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THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK ($25) is writer/director Randall Wallace’s visually sumptuous adaptation of the Dumas classic. While THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK isn’t the best adaptation, Jeremy Irons, Gabriel Byrne, Gérard Depardieu and John Malkovich do an outstanding job of bringing to life the older, but not always wiser, incarnations of Dumas’ legendary Musketeers. Leonardo DiCaprio is given top billing in the film for his dual portrayal of King Louis XIV of France, as well as that of Philippe, the man who is imprisoned in an iron mask because of his resemblance to the King. DiCaprio received plenty of hype for his work in TITANIC, but in THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK he seems out of place. DiCaprio isn’t terrible; he just pales in comparison to Irons, Byrne, Malkovich and Depardieu.

The plot of THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK centers on the French royal court under the rule of King Louis XIV. While King Louis and his nobles enjoy every extravagance, Louis’ subjects are starving to death in the streets of Paris. D'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne), who is now captain of the King’s Musketeers, is able to quell a number of uprisings, but France appears to be on the verge of a bloody revolt to overthrow the King. However, when King Louis’ excesses send the son of retired Musketeer Athos (John Malkovich) to his death, Aramis (Jeremy Irons) and Porthos (Gérard Depardieu) reunite with their grieving friend, and together they plan to save France by replacing the tyrant. The cast of THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK includes Anne Parillaud, Judith Godrèche, Edward Atterton and Peter Sarsgaard.

MGM Home Entertainment offers THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK in both wide screen and full screen presentations on opposite sides of the DVD. While the full screen version offers impressive image quality, cropping this beautiful looking film is a genuine disservice. The Letterboxed version of THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK recreates the film’s 1.85:1 theatrical framing and includes the anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. The transfer is spectacular at reproducing Peter Suschitzky’s rich cinematography. Colors are well saturated, yet never betray a hint of distortion. Additionally, sharpness and detail are all one could wish for. Digital compression artifacts were never very noticeable.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack had an impressive mix that combined atmosphere with well placed directional effects. Other soundtrack options include a French language track, plus an audio commentary with writer/director Randall Wallace. Wallace’s talk is interesting and filled plenty of production detail. English, French and Spanish subtitles have been encoded into the DVD.

The interactive menus provide access to a theatrical trailer, plus alternate designs for the iron mask used in the film.

I am going to recommend THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK to the fans of Jeremy Irons, Gabriel Byrne, Gérard Depardieu and John Malkovich. Their superb acting brings this adaptation of the Dumas story to life.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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