's performance is not merely a matter of swordplay and gymnastics. His acting shows greater depth of emotion than in some of his earlier films. This story is at times poignant, but Fairbanks has the acting skills to be equal to the changes of mood. He is wonderful as the aging musketeer full of regret, saddened and chastened by life, but still willing to give his all for his King. The print used for this Kino DVD is wonderful. It scarcely has a blemish and the black and white photography is shown in all its glory. There are two brief talking sequences in The Iron Mask one at the start and one half way through. There is thus the chance to hear Fairbanks talk. The sound crackles a bit, but is about as good as can be expected from the sound systems of 1929. The rest of the film has a fine orchestral score by Carl Davis. This sounds great and fits the action and the mood of the film very well. Davis uses Wagnerian themes as the film darkens its mood and his score really adds to the whole viewing experience. The DVD contains a good few extras. There are three sets of out-takes, which show how Fairbanks performed some of his stunts. It is extremely rare for out-takes from silent pictures to survive so we are fortunate indeed to be able to see these. Next there is a five-minute extract from the film with Douglas Fairbanks Junior providing narration. This is interesting, but shows most of all why narrating silents does not work. There is a collection of stills from the film and a good collection of informative essays. Altogether this is a very fine DVD of one of Fairbanks best films."
A Triumphant Farewell to the Silent Era
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 05/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Iron Mask" (1929) was Douglas Fairbanks' glorious valedictory to the art of silent film. Collaborating with director Allan Dwan and set designer William Cameron Menzies, the producer-star poured all his resources into this lavish sequel to "The Three Musketeers" (1921) - acknowledging the advent of sound with two brief talking interludes. Restored by film historians Patrick Stanbury and Kevin Brownlow from an original 35mm print (courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art), "The Iron Mask" can be seen as Fairbanks' finest achievement. However, for all its style and exuberance, the swashbuckling adventure has a melancholic tone that lends a poignant grace to Doug's silent farewell - accompanied by Carl Davis' sweeping orchestral score. For modern viewers unfamiliar with the spirit and athleticism of Fairbanks, "The Iron Mask" represents a terrific starting point."
One of the top 5 greatest silent films
A. Grossman | Florence, Oregon USA | 11/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a magnificent film that has been overlooked for too long.It's Fairbank's shortest swashbuckler and this really helps.
The film just flies by and is not bogged down by too much pagentry or an inane love story. The brief wooing of Constance by D'Artagnan is adorable and the musketeers only "defeat" - though pure slapstick - is simply wonderful. There are other bits of comedy but this a is a very dark film. At the end, eight of the films ten leading characters have died and only one by natural causes Director Dwan has you really caring for Constance and the Musketeers and their deaths are very moving. And best if all is the conclusion - one of a handful of greatest in all film. Only the hardest soul could not shed tears yet feel the warmth as the four great friends go on to "greater adventure.""
The Original Film with a Great Score
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 08/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is actually a new issue (for 2002) of The Iron Mask from Kino featuring a new print from the Museum of Modern Art and a score written by Carl Davis. Kevin Brownlow is one of the producers. There are two brief scenes where Douglas Fairbanks speaks to the audience that has been remastered for this version of the film. The print is flawless, and it was a pleasure to see such a loving restoration. Carl Davis does an excellent job with the score; it fits the mood of the film perfectly. Even if you have the older issue by Kino you will want to see this new edition, if nothing else, for the excellent music. Having seen the 1952 re-release of this film with spoken narration by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. I much prefer the film the way it was first presented. The narration, good as it may be, is more of a distraction and an accommodation to an audience used to sound pictures. Sorry to have to correct Amazon but Fairbanks was 46 when he made this film not 43. It had been eight years since he did The Three Musketeers. With the many positive reviews already posted for this film all I can say is that it is well cast and acted and is a memorable farewell to the silent era by one of its brightest stars."