Ghosts, Horror, Supernatural

The Mask (1961)

Comments Off on The Mask (1961) 14 February 2016

the mask

Studio: Kino

Theatrical Release: November 1, 1961

Blu Ray Release: November 24, 2015

Director: Julian Roffman

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

The Mask is a childhood nightmare. Back in the early 80’s to capitalize on the 3D craze, network stations would play films that were shot in 3D and actually televised in 3D. One would have to get their cheap green and red glasses at 7-11 or Burger King or Pizza Hut and put them on when the movie started. The 3D never really worked properly and I can remember my uncles spouting off many four letter obscenities when the 3D wasn’t working correctly during a late night showing of Gorilla at Large. By the time The Mask was shown, the nostalgia had worn off and my parents let me watch this obscure Canadian horror film on my own with my cheap pair of 3D glasses. So I was just a young child when I first saw The Mask, alone and in the dark.

Re-watching Kino’s gorgeous transfer of The Mask, I am amazed that my parents let me watch this surreal horror film. Even by today’s standards, the film is scary. While in the middle of the movie I caught myself saying out loud, “I can’t wait to show this next Halloween.” The Mask is truly terrifying during the 3D segments and its safe to say I would never let a young child view this movie, despite being a black and white film that is over 50 years old.

When a crazed patient of Doctor Allan Barnes (Paul Stevens from Battle of the Planet of the Apes) informs him that he has turned into a homicidal killer because of an ancient tribal mask that he obtained, Barnes balks at the man’s crazed hysteria until he suddenly dies. With the mask left in the good doctor’s possession, the mask calls to him to put it on and when he does so, he is sucked into a surreal living nightmare that is something out of a Salvador Dali painting. These sequences were all originally in 3D, with images such as skulls, spiders, and ghosts flying at the viewer with the haunting score by Louis Applebaum blaring out of the speakers (during the 3D sequences, the music is in 5.1). These sequences were what I remember as a child and it scared the living shit out of me. And I don’t want to leave out the fact that the actual mask is creepy looking. This dark looking skull mask reminded me of the Crimson Ghost.

The rest of the film is about our good doctor trying to overcome the desire of putting the mask back on as every time he does so, he grows more paranoid, frantic and evil much to the dismay of his girlfriend Pam (Claudette Nevins). The Mask is an allegory about drug addiction and it’s ahead of its time trippy nightmare sequences definitely feel like a bad acid trip. While the message is heavy handed and bogs the film down, thus causing the movie to be dated and silly, it doesn’t stop from making this low budget horror film in being a lot of fun. Director Roffman may have borrowed a little from William Castle as the movie is at times interactive, telling the audience to “put the mask on” which they must do to witness the 3D visuals. Roffman is like a carnival showman and we the viewer are being told to “step right up and witness…” I wish more film directors had the sense of humor and balls to make interactive movies like Castle and Roffman had made. Most directors take themselves too seriously and when they do make a 3D film, it’s to create a more realistic view of the world. I miss the days of ping pong paddles being hit at the viewer.

As for Kino’s blu ray, The Mask has been given the golden treatment. The film has never looked this gorgeous. The Mask has a newly restored image from the original 35mm elements, thus making the results for this 1.66:1 1080p presentation jaw-dropping. While the blu ray has both 2D and 3D versions, the movie is meant to be watched in 3D and 3D only. The picture is so crisp and clear! I will say I had difficulty hearing some of the dialog and was forced to crank up the volume during some of the more dialog heavy moments. As for the special features, there is an audio commentary by film historian Jason Pichonsky who is very knowledgable about the film but seems to be reading from a script, making the commentary too stiff at times. A 20 minute documentary about the director Julian Roffman, a few rare 3D short films from the 20’s, an animated 7 minute 3D short made in 2014 called One Night in Hell which boasts some pretty neat and clever 3D effects, and some trailers and TV spots. Even cooler, there is a section that allows the viewer to watch just the 3D sequences in the original anaglyph format. It would have been nice to have been supplied with a pair of cheap 3D glasses though.

Kino Lorber and 3-D Film Archive have given fans an absolutely stunning A/V presentation in 3D. Not to mention the ample amount of special features that make this disc a must own. Now if only Kino could just release Gorilla at Large in 3D…

Movie and Blu Ray Rating: ★★★★☆

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