S.: basato su I Tre moschettieri, Vent’anni dopo, e L’uomo dalla maschera di ferro di Alexandre Dumas padre, e dalle memorie di D’Artagnan, Richelieu, e Rochefort. Sc.: Lotta Woods (didasc.: Elton Thomas). F.: Henry Sharp. Scgf.: William Cameron Menzies. In.: Douglas Fairbanks (D’Artagnan), Marguerite de la Motte (Constance Bonacieux), Leon Bary (Athos), Belle Bennett (Anna d’Austria), Dorothy Revier (Lady de Winter), Rolfe Sedan (Luigi XIII), William Bakewell (Luigi XIV), Gordon Thorpe (Luigi XIV bambino), Nigel de Brulier (Richelieu). P.: Douglas Fairbanks per la United Artists. 35mm. L.: 2644m. D.: 95’ a 24 f/s.
“In March 1929 the première of The Iron Mask showed audiences a hybrid product with images and sound. The latter consisted in monologues recited by Fairbanks Senior, a Movietone musical accompaniment and several sound effects. In 1954 a second version was distributed with a more accurate sound accompaniment, comprising a musical score and a voice-over comment. This time the voice was Douglas Fairbanks Junior’s. This version was about twenty minutes shorter than the one from 1929: the order and length of scenes were partly changed and other sequences from another Douglas Fairbanks’s film, The Three Musketeers (1921), were added.
In the Sixties the Museum of Modern Art entrusted around two hundred cans of nitrate film to the Nederlands Filmmuseum. This material comprises probably all the takes shot in producing the film, from different camera angles and, in some instances, from several cameras. More than eighty percent of this material is composed of duplicating negative and therefore quality is poor. But the image content is extremely interesting. One thing which is particularly striking in these shots is the fact that Fairbanks was then still doing many of his stunts. In several scenes it is clear that the 45-year-old actor was having a hard time in carrying out some of his feats, and in these instances the ‘human’ side of the great star strongly emerges before our eyes. On the other hand he is still capable of stirring a great admiration when with a rather superhuman effort, he manages to complete successfully his stunts. During Il Cinema Ritrovato a selection drawn from the massive bulk of takes from the Nederlands Filmmuseum will be screened, from which a portrayal of Fairbanks will emerge quite different from the one we may expect: a different one but certainly not less effective”.
“In 1929, with sound films already well established, Fairbanks made one more silent film, The Iron Mask (with spoken prologue and epilogue; in the 1952 reissue now circulating these have been dubbed by Douglas Fairbanks Jnr.). The story of the saintly heir to France who is imprisoned in a fiendish iron device by his evil twin has an extraordinary pathos - in the treatment of both brothers - quite without precedent in Fairbanks’ work. What is more startling is d’Artagnan himself. He can still perform wonders; but he is grey-haired, and at the end of the film he dies - the first Fairbanks character to admit mortality. His spirit rises from his body and strides off into the skies in company with his three brave friends, all of whom have gone before. It seems almost like an elegy for Fairbanks’ silent cinema”.
(David Robinson, The Hero, cit.)