Summer Rerun: The Mask (1961).
It’s summer vacation time here at Desuko World HQ, which means it’s time to revisit some favorite reviews from the past. [Originally posted March 18, 2008.]
No, this isn’t that Jim Carrey flick, although the plots are vaguely similar. You can tell the difference because this one doesn’t have a dog, any intentional humor or a co-star as ferociously shagadelic as Cameron Diaz.
In this version, a psychologist (played by Paul Stevens) acquires an ancient African mask from an unbalanced patient who has just killed himself. The mask exerts some strange power over the dopey doctor, and when the off-screen narrator starts urging him to put the mask on, he can hardly resist. Every time the mask is on, the doc (along with the audience) is whisked away into 3-D hallucinations full of cheap costumes and bad interpretive dance, after which he usually kills someone (just like the audience wishes it could).
It’s a ballyhoo gimmick, of course, from the golden age of the practice. When the narrator says “Put on the mask,” he isn’t just speaking (however improbably) to the main character. He’s also speaking to the people in the audience, urging them to put on their own masks — the 3-D glasses they got as they walked into the theater.
“The Mask” is entertaining in a so-horrible-its-fun sort of way. The 3-D sequences are definitely the highlights and still play well, even if you don’t have the 3-D glasses to watch them as they were meant to be seen. They transform this hopelessly generic Canadian film into sometime totally memorable.
You’ll hear it so much, you can’t resist: “Put the mask on!”
Not only is this the first homegrown Canadian 3-D movie, it’s also the nation’s first homegrown horror movie and the first to get widespread distribution in the United States.
“The Mask” (1994) and, in an oddly fitting way, “Laserblast” (1978).
Take a Look: