Blu-ray Review: The Man In the Iron Mask (20th Anniversary Edition)

Leonardo DiCaprio was the King of the World in 1998. In 1997, he was part of a film that was looking to be a disaster like its namesake. The massive budget film had been pushed back from a summer date to a Christmas release which made everyone fearing it was going to be a flop. Instead Titanic was a massive hit and kept dominating the box office. During the meantime of post-production on Titanic, DiCaprio went to France to make a film which gave him an international super cast of Jeremy Irons (Dead Ringers), John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich), Gérard Depardieu (Cyrano), and Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects). Might have been fifth on the bill when the production started, but he was the superstar draw when The Man In the Iron Mask was released in March of 2018.

The Four Muskateers have gone there separate ways as they’ve grown old. Aramis (Jeremy Irons) has joined the priesthood, Porthos is a party guy, Athos (John Malkovich) lives with his son, Raoul (Peter Sarsgaard) and D’Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne) remains the less active captain of the Musketeers. Their glory days are far behind. France’s glory days are also looking in the past. King Louis XIV (Leonardo Dicaprio) has driven the country into economic ruin with his war against Holland. The poor are getting poorer and starving in the picturesque villages. Something has to give. Things go bad quickly when the King takes a fancy to Raoul’s girlfriend and wants her all to himself. So he orders Raoul off to the front lines. Aramis isn’t happy and wants a piece of the king. Things get worse when D’Artagnan can’t handle the opulence of life at the palace with the King and the starving people outside the gates. Three of the Muskateers reunite in order to save the country with a plot that involves a prisoner who has had his head covered in an iron mask.

Twenty years later, The Man In the Iron Mask does a fine job of bringing out the action in Alexandre Dumas’ novel. The cast is what really elevates things. Leo pulls off the double act of playing the douchebag king and the mysterious second character. The four arthouse actors are work so well with each other. There wouldn’t be this level of award winning thespians in an action film until the arrival of The Avengers. Even with their four different accents, things feel right between them as they reaffirm their brotherhood.

Even though Titanic had been out for 12 weeks, it was still at the top of the box office when The Man In the Iron Mask debuted. In the battle between Leo versus two Leos, Titanic barely clung to the lead. But all knew that Leo was ticket selling royalty.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer comes from the original camera negative and glows in certain scenes. The audio is 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA. There’s a clearness to the clanging of metal during sword fights and mask creation. The movie is subtitled.

Interview With Producer Paul Hitchcock (18:41) talks about taking over the film in mid-production. Nobody had told the original producer that he’d been fired when Hitchcock showed up for duty. The French crew was not happy. Leo saved him from a mutiny. There was a lot of people replaced behind the scenes.

Interview With Production Designer Anthony Pratt (8:09) talks about trying to be accurate with the period. He gives credit to his French Art Department and Designer.

Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Randall Wallace has him talk about making the movie and having to visually find the details that a writer normally doesn’t worry about in a script.

Myth and The Musketeers (7:34) gives a little history of the book and cinematic adaptations.

Director’s Take (29:11) has Randall Wallace talk about going from screenwriter on Braveheart to the director’s chair. MGM approached him with the book.

Original Behind-The-Scenes (4:45) looks like the preview that would run at your local videostore as you browsed the shelves. They show the camera and lighting rigs around French castles.

Alternate Mask Prototypes (2:01) shows how hard it can be to design a mask fit for a king.

Theatrical trailer (3:04) sets up the tale of twins and tyranny in France.

Shout! Factory presents The Man In the Iron Mask. Directed by Randall Wallace. Screenplay by: Randall Wallace. Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gérard Depardieu, and Gabriel Byrne. Rated: Rated PG-13. Running Time: 132 minutes. Released: October 9, 2018.

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