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  • didi-525 March 2002
    James Whale, when he wasn't doing horror films which set trends, or the occasional musical, went literary with this entertaining adaptation of the famous French novel.

    Old hands are involved - Warren William, Alan Hale - as part of the quartet of ageing musketeers, and do the production credit. South-African born matinée idol Louis Hayward plays both the twins admirably and pretty Joan Bennett does her usual turn which she could do in her sleep (as the princess betrothed to the bad twin and in love with the good twin).

    The film veers from some very funny moments to some sweet romantic scenes between the good twin and the foreign princess, and the different characters of the twins are well portrayed. There are also a number of excellent performances in the supporting cast. With all this (and Whale's surreal imagination) you can forgive the odd lapse away from Dumas' original vision. Good stuff indeed.
  • There have been many versions over the years of the fanciful story, "The Man in the Iron Mask," the most recent one being the 1998 film starring Leonardo di Caprio. Back in the late 1970s, Richard Chamberlain took a stab at it, with highly entertaining results.

    This particular version was directed to great effect by the talented James Whale, who gives us a fast, energetic, and athletic telling of the story of twins separated at birth, one who will be King of France and one who does not know that he is royalty. The twins are played by Louis Hayward, Joan Bennett is Maria Theresa, Josef Schildkraut is Fouquet, and Warren William leads the Musketeers as D'Artagnan. As one post on this board mentions, the Musketeers are getting up there in age here; Alan Hale, Miles Mander, and Bert Roach are the heroic swordsmen and friends.

    It's important always that a good actor plays twins so that they have different personalities. This often is not the case. One may be mean and one may be good, but they talk the same, look the same, act the same etc. Louis Hayward does a fantastic job in his dual roles. As the arrogant King, he is foppish, cruel, dismissive and lustful. As Philip of Gascony, he is gentle and unassuming with a very different demeanor and even a different vocal timber. Hayward was a very smooth actor. It's not exactly clear what happened to his career and why he ended up in the '60s doing spaghetti westerns. Apparently this film set him up for a resume of playing twins, which he gamely did, finally becoming a very successful producer.

    Although she was no match in acting for Vivien Leigh, anyone who has seen the "Gone With the Wind" screen tests knows what a beautiful Scarlett Joan Bennett would have made. She's stunning here as the confused Maria Theresa in glorious costumes, with her serene smile, porcelain skin and beautiful bone structure. Warren William, an early leading man who was the movie Perry Mason, is very likable and does well with the athletic sword fighting as D'Artagnan. Having been a leading man when talkies began, by this time he was moving into character roles. With his pencil-thin mustache, he was a familiar presence in films until his death in 1948 at the age of 54.

    This is a wonderful movie, a nice remembrance of the good old Hollywood period pieces, when they really knew how to do them. Look for a young Peter Cushing as a King's messenger.
  • Screenwriter George Bruce, a specialist with swashbuckling tales, is at his best in this rather loose adaptation of the fanciful Alexandre Dumas novel that relates how the Three Musketeers won their final battle. The scenario tells of the birth of twin sons to King Louis XIII of France and his wife, and of how, since there can be but one dauphin, the latterly born is secretly given to the care of the King's favorite swordsman D'Artagnan who, along with the Musketeers, raises him in Gascony. The return to Paris of the untitled and untravelled son, Philip, along with the four veteran warriors, at the request of Minister Colbert, one of the few who is aware of the twin birth, and the resulting adventures largely brought about by a sharp contrast in humanity between the brothers, forms the basis for the subsequent fast-moving and exciting events. Louis Hayward brilliantly plays the dual parts of the twins King Louis XIV and the unrecognized Philip, providing a proper degree of personality disparity, along with a display of excellent fencing skill and a robust penchant for romancing the Infanta of Spain, nicely performed by Joan Bennett. Walter Kingsford and Joseph Schildkraut are sterling as ministers in competition for the King's ear, as are Albert Dekker and Doris Kenyon as Louis XIII and his queen, but it is Warren William, whose profile puts that of John Barrymore to shame, who steals the supporting cast honors with a very strong performance as D'Artagnan. James Whale's flamboyant style of direction is perfect for this cinematic transposition of the classic novel, and the editing is well-nigh perfect, capping a delightful performance by all.
  • dkncd20 October 2007
    "The Man in the Iron Mask" is adapted from the volume by Alexander Dumas. The premise of the film is that King Louis XIV of France had an identical twin brother, who eventually becomes "the man in the iron mask". Also involved in the story are D'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers carried over from Dumas' novel "The Three Musketeers".

    Louis Hayward is equally excellent as the ineffectual King Louis XIV and his twin, the kindhearted Philippe. Joan Bennett is charming as Maria Theresa, slated to be Queen of France. Joseph Schildkraut is notable as the Machiavellian adviser Fouquet and Walter Kingsford also gives a commendable performance as rival adviser Colbert. Warren William gives the best performance of the Musketeers as the noble D'Artagnan, but the other Musketeers are well-portrayed.

    This film features superb sets, scenes, costumes and a score to match. Some of the special effects work is noticeably dated, but is overall fine. The story is interesting and well-paced and doesn't suffer the slow patches that some other adventure films of the era do. It should be noted that this film features some action scenes, but viewers looking for a number of swordfights would probably do better with another film. The action scenes that were included were certainly well-made. Overall, "The Man in the Iron Mask" proves to be an interesting hypothetical story set in the time of Louis XIV.
  • dougandwin20 November 2004
    Gosh I loved this film when I saw it many years ago as a young kid, and when I saw it much later on TV, I have to say I still enjoyed it greatly. Louis Hayward was excellent and Joan Bennett was truly beautiful, with the Three Musketeers (all a bit long in the tooth!) led by Warren William as D'Artagnan lots of fun, while Joseph Schildkraut was his usual malevolent villain. The scenes of the twins together were well done, and James Whale directed with his good sense of entertainment - if you get the chance to see it on DVD or Video, grab it as it is a gem from the really Golden Years. I have seen the remake with Guy Pearce, and found that enjoyable too, but must stress any resembalnce to this oldie, was purely coincidental.
  • I am watching this movie right now on TCM. Filmed gloriously in black and white. But as I have read in another thread about this movie, Warren William shines in his role as Philippe D'Artagnan. Warren William, in my humble opinion, was the heart throb of the 1930s and 40s. So handsome and his voice like honey. Okay, I'm being dramatic here, but I have watched so many of his movies on TCM and I am so enamored of him. One of the greatest actors of his time, it is amazing to me that he is so unknown today. In my opinion, he ranks up there with the greatest actors of his time, along with Gary Cooper, Bogart and the like. This movie is a treasure. And so is Warren William!
  • Though The Man In the Iron Mask is swashbuckling adventure at its finest it's hardly an accurate picture of the times. But Alexander Dumas was no more writing history here than he was in The Three Musketeers which in many ways this is the further adventures of.

    Twin sons are born to Louis XIII and his wife Anne of Austria and in order to avoid dynastic rivalry, one of them is sent with the King's trusty right hand D'Artagnan to raise in his native Gascony. The other becomes the well known Louis XIV and ascends to the throne as a child of six.

    Warren William is the aging, but still very capable D'Artagnan. In his scenes especially the film bares more than a slight resemblance to the version that Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. did as his last silent film. I would not be surprised if a lot of stock footage was incorporated here by producer Edward Small and director James Whale.

    Louis Hayward essays the difficult dual role of both Louis XIV and his twin brother Phillip. Hayward's first big break came as Anita Louise's lover and Fredric March's father in Anthony Adverse where he lost a duel to Claude Rains. Hayward never lost too many screen duels after that though his swashbuckler parts that he mostly did after service in World War II never matched up to this.

    Joseph Schildkraut and Walter Kingsford are the evenly matched pair of ministers vying for preeminence as Fouquet and Colbert. Colbert did in fact triumph, but not in the way as shown here. And Fouquet was a guy who liked to live high on the hog. In real life that's what actually brought him down.

    The Man in the Iron Mask is an often filmed tale here in America, I'm sure the French have done many versions. For adventure and romance you can't beat it and this version is one of the best around.
  • James Whale has to be credited with some very fine direction on this version of THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, the famous story about the twin brothers, one of whom is a black-hearted rogue who sits on the throne, the other raised in a faraway village by D'Artagnan when it becomes clear that only one twin can sit on the throne of France.

    All the ingredients for a good swashbuckler are here with the added benefit of an absorbing story, extremely well played by a wonderful cast. LOUIS HAYWARD has never had a better role than the contrasting twins and the special effects are excellent when he shares scenes with his twin. JOAN BENNETT, although very beautiful, is merely a costumed prop here, exuding no real warmth as the princess who falls in love with the good twin. She was never an actress of any depth.

    But the film really belongs to WARREN WILLIAM as a rather overage D'Artagnan and even more so to Joseph SCHILDKRAUT in another one of his evil impersonations as Fouquet, with ambitions to become the Minister of Finance and an appetite for treachery.

    Very lavish production values, although one wishes the film could have been filmed in Technicolor (at a time when very few films were). There's a good Oscar-nominated background score in the brisk tradition of such music and there's never a dull moment in the whole film.

    Summing up: A majestic, impressive version of the tale which stands up to any subsequent telling in recent years.
  • The 1939 version of THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK was one of my first costume swashbucklers. I was lucky enough to see it at a screening at school and loved every minute, whether it was the swordplay, the action or even the chilling moments that featured Louis Hayward as either the evil...and most definitely unbalanced...King Louis XIV or his twin brother Philippe, trapped in that nightmarish iron mask.

    But more importantly, it gave me a group of unusual heroes in D'Artagnon and the Musketeers in an era when most youngsters' heroes were cowboys riding the TV range. A wonderful group with Warren William holding every scene he is in as the aging but still courageous and adventure-loving D'Artagnon. It wasn't until a few years later that I saw Errol Flynn's ROBIN HOOD and recognized Alan Hale as my first movie Porthos.

    It's sad that James Whale directed movies no more after this one, but what he left us is one of the best of the classic costume adventures that is still a joy to watch and a wonderful journey to the legend of the men whose battle cry was "One For All! And All For One!" Catch it when it is repeated on TCM and, for a couple of hours, be a kid again!
  • For the record, the film under review is universally considered the best and most "exhilarating" (to quote the late eminent British critic Leslie Halliwell) version, even if Whale himself apparently was not that fond of it (by this time, he had lost favor with the Hollywood bigwigs and basically had resigned himself to be a director-for-hire!). Still, I completely disagree with his unenthusiastic appraisal – as this is certainly one of his most impressive non-horror efforts and easily ranks among the Top 10 Swashbucklers ever to come out of Hollywood! The film was an independent production courtesy of Edward Small: he had already financed the definitive 1934 version of Dumas' THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (likewise a cinematic staple and a personal Holy Grail for me before finally watching it some 3 years ago) and would subsequently make the 1941 rendition of THE CORSICAN BROTHERS (again inspired by a Dumas tale and, like IRON MASK itself, involving twin protagonists). In fact, he would be the force behind no less than 7 swashbucklers throughout his career, including 2 original sequels to MONTE CRISTO – both, incidentally, starring the lead of this one i.e. Louis Hayward!

    Despite not having the backing of a major studio, the movie lasts for a generous 112 minutes (the IMDb mistakenly lists this as 96 but, then, it is 110 according to the "Leonard Maltin Movie Guide" and, as per the afore-mentioned Halliwell tome, 119!) and looks terrific indeed: sets are expansive, costumes lavish and the cinematography splendid. However, two other contributing factors to the film's overall success is a literate script by George Bruce and a remarkable (if essentially low-key) roster of actors to play the extensive cast of characters. Warren William is D'Artagnan and Alan Hale, Bert Roach and Miles Mander The Three Musketeers (from yet another Dumas perennial) – interestingly, the same year as this film saw a rather good musical spoof adaptation of that novel, but the best-remembered version was still 9 years away! To get back to Hale for a moment, his Porthos here came hot on the heels of another beloved folk character i.e. Robin Hood's best-known sidekick Little John – incidentally, his real-life son would recreate the elder Hale's 1939 role both in LADY IN THE IRON MASK (1952; in which Louis Hayward himself is now D'Artagnan) and in the inferior big-screen remake of IRON MASK retitled THE FIFTH MUSKETEER (1979; and which actually followed this very viewing)!! Joan Bennett had not yet attained artistic maturity (which would come via her noir phase during the next decade), Joseph Schildkraut makes for a wonderful dastardly villain, Walter Kingsford is a vaguely familiar character actor here relishing the opportunity to tackle a sizeable characterization, while Montagu Love is something of a genre fixture(!), Albert Dekker has an small but important early part as King Louis XIII and, though similarly restricted to the prologue, this was Nigel De Brulier's fourth and final appearance as Cardinal Richelieu since 1921 (and which had included the 1929 version of the same source material!). Finally, for horror-movie buffs, Whale regular Dwight Frye and future Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing (his debut!) turn up in bit parts here: though the former's is a speaking part (appearing as Schildkraut's valet), he receives no credit, whereas the latter – who only gets a couple of medium shots as one of the many soldiers at a tavern brawl – does!

    Anyway, the film throws in a variety of elements and, while it may stress some at the expense of others (notably romance and court intrigue vis-a'-vis its sporadic bursts of action), to my mind, there is little cause for complaint. That is unless one carps for a duel between the two Haywards, which was added for THE FIFTH MUSKETEER – a film that generally followed the George Bruce script here so scrupulously that his name ranks beside that of Dumas in the credits! As for the notion that Whale was so disinterested that he failed to imbue the film with any of his distinctive touches, suffice to say that the prison sequences feature shadowy lighting and a whipping (that particularly evokes a similar scene in FRANKENSTEIN [1931]), while the regal Hayward sensibly despairing – there's an oxymoron for you! – of being strangled by his overgrown hair once his head has been trapped in the (appealingly-designed) mask is a sure-fire display of his recognizable caustic wit (recalling THE INVISIBLE MAN [1933]'s observation that, to avert detection, he must be spotlessly clean at all times); another more broadly comic scene finds William hamming it up in the fashion of John Barrymore posing as Kingsford's doddering servant when soldiers arrive to arrest him. The climax, then, surprisingly sees the death of all four Musketeers, a driverless coach careening off the edge of a cliff, and the union (blessed with mutual love when once it was to be solely a marriage of convenience) between Spaniard Bennett and the 'new' French King.

    Interestingly, having recently rewatched Luis Bunuel's swan-song THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE (1977), I was reminded of the ambivalent nature of its heroine during those scenes where Bennett here is confounded by the apparent contradictions within the personality of foppish King Louis XIV (who is to marry her against his will, whereas the more down-to-earth twin exhibits affection and consideration). By the way, another classic swashbuckler to split the central role was THE PRISONER OF ZENDA – whose finest incarnation emerged in 1937 and numbered among its cast Montagu Love! Finally, the TCM-sourced copy I watched sported rather low audio (so that I had to take the volume practically to the maximum in order to hear the dialogue) and, unfortunately, also suffered from a handful of minor jump-cuts!
  • All positive comments are agreed to. This is truly one of the finest ones. The only minor dig that I could come up with is that they could have had more dueling sequences. Louis Hayward was capable of more robust fencing than what was portrayed here and I don't think they utilized his skills to any great degree. Outside of that this is a truly enjoyable film, black and white or not and while I don't advocate doing every B/W film over by colorizing it, I think I would like to see what this one Australia, What Guy Pearce Remake??????? Guy Pearce did Count of Monte Cristo, not M.I.T.I.M. as far as I have been able to determine.
  • fubared122 August 2007
    I have seen the many other versions of this story, but I had never even heard of this one, directed by the great James Whale, which is surprising in itself. I must say without qualification it is certainly the best of them all. Louis Hayward is excellent as the twins, and the scenes with the 2 twins together rival anything Hollyweed can do now, only done much more simply and directly. They don't even look like matte shots. And the scenes with Hayward in an iron mask rival any of Whale's horror films simply in their superb use of lighting for effect. Just goes to show further what a superb craftsman he was, and how he was comfortable in any genre. The supporting cast is fine, though frankly I never found Joan Bennett interesting, she does well here. And stalwarts like Schildkraut and Hale do their usual fine work. Frankly I thing Warren William is highly overrated in the other reviews here. Yes, he does a creditable job, but no better than any others in the supporting cast. Personally, I think Whale's direction is the real star here, effective without being overly flamboyant. He could have easily rivaled Cukor or any of his other gay contemporaries' work, but unfortunately he insisted on being honest and open about who he was. Something that is frowned upon even today.
  • All in all, a solid film with some excellent cinematography, uniformly excellent cast and good direction (except the romantic scenes--James Whale always was a bit stiff in that department). I thought the musical score was just adequate, even though it was nominated for an Oscar that year.

    Blink and you miss Albert Dekker (credited) at the opening and Peter Cushing (credited and his first screen appearance) as one of the soldiers in the scene where the soldiers first encounter the musketeers (Cushing has no lines). Dwight Frye (not credited) can be spotted as a valet about 3/4's of the way in. He has a few lines but we are so used to seeing him as "Fritz" in Whale's Frankenstein movies that he's not easy to recognize (he's a little heavier looking in this film for one thing).

    Hayward was a good choice for the dual roles. A good actor, there was always something rather unpleasant at times about his looks while at other times he looked quite handsome--I think he was used to great advantage here for that reason.

    Almost all the leads were independent artists, not contracted to any particular studio, so it was rather weird seeing Warners' top character man Alan Hale in this (not that they give him a whole lot to do!) I'm guessing that some footage from the 1920s version of this film with Douglas Fairbanks was incorporated into at least one scene--the king showing the newborn prince from his balcony early in the film.

    After seeing this, I began to wonder if Stan Lee or Jack Kirby did not draw inspiration for their "Dr. Doom" comic book character from the iron mask shown in this film.
  • I have always been fond of The Three Musketeers, Man in the Iron Mask and of the swash-buckling tales in general. The Man in the Iron Mask(1939) shows perfectly why. Some of the effects are on the dated side and while looking gorgeous I found for my tastes Joan Bennett to be too blithe. However, the sumptuous costumes and sets more than make amends, as does the stirring score, beautiful cinematography, sword play that is as far away from clumsy as you can get and James Whale's direction, which is suitably sympathetic without it ever been plodding or overly-flamboyant. The script is witty and intelligent and the story is as compelling as you'd expect. Bennett aside, the performances are great. The Musketeers are well done and it was nice seeing Peter Cushing in his screen debut, but for me the standouts were the malevolent Fouquet of Joseph Schildkaut, Warren William's noble D'Artagnan and the altogether riveting dual-role performance of Louis Hayward as the arrogant, cruel Louis and the gentle, romantically helplessness of Phillippe. All in all, a swash-buckling adventure classic of the highest order. 9/10 Bethany Cox
  • Intermittently exciting "Musketeers" tale, highlighted by the "Jekyll-Hyde" performance of Louis Hayward as the King of France and his undiscovered (then, discovered) twin brother. Mr. Hayward does a great job; especially when the "Good" twin confronts the "Evil" twin with his "Iron Mask".

    "The Man in the Iron Mask" might have been better as a swashbuckling horror story; and, director James Whale could have delivered the goods. The Iron Mask of the title is designed for Edgar Allen Poe-type horror… it is locked around a Hayward's neck, so that he will slowly be strangled by his own beard. A gruesome death! I expected a little more excitement, and suspense, in this film.

    The other characters are enjoyable; Joseph Schildkraut was my favorite supporting character. Joan Bennett is the beautiful love interest, but she doesn't have much of an opportunity to show any acting skills. By the way, her scene in the coach shows her looking very much like Scarlet O'Hara from "Gone with the Wind." After seeing her in this, you can picture her testing for Scarlett.

    ******* The Man in the Iron Mask (6/26/39) James Whale ~ Louis Hayward, Joan Bennett, Joseph Schildkraut, Warren William
  • john-zielinski118 October 2007
    I have seen every one of the Iron MasK FIMS including the latest

    I saw the first version w/Louis Hayward twice unfortunately it was on Television when I was very young and this version has stayed with me for many years at least 30+ I have looked for it on VHS till I was blue in the face could not order it any where, numerous sites said it was not available then I went to a place called Last Chance Mecantile Alf there was a grocery basket full of VHS tapes low and behold there it was it cost $.59 cents the case is damaged but I found a source that will repair it and cut a DVD and Repair it for me for 25.00 and it will be worth it my search is over after many years as I am an avid old film buff.
  • James Whale's version of the Dumas story is a very good swashbuckler.

    Lois Hayward plays the twin brothers, one the insane king of France and the other a boy raised by D'Artagnan of three musketeers fame.

    Hayward is excellent in the roles though his King is probably on the short list of 25 most evil screen portraits. The story was most recently remade with Leonardo DiCaprio to mixed results. The movie is a great deal of fun thanks in part to Whale's sense of the absurd such as when D'Artagnan (The always wonderful Warren William) pretends to be a servant to throw off some pursuers.

    Definitely worth a bucket of popcorn.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Boris Karloff found this to be true in 1935's "The Black Room", but his set of twins were not sons of the King of France. When King Louis XIII's wife gives birth to two sons (why is it never a daughter?), one is not presented to the people, but gets to be raised by D'Artagnan, one of the three musketeers. When the king dies, the son he raised ascends the throne as Louis XIV (named "the Great" in history books), and the remaining son, Philippe, becomes a rebel after his father is outcast from the court. Louis XIV is presented as an evil fop (although history doesn't record him this way) who doesn't care abut the people. If the future Marie Antoinette said "Let Them Eat Cake", this version of the greatest Bourbon King of France wouldn't care if they starved.

    When Spanish Princess Marie Terese (Joan Bennett) arrives as Louis's future Queen, she is revolted by his inhumanity. When the King discovers he is the intended target of an assassination plot, Marie Terese is taken with Philippe (who has assumed the King's place after being arrested) for his caring, believing her initial impression of the king was a misunderstanding. Of course, the king discovers the truth about his look-alike, and thus comes in the Iron Mask.

    This lavish historical drama may not represent France's greatest era of the monarchy, but it is an entertaining and impressive vision of that time. Hayward, in a double role, sneers as the evil King Louis XIV but gets to be noble and even imitate his twin as the decent Philippe. Would you believe the usually more modern, hard as nails Marion Martin as the Madame DuBarry type mistress? I didn't at first, but she tones down her usual streetwise manner in that part. As for Bennett, I feared she might be wasted as the hapless heroine, but she actually gets to do more rather than simply look pretty and fret over being rescued. Warren William is excellent as D'Artagnon, and Joseph Schildkraut gives an outstanding performance as the villainous Fouquet. Under the stunning direction of James Whale, the film is a visual treat, much like his glorious movie version of "Show Boat" with a touch of his past horror film glories thrown in. This film only goes into swashbuckling action a few times, but it never lacks in entertainment.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    THE SWASHBUCKLER has always been a favourite film type in our household. ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, CAPTAIN BLOOD, THE MARK OF ZORRO, THE SEAHAWK, DONDI; these are all titles that evoke that certain feeling of high adventure and excitement in all who merely hear these titles.

    THE famous novel THE THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexander Dumas has been adapted countless number of times to the screen with many a well known actor portraying the characters of D'Artanian, Porthos, Arthos and Arimas (also Moe Larry & Curly). Fewer numbers of versions of Monsieur Dumas' sequel have been committed to the celluloid.

    EDWARD SMALL Pictures' THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (Edward Small Pictures/United Artists, 1939) remains to this day a prime example of a film that seems to garner little praise for its epic telling of the treachery that follows a Royal Twin Birth.

    ENLISTED as the guys with the neat blades were: Porthos (Alan Hale,Sr.-that's the Skipper's Father, from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND), Athos (Bert Roach), Aramis (Miles Mander.) and lastly the dashing D'Artanian (Warren William, distinguished Thespian of stage & screen and Road Show "Barrymore"). The beautiful Joan Bennett portrayed the Princess Maria Theresa, the Spanish Royal Betrothed to the treacherous King Louis XIV.

    AND PORTRAYING both Louis XIV, as well as the 'unknown' twin, Phillip of Gascovy was that most capable and likable of a screen persona in dashing, handsome and talented Louis Hayward. Mr., Hayward, who seems to be somewhat forgotten today, really electrifies the story with his presence. His ability to give two distinct personalities to the two "Twins" to such a degree that one will find himself doubting that it is indeed one actor's portrayal. (Honest Schultz, it is!)

    STANDOUT VILLAIN of the show would have to be Joseph Shilkraut as Royal Minister Foquet, the conniving weasel who taught the young King to be a cruel, selfish & truly evil Despotic Ruler. The Viennese born Mr. Shilkraut had been in pivotal roles, dating back to the Silents. It was he who so energized the portrayal of Judas Iscariat in director Cecil B. DeMille's KING OF KINGS (DeMille Films Company/Pathe Exchange, 1927).

    OTHERS prominent in the outstanding cast were: Albert Dekker (as King Louis XIII), Walter Kingsford (Colbert, the Good Minister), Doris Kenyon (Queen Anne), William Royale, Boyd Irwin, Lane Chandler, Howard Brooks, Reginald Barlow, William Standing, Dorothy Vaughn, Sheila Darcy, Harry Woods and the St. Brendan's Choir.

    ALSO of note in the cast were Peter Cushing, playing his first role in film as the Second Officer;and, portraying the role of the famous & infamous Cardinal Richelieu was Nigel De Brulier (The Wizard SHAZAM in THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (Republic Pictures, 1941)!

    UP UNTIL now, we've talked about the people who appear before the camera lens and referred not to the guy who put it all together. Director, James Whale had brought a wealth of experience to the director's chair The resume of Mr. Whale's had such notable and stylish films as FRANKENSTEIN (1931), THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (his masterpiece, 1935), Edna Ferber's SHOWBOAT (1936), GREEN HELL (1940) and DONDI (1958). (Just kiddin' 'bout that last one, folks!)

    THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK has so much to recommend it and very little to detract from its total effect on the screen. Well, in the interest of impartiality and absolute fairness, we have one complaint. The rear screen projection shots seem to be often out of proper scale to the subjects in front. This seems to be particularly evident in one of the scenes showing the "King" riding in the Coach with angry burgers in the "background" jeering, sneering and shouting down his 'Royal Highness'.

    OTHERWISE the scripting & dialog, the acting, directing, the all important costumes (Because it's a 'Costume Drama', Schultz!), the countryside and the Villages & Palace sets are magnificent. In fact, it appears to us that the film may well have been done at various Studios 'Medieval' Sets. (20th Century-Fox's, RKO's, etc.). The shot of the crowd outside the Palace when King Louis XIII presented the newborn heir appears to have been taken from stock footage used in the Silent Screen's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (Universal, 1923); which of course, starred Lon Chaney.

    SO, in closing, let's tell you that both Schultz and Me give it Four Stars (at least).

    NOTE: This is our first review in sometime that has no footnotes!

  • willrams1 October 2002
    I was 13 years old when I first saw this, and since then they have made the same picture more than four times. What a great historial pic of Louis XIV of France and D'Artagnan and his three musketeers. Guess who plays the part of the Count (the twin brother in the mask)? Leland Hayward; the female lead was Joan Bennett. Off-the-cuff Joseph Schildkraut plays the meany in this movie, (his nephew Paul Gersowitz, whom I met in 1982 in Santa Barbara, and I became close friends). If you like mystery and action this is great! 7+
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This timeless classic played regularly for 3 decades in theaters and on TV, and spawned a few sequels. But the original is just perfect.

    Technically they didn't have Democrats in either 1650 or bad ones in 1939, but who isn't reminded of them in the scene when bad king Louis says, "The peasants revolt against the salt tax, aye. DOUBLE IT!" This to support his hateful and treacherous regime while "the people" are starving. Louis will tell any lie. twist any purpose, while preening in the mirror. A male Nancy Polosi. Dread the thought! Meanwhile his twin brother Phillip lives among the people unaware of his royal birth. In time he will enter the castle and when he is king he is pure Republican, ever sensitive to the real needs of the people, Phillip repeals the hated Salt Tax and two other severe taxes as well -- returning the wealth to the people.

    Thank God we had producers like Edward Small, directors like James Whale, and great actors like Louis Hayward in 1939 -- still alive and well on VHS. The remake by Jerry Bruckheimer a few years ago isn't even a bad memory in 2008; but this 1939 film clings to life after 69 years.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Fast-paced version of A. Dumas' complicated tale of intrigue, power, love, kinship and whatnot in the court of Louis XIV in the mid 1700s. When I say complicated, I mean complicated.

    Louis XIII (Albert Dekker in a tiny role) is King of France and needs an heir to the throne. To his dismay, his feckless wife gives birth to twins. Well, you can't have TWO heirs to the throne, so the younger of the two babies, Philippe (who grows up to be Louis Hayward), is sent packing to be adopted and raised by D'Artingnan, one of the original four musketeers, now living in the boondocks.

    No one must know of his true identity, says Dekker -- besides himself, his wife, his trusted adviser Colbert (Walter Kingsford), and D'Artagnan himself. There is a slight problem because the Queen was attended by a doctor and midwife. "Too bad there is no D'Artagnon for the doctor and the midwife," remarks Kingsford a little sadly, before having them dispatched, and the audience is permitted to shake its head in sympathy.

    The good King passes on, pari passu, where one hopes he's lucky enough to run into the souls of the departed doctor and midwife.

    Then it REALLY gets anfractuous. There's a lot of whispering, plenty of secrets, men tip-toeing behind screens to eavesdrop, a face listening on the other side of the door, one of those keys that is worn around the neck and must be stolen while its owner sleeps, secret passages under the palace, the gallop of pursuing horses behind the desperately fleeing stagecoach, the fencing mêlée, the impostor mistaken for the real thing, the confused mail-order Spanish bride out of "The Prisoner of Zenda."

    The Louis Hayward who has become King of France is a real mean son of gun. His staring eyes pop. His mouth is shaped into a half-mad grin. When someone challenges his authority he leaps to his feet and shouts "L'Etat, C'est moi!" in English. I wonder if he really said that. I thought the conviction was limited to American presidents. Come to think of it, Joseph Schildkraut plays the oily Fouqet, toady to the venomous King, and he says, "In this case, we must all hang together, or we will most assuredly hang separately." I never read Dumas' novel, only flipped through it when I was a child, looking for risqué parts. But I don't believe Dumas wrote that. I think it was an American who said it, maybe Benjamin Franklin or Abe Lincoln. Do I have to Google it? Well -- if you insist. (Franklin.)

    Joseph Schildkraut probably gives the best performance. He's outrageous but it's in keeping with the nature of the plot and the tempo of its presentation. There are many other familiar names in the cast -- Schildkraut was perhaps better known in the theater than on the screen, though he was quite good as Anne Frank's father -- but the roles are rather small.

    Enough digression. Let me wind up that abstract of the plot. The bad Louis Hayward winds up drowning while wearing the iron mask he'd fashioned for his brother. (That mask is a pretty hideous artifact too.) The good Louis Hayward assumes the other's identity, marries the beautiful Spanish princess, repeals all taxes, cleanses the money-grubbing banks of their miscreant scum, outlaws smoking of tobacco in any form but permits marijuana, decrees that all citizens over 40 are now UNDER 40 so no Social Security or Medicare payments will be necessary, takes a vow of poverty even at the expense of his marriage, and goes about washing the naked feet of beggars in Paris.

    James Whale, the bisexual Englishman, directed it all with an entertaining dash you might not have expected from the man who brought us "Frankenstein."
  • Man in the Iron Mask, The (1939)

    *** (out of 4)

    During the 17th century France, King Louis XIII has twin sons but one is given away to his favorite musketeer, D'Artagnan (Warren William). The kept son grows up to be the evil King Louis IV (Louis Hayward) while the other grows up as the charming and kind hearted Philippe (Hayward). This Dumas tale is a very good looking film but I don't think it's a complete success and considering the director I have to call the movie an overall disappointment. Again, it's far from a bad movie and in fact it's a good one but when James Whale is your director I expect a little more. I was somewhat surprised to see how un-Whale like this movie was as we didn't get any of his typical style or humor. I think the movie could have used some of the humor as it pretty much stays away from the action and focuses on the romantic side of things with the future Queen played by Joan Bennett. The costume design and set design are both top notch as there's certainly a lot of eye candy on display. The performances are also a major plus, although I must admit to not caring too much for Hayward in the role of Louis. I thought he was much better at playing the charmer. William delivers a fine performance as does Bennett. Both Peter Cushing and Dwight Frye are in the film but I didn't spot either. In the end this is a handsome production but it's doubtful I'd ever go back and give it a second viewing.
  • Thoroughly enjoyable swashbuckler with great costumes, sets and performances. The Musketeers are here in their latter days and up to the task as is Director James Whale whose style lends a bit of the macabre to the proceedings.

    This much filmed story is favored by most fans and critics and is not disappointing. It is an engaging nuanced dual performance by Louis Hayward and no one here is beneath the scope of this magnificent movie. The score was nominated for an Oscar and the modest budget is used to maximum effect thanks to the talents behind the camera.

    If you like this type of film from the apex of the Hollywood system you will love this timeless story of power, greed, compassion, and righteousness. "All for one and one for all" within the confines of benevolent Nationalism.
  • This version of The Man in the Iron Mask is the original and best version of the film, and actually far better than the Dumas novel. Louis Hayward is outstanding in the dual role of the foppish, malevolent King Louis XIV and his heroic brother, Phillipe of Gascony. The rest of the cast is also good. I always like a good swashbuckler and this is one of the best!
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