The Mask (1961)

This film was a whole lot better than I remembered it to be. I picked up a $10 internet copy from Cheesyflicks via Amazon. The DVD was advertized as a 3-D film with glasses included. I never received the glasses, but had some laying around and was able to check out the 3-D visuals. The Mask (1961) was Canada’s first horror film, an indie and a late entry into the world of stereo optical projection or 3-D (popularized in the early 1950’s). I like the film. It’s gritty and has a low-key, deliberately-paced feel, similar in spirit to the far-superior Horror Hotel (1960). There’s a crime-drama feel to the flick. I could see Roger Corman directing this film.

The plot is simple enough. Archaeologist Michael Radin (Martin Lavut) catalogues ancient museum antiquities in his apartment, including an encrusted skull-like mask. The mask is endowed with magical and hallucinogenic powers. A person who wears the mask is tranported to a hell-like world filmed in 3-D. Under the spell, Radin strangles a young woman. Radin seeks help from his psychiatrist Dr. Allan Barnes (Paul Stevens) who thinks the stories about the mask are hogwash. Radin packages up the mask and has his landlord mail it to Barnes. In his apartment, Radin pulls out a Luger pistol and kills himself.

Detective Lt. Martin (Bill Walker) investigates the death of Radin and learns about the mask. Allan Barnes also falls under the mask’s spell and enters into a surreal nightmare world populated with strange imagery and entities. What will become of Barnes and of the mask?

As 3-D effects go, this isn’t a bad little film. James B. Gordon (Airport, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Fly (1958), The Lost World (1960)) worked up the 3-D effects and they are effective. Even on TV with cheapo plastic, red-blue 3-D spectacles the nightmare world of The Mask pops out. I also like the set design (allegedly built on wheels for quick breakdown and reconstruction of set pieces) with romanesque buildings, altars, vaulted arches and plenty of fog. Later, director Julian Roffman went on to produce the effective Canadian occult-thriller The Pyx (1973), starring Christopher Plummer and Karen Black.

Ah… They don’t make ’em like they used to…

C. Hamilton, 1991. Canada’s First 3-D Horror – The Mask, Producer Julian Roffman unmasks the making of this obscure horror film oddity. FilmFax No. 25, 1991.

2 Responses to “The Mask (1961)”

  1. So, is this worth checking out in 2D? Not a fan of 3D.

    • The FilmFax article intrigued me so I bought it after someone in the group mentioned it. The 3D effects are about on par or maybe a bit better than the creature, viewing on a HD CRT. You might want to check it out first on-line I think Rich.

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