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The Iron Mask (1929)



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If you doubt how effective and entertaining a complex, nuanced adventure story can be as a silent film, watch this. Director Don Medford conveys genuine emotion and rousing action without spoken dialogue and with relatively few title cards, and he tells the story more clearly than Randall Wallace did in 1998's The Man In the Iron Mask. Douglas Fairbanks plays D'Artagnan, and even in the early, subdued scenes, we see why he was such a popular star. His presence is electric and buoyant, even before he stars defying gravity with harrowing stunts.

The film's final scene is poignant in more than one way. It is often considered to be Hollywood's farewell to silent film. It should have registered as a wake-up call that there is still a place for it.

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