The Mask (1961)

THE MASK (1961)
Article 1970 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-6-2006
Posting Date: 1-3-2007
Directed by Julian Roffman
Featuring Paul Stevens, Claudette Nevins, Bill Walker

A psychiatrist has a patient who believes he has been lured into committing murder by an evil mask. When the patient commits suicide, the psychiatrist receives the mask in the mail. He decides to try it on for himself…

Let’s get right down to the main attraction of this movie; when it was shown in theaters, the audience were supposed to put on their 3D glasses whenever they heard the phrase “Put the mask on NOW!”, and they would be treated to some of the trippiest 3-D horror sequences they’ve ever seen. I have to give the movie credit; these sequences are truly bizarre, full of unsettling and grotesque images, and with a nightmarish stream-of-consciousness technique. If the movie was to be judged on these sequences alone, it would have been great.

Unfortunately, there’s not only the rest of the movie to contend with, there’s also the problem with how these scenes fit into the context of the movie. The movie would like to see itself as a psychological thriller, but there really isn’t much in the way of psychology on display here. The script is fairly weak and obvious, and the nightmare sequences never really effectively hook up with the rest of the story, which is to say that all those nightmarish images never really gain a relevance; they remain little more than scary images.

Probably the worst problem with the movie is the middle section. Once the psychiatrist tries on the mask for the first time, he is so totally changed by the mask that we know he’s going to start killing people once he opens his mouth. The trouble is, it takes him the rest of the movie to get around to it. It would have worked a lot better had the changes to the psychiatrist’s personality been more gradual, with each donning of the mask bringing him closer to madness. This would have required either a more subtle script and more nuanced acting from the actor playing the psychiatrist, but such is not the case. As a result, the movie as a whole falls flat. Still, everyone should have a look at those trippy nightmare sequences at least once.

 

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