The Man In the Iron Mask appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 and of 1.85:1 on this double-sided, single-layered DVD. The 1.85:1 image has been enhanced for 16X9 sets. That’s a lot of content to place on one layer, and the DVD suffered from this overstuffing.
Sharpness became the major issue, as delineation consistently seemed dull and bland. Even closeups felt tentative and off, so wider shots became awfully soft and fuzzy. It usually felt like I watched the movie through a layer of gauze.
At least jagged edges and shimmering remained minor, but edge haloes cropped up through the film. Digital noise turned into a distraction, and more than a few specks and marks marred the presentation.
Colors looked overly ruddy and heavy. Skin tones seemed redder than they should, and all the hues felt too dense.
Blacks actually seemed pretty decent, but low-light shots appeared murky. Even though I try to cut early DVDs like this one a break, I still felt this was an awful image.
While not great, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Mask seemed fine. Speech could be a little reedy, but the lines were intelligible and without edginess or other flaws.
Music showed nice range, and effects came across with fine clarity and impact. Those elements added good zing to the proceedings and lacked distortion.
The soundfield seemed positive, as the music demonstrated good stereo imaging, and the movie took advantage of all its action sequences. All five speakers presented a reasonable amount of information, especially during the livelier scenes.
We didn’t get a ton of combat sequences, but when they arose, they used the spectrum in an involving way that placed the action around the room. This didn’t become the most ambitious track overall, but it worked well for the material.
The disc comes with a mix of extras, and these launch with an audio commentary from writer/director Randall Wallace. He brings a running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, period details, stunts and action, cinematography and editing, music, and connected topics.
Recorded in 1998, Wallace’s commentary holds up well – except maybe for his reference to Peter Sarsgaard as a “new actor”! Wallace covers a nice array of subjects and gets into his movie well during this informative chat.
Storyboards/Conceptual Drawings brings seven stills that offer these forms of art. While the images seem good, we don’t get enough of them to make this much of a bonus.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we see a collection of Alternate Mask Prototypes. During this two-minute, one-second reel, we see different mask concepts and hear commentary from Wallace as he describes the decision-making process. Largely due to the director’s remarks, this turns into an informative piece.
Now best-known as Leonardo DiCaprio’s first film released after Titanic, The Man In the Iron Mask delivers a bland affair. Even with dollops of action and intrigue, the film can’t provide any real excitement or drama. The DVD boasts good audio along with a few bonus materials and abysmal picture. Mask never threatens to turn into a bad movie, but it’s a pretty dull one
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