Growing up in the 80's with older siblings in their early twenties meant that there were a bunch of little gems that I was blessed to have been able to see during my more formative years. Peter Bogdanovich’s Mask is just one of those little gems. Mask is one of the best non “Brat Pack” melodramas to come out of the decade and now, twenty years after it’s initial release, it is finally able to be seen the way it was meant to be on DVD.
A year after Eric Stoltz’s infamous shit-canning from Universal’s Back to the Future in favor of Michael J. Fox, Mask, another Universal film, opened in theatres stealing the hearts and minds of both audiences and critics back in 1985.
Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz) is just your regular average teenager with a less then average calcium deposit growth on his skull. Rather than have his disfigurement make him a shut in, he combats life one day at a time with a plethora of domestic support. He is raised by motorcycle gang “The Turks” who are led by his sharp tongued wild party mom Rusty (Cher) and Gar (Sam Elliott); Rusty’s cool as hell boyfriend who despite his oily leather, tough guy visage turns out to be a great father figure. Throughout all of Rocky’s troubles whether it be fitting in at school, trying to get girls, or even planning his future, he must admirably, conquer every hurdle thrown his own way.
From beginning to end Mask is an uplifting story of the human spirit. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s not. Bagdanovich’s way of telling this story has us hooked in the first few minutes and sobbing in the last few. Bogdanovich uses source music, primarily from Bruce Springsteen, to provide a real to the time atmosphere that works great.
Mask makes It is easy to see how Eric Stoltz became such a good character actor over the past twenty years. Courtesy of all that heavy makeup, his first leading role showcases a performance that is by necessity all in his eyes. Cher does a better job here then she does in her Academy Award winning role from Moonstruck. Her demeanor and attitude makes it easy to forget she’s Cher and instead believe that she really is “Rusty”. This seldom occurs with big name “stars”. Sam Elliott...well his voice alone is great. It’s better, deeper, more soulful, and sexier than Barry White. Damn right, I said sexier. Sam Elliott is a sexy bastard! His “Gar” rivals any father figure put on screen to date.
I grew up watching Mask, so there is that nostalgic quality to it that makes me want to like it. Now, revisiting it after at least a decade since my last viewing I can safely say it’s not just nostalgia that makes me like it, it’s the film itself. To all of you 80's children out there, go out and pick up Mask right now. Prove to yourself that we really aren’t crazy in saying movies were better back then. To all you young folks out there who’ve likely never heard of the film or backed away from it simply because Cher is in it: Rethink your priorities. Mask is an 80's classic that needs to be seen by everyone and anyone of all ages. It should practically be required viewing along with Stand By Me and The Breakfast Club in order to get into high school.
This disc’s only selling point is that it is a director’s cut of the film, but besides that they’ve gone ahead and included a featurette (kind of) and a commentary track.
The featurette, entitled “Mask Revealed: A Conversation with Peter Bogdanovich” is basically an interview with the director but with the questions cut out. Bogdanovich outlines in voice over and to a camera, the entire Mask filmmaking process while various behind the scenes photos (including Cher’s screen test) flash across the screen. He dives into all the aspect of the film, basically by himself. He breaches on makeup work, his original plan for the Springsteen music (which in the theatrical was dubbed over with Bob Segar), and also touches up on his relationship with Cher and how he came to find Eric Stoltz for the part of Rocky. The entire featurette is quite eye opening, it’s only a shame Bogdanovich was the only driving force behind it. There are no interviews with Cher, Sam Elliott, or Eric Stoltz from present day talking about the movie. Still, Bogdanovich does his damnedest to make this little “conversation” as DVD worthy as he can.
The commentary, by Bogdanovich, retreads some old ground covered in the featurette while still keep parts of it a bit fresh. He again does the job all by himself, managing to avoid putting his audience to sleep. Since this version is his “Director’s Cut” he makes a brilliant case for its existence. The little missing moments in the film make it much more impactful upon the film’s climax. He also tells us why this Director’s version originally never saw the light of day, and mixes in a few stories about arguing with Cher over casting her boyfriend at the time (Val Kilmer) as “Gar”.
There could have been more on this disc than just this cut of the film, one featurette, and a commentary track. Where’s the trailer? As much as the film’s trailer is a standard, it’s only cool to watch that feature on movies from the past like this.
The movie was great back when I first saw and now with this new edition, it still holds up to the test of time. It could’ve used a few more extras, but since it has some I can’t really complain too much about my own private nitpicks. This is an overlooked DVD people need to check out.