Man in the Iron Mask 20 Years Later

DATELINE:  Re-assessment


Twenty years ago (was it really 1998?), we saw the TV movie version of The Man in the Iron Mask—and pronounced it the film in which a generation of venerated actors knelt down before the new god of acting. So we were reminded today by a little magpie.

It now seems a good time to re-assess the movie, now in HD and streaming.

Yes, the passing of the torch literally happened at the end of the film when the Three Musketeers (Jeremy Irons, Gerard Depardieu, and John Malkovitch) dropped to their knees before Leonardo di Caprio as if to pay homage to the new acting marvel. Yes, literally, not figuratively.

The young star was stunning, both in his performances in the dual roles of the man in the mask and his egregious brother.

And, on top of that, he was beautiful beyond words.

Over the years, he has morphed into a character actor and downplayed his looks. If you are not beautiful at 24, you never will be.

As for the film, as period pieces go, the production was quite impressive, with only one matte shot that seemed fake. The most shocking shot was Depardieu naked.

It was a rousing tale of the aging Musketeers, and their swan song too. Each of the principal actors (Gabriel Byrne was D’Artagnan) shone in his place—but all had to play second fiddle to the twice the  Di Caprio that you might expect as both the good boy and bad one.

The film’s actresses fared less well and were less known, as even the minor male stars turned out to be Peter Skarsgaard as Malkovich’s son (looking surprisingly alike) and in a throwaway role, Hugh Laurie, almost comical.

Twenty years did not dampen the film’s high-quality appeal.

Jeremiah Johnson Was a Revenant

DATELINE:  Mountain Men Wantedrevenant


Forty years ago Robert Redford played the legendary Revenant. Of course, he was an “Indian killer.” Today, the violence is committed mindlessly by the soldiers—and the Native Americans are victims. So, the new Revenant movie takes a different tact.

The rest of the story is copied shamelessly. Death of wife and young son sets off a mountain man. This time it is Leonardo di Caprio braving the cold, a bear attack, and other assorted injuries. Despite all he suffers, frostbite or hypothermia is not among the problems.

Like Redford’s character, this one is based on trapper legends. Instead of meeting Will Geer in his fur get-up, DiCaprio dresses like Will Geer, down to the jaunty fur cap. Many incidents between both films are shuffled like a deck of script pages (fishing by hand in the rapids, etc.)

You could probably match scenes for scenes between the films.

This time the bloody rage is more vivid, with splurting blood.  Yet, the majestic and sublime Nature remains the powerful backdrop to the survival of the fittest in both Jeremiah Johnson and The Revenant.

The picaresque adventure of revenge remains the centerpiece of both movies. In DiCaprio’s version, he must seek out the double-crossing varmit (Tom Hardy) who kills the Pawnee son of Revenant (Forrest Goodluck).

The callow Goodluck as Hawk is a scene-stealer, but we doubt he will transcend that stereotype of playing the “good Indian” as his career unfolds. Typecasting lives.

In keeping with modern stereotypes, the worst group in the new version is the French Canadian trappers. White men, all.

Well directed and produced, the film still falls short in its message. Jeremiah Johnson carried a satisfying wallop. The Revenant merely carries on.