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  • This is a short by Jacques Tourneur dealing with the mysterious affair of "the iron mask" which inspired Alexandre Dumas the third volume of "Les Trois Mousquetaires" ,"Le Vicomte De Bragelonnes" which spawned countless movies .

    More than a historical document,the short is actually moralizing;the conclusion is edifying: in those ancient times,a mere "Lettre De Cachet" from the King could get you a life sentence.Aren't we happy to live now in democracy? Like in all the filmed versions,the prisoner is wearing an iron mask whereas historians are not even sure he was wearing a mask ,and if such was the case ,it was a black velvet one.After telling his sad story,the movie suggests three possibilities: -an ambassador accused of double-dealing.

    -A twin brother of the Sun King (Alexandre Dumas' novel) -Fouquet (which was impossible,cause the family of Colbert's enemy saw him dead) But check Wikipedia and you will find a dozen or more persons (including Molière!)who could have been the most mysterious prisoner of all time.
  • Face Behind the Mask, The (1938)

    *** (out of 4)

    Part of the MGM series that would take historic events, tales of mystery and other strange stories and try to bring them together for a "what it" moment. This time out director Tourneur (a vet of this series...check out THE MAN IN THE BARN) tells the story of France's biggest and greatest mystery, which just happens to be the "main in the iron mask." We're given the events surrounding the mysterious man's capture and imprisonment and then we're shown three people who might have been the mystery man. I'm not sure how much is really "known" about the events here as narrator John Nesbitt makes it perfectly clear that thousands of people have tried, without success, of figuring out who the man really was. The short does a good job at giving us the details of the original event and then three clips of who the man was and why he could have been a target of the King. All in all the director does a good job at telling the stories and making an interesting film. I'm sure history buffs might throw a fit with some of the items but to me a film like this should have one big goal and that's to be entertaining. This film is.
  • John Nesbitt narrates this short subject, a "historical mystery" about 'The Man In The Iron Mask.' Made famous by Dumas novel, this short accepts the Dumas myth; in truth, the man who spent a lifetime in prison wore a mask of black velvet. The iron mask was promulgated by Voltaire, who never let accuracy get in the way of a good story. Neither did Nesbitt, nor Jacques Tourneur, the director of this MGM short.

    Like most of the shorts which he was associated with, Nesbitt tells the story while the actors perform without speaking. He rose to celebrity as a radio man, narrating "The Passing Parade" from 1937 through 1949, and also a series of shorts with the same title for MGM. Tourneur was the son of Maurice Tourneur, a prominent director of the silent era, who started in France, went to America about 1914, and returned to France with the coming of sound. Jacques served as an assistant to his father on several movies, and made his bones as a feature director in France in 1930, then returned to the US. There he became a shorts director for MGM. He returned to directing features in 1939, almost always programmers, but always made them superior examples. His career tailed off in the 1960s ad he died in 1977, aged 73, in his native France.