Lady in the Iron Mask
- 1h 18m
A female version of 'The Man in the Iron Mask'. In this version, the mask is put on a princess (Patricia Medina) rather than a prince as in the original book by Alexandre Dumas.A female version of 'The Man in the Iron Mask'. In this version, the mask is put on a princess (Patricia Medina) rather than a prince as in the original book by Alexandre Dumas.A female version of 'The Man in the Iron Mask'. In this version, the mask is put on a princess (Patricia Medina) rather than a prince as in the original book by Alexandre Dumas.
It must be said that, arguably, Louis Hayward's best screen vehicle was when he played the titular dual roles in James Whale's definitive 1939 version of THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (where Warren William was D'Artagnan); needless to say, this is a retelling of the same tale - even if the opening credits state that it is actually based on "The Three Musketeers"! - with Hayward now taking on the role of the Fourth Musketeer and, most crucially, changing the sex of the imperiled royals! Obviously enough, it is Medina who now has to perform double duties and, as if it did not have the semblance of familiarity enough already, John Sutton returns from CAPTAIN PIRATE (1952) to fill in the boots of the aristocratic scoundrel pulling all the wrong strings behind the throne of France! For the record, the Three Musketeers are here enacted by Alan Hale, Jr. (Porthos), Steve Brodie (barely recognizable as Athos, decked out in an unbecoming wig for the most part and, at one point, amusingly seen in drag!!) and one Judd Holdren (Aramis)!; curiously, Hale Jr. had already portrayed Porthos, Jr. in the superior Technicolor adventure AT SWORD'S POINT and would go back to doing Porthos in the belated, star-studded remake of THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK itself, i.e. THE FIFTH MUSKETEER (1979)!
While I was happy to find three of Hayward's films that I just watched to be better than their muted reputation would have you believe, the same is (relatively) untrue for this one since, as can be intimated from some of my comments above, the end result emerges as rather a preposterous concoction. With this in mind, finding the name of prolific screenwriter Jack Pollexfen in the credits as both co-writer/executive producer makes sense since he was responsible for some pretty oddball cinematic reinventions of classic literary texts, namely THE SON OF DR. JEKYLL (1951; with Louis Hayward again), the aforementioned AT SWORD'S POINT, SON OF SINBAD (1955) and DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL (1957), not to mention a few more I have yet to catch up with: TREASURE OF MONTE CRISTO (1949; a film noir, no less!), SWORD OF VENUS (1953; "Monte Cristo" country again) and RETURN TO TREASURE ISLAND (1954)!! Among the film's other credits one finds such distinguished names as producer Walter Wanger, cinematographer Ernest Laszlo and composer Dmitri Tiomkin, plus in the cast list, Lester Matthews (as the ailing French Prime Minister whose calling for D'Artagnan's intervention sets the narrative rolling), Tor Johnson (of all people – as a thuggish prison warden) and bits by John Dehner and Gavin Muir that barely register.
Among other clumsy elements within the movie are the fact that it opens with D'Artagnan shipbound for America (ostensibly in exile) reminiscing about what caused this predicament and, a few minutes into the flashback, having the PM go into one himself depicting the fateful circumstances of the two Medinas' birth; when entering the dungeon to free the imprisoned queen, D'Artagnan is conveniently accompanied by the burly Porthos – as if he knew they were going to be met with Tor Johnson's opposition!; after freeing her from captivity, Medina masquerades incognito as Hayward's page and, at one point, the couple are caught smooching by an understanding innkeeper!; D'Artagnan and the Queen halt their galloping carriage (which is running against time to stop the false royal from marrying the Spanish Prince – thus effectively putting a foreigner onto the French throne!) to argue about whether she should follow her heart (give it all up for true love) or her head (regain her rightful title)!!; eventually, Queen Medina does relinquish her throne in favour of her inexperienced twin to marry D'Artagnan only he thinks it is his beloved ordering him to marry her sister to enable her to carry out her royal duties after all!; the location of the all-important birthmark that identifies the true queen makes D'Artagnan blush when he hears about it...but when it is ultimately shown at the film's very end – thus revealing Medina's ruse – it is actually on her knee! Talk about an anti-climax!! Still, all in all, LADY IN THE IRON MASK is quite a serviceable romp with the expected plethora of horse chases, court intrigues and sword-and-fistfights that ensure an entertaining ride for undiscriminating viewers.
- Mar 23, 2014