Friday, October 24, 2008

The Mask 3-D (1961)

Everything old is new again. In the early to mid 1980s, the novelty of 3-D films (which first erupted in the 1950s as a hook to get people to turn off their new-fangled televisions and go to the movies) briefly re-emerged as the latest "new" thing to hit theaters.

It started with new theatrical releases, films like Comin' At Ya (1981), Treasure of the Four Crowns (1983), Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983),and Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985). Even already popular franchises got in on the action, serendipitously releasing the third chapters in their series in 3-D: Amityville 3-D (1983), Friday the 13th Part III (1982) (this one promised a "new dimension in terror!"), and even Jaws 3-D (1983).

You would also get the occassional theatrical rerelease from 3-D's first wave, films like House of Wax (1953) . I caught a showing of House of Wax in glorious full-color 3-D and at one point you would swear that Charles Bronson leaps out of a seat in your theater and runs up onto the screen.

Television wasn't going to get left behind. Local stations scoured their vaults for whatever 3-D movie they could ressurect for that weeks Creature Feature or Saturday Night Movie. Of course 3-D doesn't really work that well on television (IMHO) but that didn't stop them from hyping the presentation of, say, Gorilla At Large (1954) for weeks in advance. Glasses were purchased at the local convenience store (7-11 in my neighborhood) and the excitement built up in anticipation of the show was huge. Sleepovers were often timed to coincide with the films. Popcorn was popped. Glasses were customized with magic marker.

Which brings us to The Mask (1961), an obscure 3-D title rediscovered on television as part of the 1980s 3-D ressurgance, which finally debuted on DVD this month (purchase it here.)

The plot revolves around an ancient tribal mask that transports its wearer into an alternate reality of psychedilic imagery. The wearing of the mask seems to be used as a metaphor for drug-abuse: those who use it find it addicting and behavior-altering, and the hallucination segments resemble the depiction of the "bad trip" you might see in a classroom drug scare film.

The Mask is presented in standard black and white, until a character in the film puts on the mask. A voice booms "Put the mask on now! Put the mask on now!", which is the viewers cue to put on their red/blue 3-D glasses. Let's try it now, eh? Grab that pair of 3-D glasses you have in the drawer next to your CD-Rs and USB cables, and take a look into another world....


A Word About the DVD
The DVD of "The Mask" ships with 1 pair of 3-D glasses and the quality of the transfer is pretty bad. It looks like it could have come from a videotape source. But it is watchable, and the 3-D effects are actually pretty decent. Just make sure you have a few spare 3-D glasses lying around the house for friends (I always do!)


Mr Bloody Mojo said...

I remember them running this on one of our local UHF conjunction with BK or McDonalds in our area, and you could get a pair of 3D glasses at the restaurant to watch the film with. I had it later in the VHS days and my copy came with something like 4 pairs of glasses. In later viewings I remember FFing to the 3D parts, as the other parts of the film kind of got on my nerves. Very surreal stuff, I once read somewhere it was supposed to be some kind of analogy for LSD use or some such stuff.

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