The Man In The Iron Mask (1976 with Richard Chamberlain and Jenny Agutter)

UK / 1976

Director: Mike Newell
Writer: William Bast, based on Alexandre Dumas’s novel

Cast: Richard Chamberlain, Louis Jourdan, Denis Lawson, Vivien Merchant, Partick McGoohan, Ralph Richardson, Jenny Agutter, Ian Holm

Alexandre Dumas’s classic novel was first filmed by James Whale in 1939 and most recently in 1998 with Leonardo DiCaprio, but Mike Newell’s version sticks faithfully to the story, casting a rather good Richard Chamberlain in the title role. Chamberlain plays both the dissolute, evil Louis XIV of France and his twin brother Philippe. The latter, born seconds earlier, is the rightful heir but is instead imprisoned in a deep dungeon, his identity obscured by an iron mask. However, ageing musketeer D’Artagnan (Louis Jourdan) learns of his fate and vows to restore Philippe to his throne. Calling together his comrades of old, he concocts a cunning plan that will see the twins swap places…

With a cast including Denis Lawson, Patrick McGoohan, Esmond Knight, Godfrey Quigley, Hugh Fraser, Jenny Agutter, Ralph Richardson and Vivien Merchant, Newell, who was to later direct Four Weddings and a Funeral , Donnie Brasco, Pushing Tin and, Mona Lisa Smile with Julia Roberts and Kirsten Dunst, had a cast other directors could only dream of. In triple Oscar-winning cinematographer Freddie Young he also had a cameraman who illuminated his vision. Full of dazzling colour, swashbuckling swordfights and fiendish cunning, this is the version Dumas himself would probably have endorsed.

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