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3D Blu-ray Review The Mask (1961): THE HTF 3D ADDICT REVIEW (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

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What can I say? I love 3D! From the moment I began watching 3D content in my home I quickly discovered that I needed more content. I suspect that those of you just purchasing your first 3D hardware will acquire the same ferocious appetite. That's why I became the HTF 3D ADDICT. I personally love images that pop off the screen and come inches away from your face without becoming overly gimmicky. However, I certainly appreciate the nature documentaries that offer beautiful depth and separation. These are not necessarily reviews of the film themselves. I am not going to concentrate on story or supplements -- you can find the 2D reviews elsewhere on this forum. My job is to let you know exactly what kind of 3D experience to expect from the titles that are being released. As I will be receiving a handful of new product from the studios expect to see more title coverage.







THE MASK

Studio: Kino
Product Release: November 24, 2015
Ratio: 2.40:1 (B&W)
Audio: Mono with optional 5.1 surround during 3D segments
Running Time: 83 minutes
Rating: Not Rated


On A Scale 0-5

Overall 3D Presentation Rating: 3.5
3D Separation: 3
3D In Yo' Face Factor: 3.5



"Put The Mask On NOW!"



By the early 1960s, the Golden Age of 3D had long passed. Theatergoers were more interested in seeing films in spectacular widescreen Cinemascope, or at home, being entertained in front of the tube watching Andy Griffith and The Twilight Zone.





At a time when stereoscopic films seemed to have disappeared entirely from the mainstream, leave it to Canadian filmmaker Julian Roffman to attempt to somewhat revive the format with his psychological thriller, The Mask. Perhaps its biggest claim to fame is that it became Canada's first official horror film, and the country's first title to be released by a major U.S. Studio (Warner Bros.). The film centers around Psychiatrist Allan Barnes (Paul Stevens) who is dealing with a troubled patient named Michael Radin (Martin Lavut) who claims he is being possessed by the powers from within an Indian ritual mask, a rather frightening object in which he obtained while working at the Museum of Ancient History. At first, Dr. Barnes doesn't believe the legends surrounding the ancient artifact -- that is until the mask is passed on to him and he becomes compelled to wear it.


Lensed mostly flat, the objective of The Mask is for the audience to have "masks" of their own (3D glasses) that they are beckoned to put on at certain points of the film when Dr. Barnes is compelled to wear his. At this point, the audience experiences the same hallucinations that Dr. Barnes experiences. They enter a place where no-one has ventured before.....where suppressed thoughts and ideas from the one who wears the mask are brought to life.





It is these 3D segments that present the audience with surrealistic imagery of skulls, fire, snakes, ancient rituals, death masks and alter sacrifices. It's the kind of thing you would expect from a bad acid trip, which for its time, the visuals must have been quite disturbing to audiences. All of it was brainstormed from effects man Herman Townsley, Cinematographer Herbert Alpert and visual effects artist James Gordon.


How does The Mask hold up today? That depends. The film has obviously become a cult-favorite over the years. Re-released theatrically in 1967 and 1971, the film has gone through several edits. Some of the footage you are watching in this new Blu-ray release has not been seen in over 50 years (including the original introductory prologue with Jim Moran). It's definitely a curiosity watch -- but beyond that, for most, I think it will have limited appeal. For those of us that crave classic 3D fare, I don't feel that The Mask lives up to the spectacle of the golden age classics that came before it.


Firstly, The Mask is not a complete 3D feature. Out of the film's 83 minute running time, only approximately 14.5 minutes is presented in that format. I found the 3D to be marginally exceptional. While the filmmakers used carefully placed objects such as tree and webs to give the sense of separation, I found the overall depth between foreground and background to be limited at times. I didn't get that pronounced level of "view-master" depth that many of the films from the golden era (and even today) are known for. The film certainly exploits the use of gimmickry by throwing a lot of things (such as flaming arrows, fireballs, snakes and skulls) towards the audience, but most of it falls flat within the confines of the screen. However, there are a few brief shots of imagery that do manage to float forward, one of which is of armless hands that appear to come inches before the viewer's face. Newly restored Electro-Magic sound in 5.1 audio, certainly enhances the creepiness of the 3D sequences with various screams, musical tones and effects emanating across the entire sound field.


I did find some minor ghosting throughout the 3D segments, greatly enhanced with any object projected forward -- which is certainly a natural occurrence for the format in general.


I had the opportunity to speak with 3-D Film Archive restorationist Bob Furmanek about the restoration efforts of The Mask.

Quote
Like many independently produced films, THE MASK has not been well cared for over the years. After producer/director Julian Roffman sold the rights to 3D Video Corporation in July 1982, the film changed hands a dozen times. Each subsequent owner cared less about the property as a motion picture and owned it strictly as an asset. At one point, the rights were held by a company whose primary business was the placement of advertising in airport terminals!

We acquired the rights in 2008 and put it on our growing list of 3-D elements for future restoration. In November 2014, we learned that TIFF in Canada had an interest in preserving the film. We approached Jesse Wente, Director of Film Programmes at TIFF Bell Lightbox, and worked out an arrangement to collaborate on the project. TIFF's primary 35mm print (with faded Eastman printed anaglyphic 3-D footage) was in poor condition and the initial 1440x1080p scans from Technicolor Digital in Toronto were not usable.

Sadly, the 35mm camera negatives and magnetic audio tracks are long gone. However, the 3-D Film Archive has a nearly complete and pristine 35mm master fine grain which is missing one reel of 2-D material. In addition, we have discrete left/right 35mm footage and an optical track master on the 3-D segments.

Geo. Willeman and Mike Mashon at the Library of Congress were extremely helpful and allowed access to their 1961 copyright deposit print (with the 3-D segments printed in dye-transfer Technicolor) and that helped us to repair problematic spots on our master elements.

TIFF agreed to scan and oversee restoration of the flat footage in 2K while Greg Kintz tackled the 3-D segments (with our 4K scans) and the mono optical audio restoration. Technicolor in Toronto did new scans of our superior 35mm elements and the TIFF release print was used for seven minutes (the missing reel in our fine grain) and a handful of damaged shots in our discrete left/right 3-D footage. The Archive utilized its arsenal of digital tools to extract the left/right images from the select anaglyphic shots needed for the final restoration master. Damaged segments in our discrete 3-D scans were sent to Thad Komorowski for additional dirt and scratch removal.

The final results are outstanding.

With the combined talent and resources utilized to accomplish this restoration - and the opportunity for viewers to finally see this incredible footage in discrete polarized left/right 3-D and hear the pioneering Electro Magic Sound in 5.1 - I can honestly say that Julian Roffman's psychotronic classic THE MASK is truly better than ever before.


After having the opportunity to view this Kino Blu-ray release, I must agree that the final results are indeed outstanding. The flat print is absolutely pristine and crisp, revealing amazing detail. I wasn't expecting a film like this to look as great as it does. Consider me quite impressed. The 3D sequences restored by Mr. Kintz have been mostly cleaned of dirt and scratches, but unfortunately, the 3D process will always reveal the most minor abrasions that still exist in the print. It's quite fortunate that these blemishes are very minor and that it appears the utmost care has been put into making these 3D sequences look as immaculate as possible. I want to make certain that viewers understand that whatever dirt remains in the footage is baked-in as there are many multi-generation opticals in that 3-D footage. In other words, it has been part of the film since day one and with the limited funding that the 3-D Archive team has available to them, a frame-by-frame restoration was just not possible. 4k wetgate scans were done of the left/right 3-D footage. 3-D archive extracted the best image possible from the 35mm elements. It's really amazing to see that, under all these circumstances, how well the footage turned out.


To date, collectors had to seek bad bootleg copies if they wanted to own this film. Now, they have the absolute most pristine presentation of this film at their disposal.





The Mask is presented in mono, with audio emanating from the center channel. I did find some subtle dialogue to be a little uneven and difficult to decipher, thus causing me to raise the volume on my receiver above normal listening levels which caused a little bit of distortion. This is an anomaly that I am certain existed on the original master. Other than that, I found the audio sounded quite clean and full. As I mentioned previously, the newly enhanced Electro Magic Sound in 5.1 is quite effective for its musical tones and effects which emerge from the front and side channels. I was even surprised to hear my subwoofer kick in with a couple "thuds" during these sequences.





For those interested in just how this film would have looked during its original anaglyph presentation back in 1961, the extra features section includes these 3D sequences in that format. All you need are cardboard red/cyan glasses to experience it for yourself. Replicas of the original glasses handed out to theatergoers are being made available for a small fee. Here are the details from Kino:


For those who purchased THE MASK on Blu-ray but wish to obtain a pair of the anaglyph 3-D glasses (replicas of those given out upon the film’s original theatrical release), Kino Lorber is making a limited quantity available to Home Theater Forum members via US Mail. The cost is $3.00 (postage included). Because quantities are extremely limited, the offer is limited to one pair of glasses per person.

Send a check or money order (sorry, no credit card orders accepted) for $3.00 to:

Attn: Mask Glasses
Kino Lorber Corp.
333 West 39th Street, #503
New York, NY 10018

Expect four weeks for delivery. Available in US/Canada only. Available for a limited time only — once our supply of glasses is depleted, an announcement will be made here and the offer will be ended.



By 1961, most movie houses had dismantled their 3D projection equipment. By 1961 Roffman had to resort to using anaglyphic in order to extract the needed imagery. I had the opportunity to view the sequences with the cardboard glasses provided to me. I found it to be an interesting "throwback" to the era. Visually, the glasses worked very well, though only with B&W films. One can definitely appreciate how much better the format has been refined with the use of passive and active-shutter eyewear. To make absolutely certain that you are using your anaglyphic glasses correctly, an onscreen 3-D calibration guide is included.


I should mention that there is an array of Special Features on this disc including an audio commentary by film historian Jason Pichonsky, which is absolutely fascinating to listen to. There are a lot of interesting facts brought about the original theatrical showing of the film as well as the production of the hallucination sequences. Also on this disc: four trailers and TV spots, a 20-minute documentary on Julian Roffman, and The films of Slavka Vorkapich. Vorkapich was a famed motion picture montagist during the 1930s and 1940s and was originally signed to choreograph the hallucination sequences for The Mask.


One notable 3D "extra" included on this disc is a Dolby Atoms short, One Night In Hell, featuring music by Queen's Brian May. The 7-minute short is an interesting to watch with its expanded level of depth and "devilish" animation reminiscent of the early 1900 hand-held stereoscopes.




CONCLUSION







I find myself at a very difficult position in my recommendation of The Mask. As a restoration effort, it receives accolades across the board. I think those that have been seeking a pristine copy of this movie for many years have found their Holy Grail. As a film, I feel it has limited appeal mostly towards collectors. For example, I would have purchased this Blu-ray simply based on the fact, that as collector, I want every classic 3D title that can be obtained in my collection. For the casual viewer with lesser interest in 3D, this would be at the bottom of my list of recommended titles. On the other hand, if I were a reviewer for "stoner" 3D movie blog, this would receive my highest rating. I would estimate that under the influence, The Mask could be a pretty jaw-dropping experience. Order your copy from Amazon with a package of EZ wider rolling papers.


Want to know more about THE MASK? Visit the official 3-D Film Archive Restoration Site


Images are for illustrative purpose only not representative of the picture quality of this disc.

Equipment

Sony HW55ES Front Projector calibrated by Gregg Loewen, Lion AV
Oppo BDP-93 3D Blu-ray Player
Denon 3311CI Receiver
Atlantic Technology H-PAS AT-1 fronts, 4400 center; 4200 rear side and back speakers
SV Sound Subwoofer
 

Bob Furmanek

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Thank you, Ron!


Here's how New Line marketed the film to college campuses and midnight shows in the 1970's.


mask_reefer010.gif
 

Jobla

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As a child, I had loved THE MASK back in 1961. In the early-mid 1970's, I became a film booker for a small liberal arts college. I would have loved to screen THE MASK on campus, but I had no idea that the stupid "stoner" campaign launched by New Line Cinema had changed the title from THE MASK to EYES OF HELL. So, I never did book that film for campus.
 

RolandL

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Charles Smith said:
Oh man, no kidding? That's beautiful! :)


(Of course, didn't they also market Fantasia that way? I wonder how many films got that treatment in those years!)

2001: a space odyssey


2001.jpg
 

RolandL

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"The Mask could be a pretty jaw-dropping experience. Order your copy from Amazon with a package of EZ wider rolling papers."


Well, I guess this should be heavily promoted in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska :lol:
 

Dan_Shane

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Charles Smith said:
Oh man, no kidding? That's beautiful! :)


(Of course, didn't they also market Fantasia that way? I wonder how many films got that treatment in those years!)

Disney was unusually willing to embrace psychedelic tie-ins at the time:


alice_in_wonderland_xlg.jpg
 

Bob Cashill

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Echoing Ron's comments: This is an outstanding restoration of a film that lacks outstanding 3D. (I have the Blu-ray.) Cultists will love it, but anyone buying it strictly for immersive 3D will be disappointed.
 

Mike Ballew

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Bob Cashill said:
Echoing Ron's comments: This is an outstanding restoration of a film that lacks outstanding 3D. (I have the Blu-ray.) Cultists will love it, but anyone buying it strictly for immersive 3D will be disappointed.
I respect what you are saying, Bob, but I take a very different view.

The 3-D in The Mask has always struck me as remarkable. It's what 3-D looks like in the hands of a technician, Charles W. Smith, who has full control of his medium and knows better than most how to hold parallax values to comfortable levels. But here that same gifted technician (with the full participation of his filmmaking colleagues) is giving his audience a tour-de-force of "transgressive," off-the-screen effects, while by no means neglecting the "recessive" aspect of screen depth. The Mask stands in the ranks of those films bold enough to explore a long segment of the z-axis, but does so in a way that takes the considerations of anaglyphic cancellation and audience comfort into full account.

I grant you, I don't yet have the Blu-Ray in hand, but the DCP we saw in Hollywood in October was a pleasure to watch. Bob and Greg have preserved the work of a whole crew of filmmakers who had the audacity to do something that had never been done before in their country. But they've also preserved the work of a master 3-D technician, arguably the best example of his work. It is no understatement to say that the 3-D sequences in The Mask truly elevate the film. In my view, they are world class.

I really, really dig The Mask, and I think plenty of other people are going to dig it too. I urge people to support the Blu-Ray and see it for themselves and make up their own minds.
 

Bob Furmanek

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Thanks, David, It seems the 3-D on this film yields either a love or hate reaction. Personally, I think it's fabulous for all the reasons you mentioned. Greg and I are absolutely thrilled to finally present it in discrete polarized 3-D.


So far, the theatrical screenings are generating a great response. The full house at the Cinefamily vigorously applauded the 3-D segments and that was VERY cool!


We have our polarized 3-D premiere at the prestigious AFI Silver in a few weeks. I can't wait to see their reaction. They will be the first public audience to see it in polarized 3-D on the big screen. https://silver.afi.com/Browsing/Movies/Details/m-0100000223
 

Charles Smith

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Aw, man, Saturday the 21st?


I have two (count 'em) commitments that day and evening, or I would have seriously considered driven down there for it because I've wanted to see that theater anyway.
 

Charles Smith

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Woops, just scrolled down further. I see there's Tuesday the 24th, too, but that also won't work. Damn!
 

Jesse Skeen

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I thought this was going to include the red/blue 3D intro and outro with Blackstone the Magician done for a TV release? I have that on tape anyways, but would've been nice to at least have the option of watching the anaglyph segments as part of the actual movie and not separate, as that's how it was originally shown. With active 3D TVs in particular, you have to keep your 3D glasses on during the 2D segments as the brightness is adjusted differently for 3D.
 

Bob Furmanek

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Due to licensing restrictions, MYSTIC MAGIC with Harry Blackstone is on the DVD only.
 

Ignatius

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Are the Vorkapich montage films in the extras presented in HD? 3-D titles tend to be a low priority for me since I'll likely never own the right equipment (or know anyone who does) but I'd happily buy this just to get the Vorkapich shorts in high-def.
 

Bob Furmanek

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Yes, the Vorkapich montages were all newly mastered in HD.

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF 9413 was mastered in HD from 35mm (though to be honest, the image is cropped on one side, because it was a silent-aperture film with a soundtrack printed onto the image).

ABSTRACT EXPERIMENT IN KODACHROME was mastered in HD from 16mm.

These new HD transfers were personally supervised by Bret Wood.
 

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