The Man In The Iron Mask
A Tour de Force
Richard Chamberlain heads an internationally famed cast in this new, extravagant and beautifully compelling production of the Alexandre Dumas Classic.
In a tour de force of great acting, Chamberlain plays the dual role of the imprisoned man in the hideous iron mask and his foppish, elegant twin brother, King Louis XIV of France. Chamberlain’s performance, supported by an all-star cast, sweeps the story of high adventure and romance to new heights.
Lavishly filmed at historic locations in France, “The Man In The Iron Mask” is gripping, fast-moving, magnificent entertainment for the entire family.
In 1661, France stirs restlessly under the rule of the ineffectual King Louis XIV
(Richard Chamberlain), a weak monarch manipulated by the devious Nicholas Fouquet (Patrick McGoohan), his finance minister who virtually held the strings of power.
However, Captain of the Musketeers D’Artagnan (Louis Jourdan), and Home Affairs Minister Colbert (Sir Ralph Richardson), are determined that France shall have a real King. They have found Louis’ identical twin brother Philippe (Richard Chamberlain)
and plan to put him on the throne. Rightful heir to the throne, he is spirited away
at birth for political motives and is ignorant of his identity. D’Artagnan and Colbert
have had him taken to a cell for safety.
Duval (Ian Holm), Fouquet’s henchman, visits the Bastille with Louise de la Valliere
(Jenny Agutter), whose father Armand has been imprisoned. When Louise sees Armand (Esmond Knight), he tells of the young man in the next cell who has given him half of his water ration. Louise sees Philippe and is struck by the resemblance. Their eyes meet
and they are attracted to each other. However, Duval also sees Philippe and hurries off
to tell Fouquet.
Fouquet tells the King who shuns from having his brother slain. Instead he orders him to be taken for eternal imprisonment, and so that no one will ever see him, an iron mask
is to be clamped upon his face. Phillipe bewildered, is taken to the prison and riveted
into the mask.
D’Artagnan is informed of Philippe’s imprisonment, and sets off to free Philippe. Fouquet, aware of D’Artagnan’s plans to free Philippe, is waiting to foil the escape. D’Artagnan dons the mask himself and leads Fouquet and his men away from Philippe on a wild goose chase which ends with D’Artagnan falling into the sea from a rocky cliff. Desperately D’Artagnan tries to free himself of the mask and succeeds only at the last minute. Fouquet believes the man he has seen fall into the sea to be Philippe and returns to tell the King.
Philippe now aware of his true identity and educated in the ways of royalty agrees to D’Artagnan’s and Colbert’s plans to substitute him for Louis. Philippe is to attend the King’s ball dressed in a costume identical to the King Louis’ except for a different color sash. Information has been leaked to Fouquet that there is a plot to substitute the King and the imposter will be wearing a purple sash. But Louis is wearing the purple sash and is arrested by Fouquet and sentenced to the same fate he once decreed for his brother.
As Louis’ face is enclosed in the iron mask, he hears the instruction given to the guard; “When one day his food remains uneaten, you will provide mortar and bricks and seal the entry to this cell. Send word to Paris only, that the Man In the Iron Mask lives no more.”
“The Main In The Iron Mask,” the great Alexandre Dumas Classic Becomes an Extraordinary Star-Filled, Big-Budgeted Motion Picture.
Alexandre Dumas was an author who toyed with history. He turned its quirks and foibles to his own ends: elaborating on fact, embroidering gossip, using his imaginative powers to rewrite the yellowing, curling pages of his momentous times.
Grasping the shadowy myth of a legend, he would transform it into a heroic saga of adventure, intrigue and romance. Like the gossamer strands of a spider’s web he would weave an intricate pattern to entice his readers and snare them helplessly with his guile.
And Dumas played with history no more daringly than in his story “The Man In The Iron Mask,” basing an intricate tale on a whisper, expanding innuendo and fashioning it
For years there existed throughout Europe the fable of a mysterious political prisoner who was moved from jail to jail under the cover of darkness, encased always in an iron mask to obscure his features.
Who was he? What fate had determined the eradication of his identity? Why was he shut from the world in a slit-eyed hood of iron, never to raise his pale features to the sunlight?
The far-flung imagination of Dumas provided his own answer. The masked man, according to his fertile mind, was none other than Philippe, the believed-dead twin brother of King Louis XIV of France; spirited from his mother Anne of Austria at birth and kept in seclusion during his growing years of manhood, ignorant of his true destiny.
A political pawn with the dormant power to move from obscurity and checkmate
the King . . .
Supposing . . . Dumas mused, quill pen poised . . . supposing that King Louis XIV was revealed as a foppish, effete Monarch bringing ridicule upon the proud Court of France.
And supposing that the twin brother was a handsome man of ideals and more suited to wear the crown . . .
Were there not men of integrity and with the loyalty of their country at heart who would conceive of a plan to train the twin in Royal ways and at the appropriate moment substitute him on the Throne, thus restoring the wilting fortunes of the Kingdom?
There were . . . and they did.
And Sir Lew Grade’s presentation for ITC Entertainment of the Norman Rosemont production based on the Dumas novel sets out to show how they did it.
The multi-million-dollar production of “The Man In The Iron Mask” is a feast of color, fast-moving adventure, intrigue and romance, filmed largely in France against authentic backgrounds.
Heading an international cast are Richard Chamberlain, Patrick McGoohan, Louis Jourdan, Jenny Agutter, Ian Holm, Sir Ralph Richardson and Guest Star Vivien Merchant.
It was directed by 33-year-old Mike Newell who, in a feature film debut following a string of television successes, was pitched headlong into a tough, six-week schedule which would have made a veteran wince.
Lighting Cameraman Freddie Young, Academy-Award winner twice over, photographed “The Man In The Iron Mask” with the glowing colors of an Old Master. The old master himself, now a sprightly seventy-six, shortly celebrates fifty years behind the camera.
Burly American producer Norman Rosemont, a former press agent and public relations executive, has gained five “Emmy Awards” for mounting sumptuous television musicals. He also produced another Dumas Classic, “The Count of Monte Cristo,” with
Richard Chamberlain in the leading role. An avowed Dumas fan, Rosemont plans
further screen versions of his enduring tales. “He was a great story-teller. His plots
and characters are excellent for filming, and he has a very strong narrative line and meticulously-researched period detail.”
In “The Man In The Iron Mask,” Richard Chamberlain plays the dual roles of the King and his twin brother Philippe, a schizophrenic exercise which sometimes left the amiable actor wondering who he was.
With scarcely a day away from the set, Chamberlain mastered the complexities of his double-headed tour de force with the ease and professionalism which has marked the varied roles he has played.
Patrick McGoohan plays Fouquet, the devious Finance Minister to Louis XIV and the manipulative power behind the weak-kneed King.
Louis Jourdan, his handsome Gallic features as clean-cut as ever, plays D’Artagnan, the legendary Captain of Musketeers who master-minds the plan to substitute the King with his brother.
Dark-eyed British actress Jenny Agutter, plays Louise de la Valliere, a lovely lady at the Court of King Louis who rejects his insipid advances.
Ian Holm, one of the finest Shakespearean actors of his generation, is Duval, Fouquet’s willing henchman, while the role of Colbert the bluff, honest Home Affairs Minister who sides with D’Artagnan in the ruse to topple Louis from the throne, is played by Sir Ralph Richardson, one of Britain’s most distinguished theatrical knights.
Guest Star Vivien Merchant is the maligned Queen Maria Theresa, wife of King Louis in name only, and subject of the fretful Monarch’s scornful rejection.
“One of the toughest things I’ve ever done,” the amicable Chamberlain admitted after six weeks of grueling work in France and England during the summer. “I almost felt I was a schizophrenic subject at the finish!”
© 1977 ITC Press Info