The Man In The Iron Mask

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1998 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Randall Wallace (Director/Writer)
Running Time
126:33 minutes
(not 132 as per packaging)
Other Extras Booklet
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (68:24)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Randall Wallace

Warner Brothers
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Jeremy Irons
John Malkovich
Gerard Depardieu
Gabriel Byrne
Anne Parillaud
Judith Godreche
RRP $34.95 Music Nick Glennie-Smith

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.1 )
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1    
Macrovision ?    
Subtitles English
English for the Hard of Hearing

Plot Synopsis

    The Man In The Iron Mask is Randall Wallace's take on the classic Alexandre Dumas novel. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as King Louis, the selfish and heartless King of France. The musketeers are played by Jeremy Irons (Aramis), John Malkovich (Athos), Gerard Depardieu (Porthos) and Gabriel Byrne (D'Artagnan).

    The musketeers plot to replace the King - what remains to be seen is whether or not D'Artagnan is with them or against them.

    Unlike many other adaptations of this story, this one foregoes the larger-than-life sword fights and swashbuckling adventures of the musketeers in favour of exploring who they are and the reasons they act in the way they do. This makes the movie extremely powerful, and very moving.

    I have now watched this movie four times, and I continue to be moved by the story. Leonardo DiCaprio in particular handles his role amazingly well, and is completely convincing.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this movie is, in a word, magnificent. This is a reference quality disc.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. The DVD cover indicates incorrectly that this is a 4:3 transfer rather than a 16:9 transfer. The cinematography exhibited in this movie is magnificent, and I could not imagine viewing it in any other aspect ratio other than the director's intended aspect ratio.

    The transfer was absolutely razor sharp and crystal clear. Shadow detail was magnificent, with amazingly deep and extremely detailed blacks. Scenes within the dungeon and the prison specifically come to mind, and are superbly rendered even though they are extremely dark. No low level noise was apparent.

    The colours were superbly and vividly rendered with enormous contrasts between dank interiors and opulent and lush exteriors. Large splashes of vivid greens and reds are frequently present. The only very slight failing of this disc comes in the scenes with massive amounts of heavily saturated red in them, where there is the smallest amount of chroma noise present, and the reds appear on the verge of bleeding. I suspect that viewing this disc through a component or RGB input would eliminate this appearance.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. Film-to-video artefacts were basically non-existent. The only barely noticeable aliasing is in two dungeon shots where the stairs shimmer ever so slightly. I suspect that this aliasing would be unnoticeable even to the most meticulous and demanding eye unless it was specifically being looked for. Film artefacts were scattered occasionally throughout the transfer, but never became an issue.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed between Chapters 19 and 20, at 68:24. The layer change occurs during a quiet moment, and is only marginally disruptive to the flow of the movie.


    There are two audio tracks on this DVD, the default English Dolby Digital 5.1, and an alternative English Audio Commentary Track, in Dolby Digital 2.1/2.0, surround-encoded. The English 5.1 soundtrack is of reference quality.

    Dialogue was always very clear and easy to understand, save for Gerard Depardieu's dialogue, which is not the fault of the audio track.

    There were no audio sync problems at all with this disc.

    The music by Nick Glennie-Smith is magnificent. It creates just the right atmosphere at just the right time, without being intrusive or manipulative as some soundtracks have a tendency to do. It is rich, full and lush when it needs to be, eerie when it needs to be, and triumphant when it needs to be. This is one of the best movie scores that I have ever heard.

     The surround channels were used for music and ambience. They had nearly continuous use, even though this movie did not provide the typical action movie cues for surrounding audio. The soundtrack was marvellously enveloping in a subtle way, without ever becoming intrusive or distracting. The surround channels nicely integrated with the front soundstage, and fully drew you into the story.

    The .1 channel was frequently in use for the music and for some of the special effects, but its use was subtle rather than overpowering, and it was used to anchor and support the soundtrack. It was very well integrated into the rest of the soundtrack.


    There are a good selection of extras on this disc.

What's Missing / What's Extra

    Compared with the Region 1 version of this disc, we miss out on;


    The menu design is very plain, but straightforward to navigate. There is an option under the Special Features called Film Soundtrack. This simply restores the normal audio soundtrack, even though the implication is that of an Isolated Music Score.

Audio Commentary

    Randall Wallace (Writer/Director) provides an interesting commentary track. This is presented as a Dolby Digital 2.1 soundtrack, surround-encoded. The .1 channel does not appear to do anything, and the soundtrack reverts to Dolby Digital 2.0 from Chapter 15 onwards. Randall discusses the movie in the centre channel with the movie soundtrack mixed in at a low level behind his discussion. This is a reasonably good commentary, and provides a number of good insights into the movie. The one that most interested me was the fact that the word "swashbuckling" was forbidden to be used on the set of the movie. Clearly, it was not the intent of the director to create a larger-than-life tale, as so many interpretations of this story turn out to be. The most interesting aspect of this is the fact that the cover art blurb refers to this movie as a "swashbuckling tale of action and adventure". If I were to criticize the commentary, it would be to state that there was marginally too much praise for the actors involved.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced with Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded sound.


    An 8 page booklet discusses production issues quite extensively and is well worth the reading time.


    The Man In The Iron Mask is a marvellous movie, eminently enjoyable and very moving.

    The video quality is reference quality.

    The audio quality is reference quality.

    The extras present are very good.

    This disc is good enough to be inducted into my Hall Of Fame.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
30th June 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer