The Mask – re-released as Eyes of Hell and The Spooky Movie Show – is a 1961 Canadian horror film produced in 3-D by Warner Bros. It was directed by Julian Roffman, and stars Paul Stevens, Claudette Nevins, and Bill Walker. It was shot in Toronto, Ontario and is the first Canadian horror film.
In the UK, it was released in 1971 with Italian giallo thriller The Young, The Evil and The Savage.
A young scientist, Doctor Allen Barnes (Stevens), obtains a mysterious ancient tribal mask. Whenever he puts on the mask, Barnes experiences dream-like visions which become increasingly disturbing and violent. The visions begin to alter Barnes’ personality, and eventually drive him insane…
Most of the story is presented in conventional black-and-white. However, whenever Doctor Barnes is about to put on the mask, Barnes’ voice (heavily processed with reverb) urges the viewer to “Put the mask on, NOW!” This was the cue for theatergoers to put on the red/green 3D glasses (shaped like masks) which they were given upon entering the theater. The terrifying visions experienced by Doctor Barnes were then presented in anaglyphic 3-D.
The 3D sequences, four in all, last only a few minutes each. They were initially designed by montage expert Slavko Vorkapich, and feature an array of distinctively psychedelic visuals, some of which are mildly gruesome. A bizarre electronic music score (billed as “Electro Magic Sound” in publicity materials) enhances the strangeness of the 3-D scenes.
On November 24, 2015, The Mask was released on Blu-ray in the US by Kino Classics. Special Features:
- 3-D sequences provided in both stereoscopic (3-D television required) and anaglyph formats (red/cyan glasses not included)
- Newly restored Electro-Magic Sound (optional 5.1 Surround during 3-D sequences)
- Audio commentary by 3-D film historian Jason Pichonsky
- Making-of Documentary
- Four trailers and TV spots
- 3-D Setup Video (for monitor calibration)
- Films by visual consultant Slavko Vorkapich: 9413: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Extra (11 min.)
- Abstract Experiment in Kodachrome (2 min.)
- Montage Sequences (6 sequences, 12 min. total)
In 2015, soundtrack label Ondes Positives released a limited edition vinyl version of Myron Scaheffer’s original soundtrack, plus a new score by LARVA that used “only basic sound sources and effects – oscillators, treated guitar, analogue synths, theremin, old-skool tape echo/spring reverb and live foley sound effects”.
Reviews [click links to read more]:
“The Mask is definitely darker than American films of its time, and could almost be considered a film-noir with its haunting musical score and shadowy atmosphere. Both The Bloody Brood and The Mask establish Roffman as one of the brightest talents that arose in this crucial time in Canadian film, which makes it such a shame that this was Roffman’s last directorial effort.” Canuxploitation
“Loads of low budget 1960s genre films take advantage of nightmarish situations (Manos, The Hands of Fate and Carnival of Souls, just to name a deuce), but none can touch the indescribable visual heights of The Mask. The film is cheap, yet smart, placing full emphasis on exploiting the frantic special effects. If the plotline holds room for a kick in the rump, so be it. The acting is exceptionally tight and that disproportion in excitement only adds to our anticipation.” Bleeding Skull
“Consensus holds that the frame tail feels static and routine but that the three extended 3D sequences feel bizarre and disturbing. Consensus is correct. It feels like two different movies. Director Roffman, who did little else, puts unusual camera movement angles into the frame, but all that happens is a boring investigation and unconvincing love affair.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
Image thanks: Zombos’ Closet