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Blu-ray Review: The Man In The Iron Mask (1998)

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The Man In The Iron Mask is based on the historical fiction novel written by Alexandre Dumas. The story takes place in the 1600s in France. While there have been many versions of this story, this film was produced, directed, and written by Randall Wallace, who was riding high off his success with the 1995 movie Braveheart.

When the excesses of the current King (Leonardo DiCaprio), go too far and his people are threatened with starvation, the retired Musketeers Aramis (Jeremy Irons), Althos (John Malkovich), and Porthos (Gerard Depardieu), vow to free a mysterious masked prisoner who may be France’s only hope to survive. The question then becomes, will their comrade, d’Artangnan (Gabriel Byrne) help them or destroy them.

Overall, The Man In The Iron Mask was a financial success making over $180 million – some would suspect that it was flow over due to the success of Leonardo DiCaprio and his movie Titanic that was still riding high, but the critics lambasted it for being long, unfocused, and unsatisfying. The adaption was similar to the 1939 version of the film.

Along with inconsistencies with its treatment of the Dumas characters and story view, there are various inaccuracies in the film. One for example, was that while Louis XIV had a brother called Philippe, he was not his twin.

The video quality is decent, but there are some problems as well in that some scenes are over saturated and overexposed. This tends to really show up in some of the outdoor scenes. It was encoded using a 1080p/AVD transfer that is not the best. Dark scenes can be over black, losing detail especially in the darker places like the Bastille.

The audio fairs better with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track. Everything is clear with nice rumbling during the action scenes, as well as delicate sounds with a sharp edge. There are some inconsistencies at times where cross channel effects are overdone, but everything else sounds good.

The extras are pretty thin. There is a very good commentary from Randall Wallace. “Myth and the Musketeers” is a brief look at the background of the Three Musketeers stories from some professors. “Director’s Take” is look at writing the film, his experience as a first time director, and other things with regard to the making of the film. Finally, there is a behind the scenes featurette, a look at some other mask prototypes, and a couple of theatrical trailers.

While this is not a bad film, it had the potential to be so much more. At a running time of 132 minutes, there are times where it can get a bit draggy. Other than what to me was a miscasting with DiCaprio, the acting is in general very good. Overall it provides a good bit of entertainment for the evening.


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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.