In his groundbreaking series Hollywood, Kevin Brownlow chose 1929's The Iron Mask not just as Douglas Fairbanks swansong as a silent swashbuckler, but as a swansong for the entire silent era, and it's hard not to agree with him: it may well be the most perfect silent swashbuckler of them all. It's as if everything that had ever been learned in the silent years had been poured magnificently into this one picture, resulting in as vivid, spectacular and enjoyable an entertainment as you're ever likely to find on any movie screen. After filming finished, Fairbanks said that with the coming of talkies the fun had gone out of movies, but there's plenty of fun here, with great stunts, stirring adventure and moments of comedy that really work while the bittersweet sentimental ending, at once sad and triumphant as the musketeers are finally reunited, won't leave a dry eye in the house.
Unfortunately this public domain PAL DVD release is not the uncut original version but a heavily cut 1952 reissue version that replaces the original captions with Douglas Fairbanks Jr's narration. It's worth spending the extra few pounds to track down Kino's Region 1 NTSC DVD that is the only release offering the original silent version in all its glory, complete with captions and a new score by Carl Davis as well as a decent selection of extras including outtakes of stunt sequences.