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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Mask: Director's Cut (1985)

"Don't worry, Mr. Simms. I look weird, but I'm real normal otherwise. Everything'll be cool."
- Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: September 09, 2004

Stars: Cher, Sam Elliott, Eric Stoltz, Laura Dern, Estelle Getty, Richard A. Dysart
Other Stars: Dennis Burkley, Micole Mercurio, Harry Carey, Jr., Ben Piazza, Andrew Robinson, Les Dudek, Nick Cassavetes, Marsha Warfield
Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Manufacturer: Digital Deluxe Studios
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong language, drug use
Run Time: 02h:06m:34s
Release Date: September 07, 2004
UPC: 025192278822
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A+B+A- A-

DVD Review

Though heaped with praises on both critical and box office fronts, a sense of incompleteness hung over director Peter Bogdanovich's satisfaction with the finished product. In the weeks prior to presenting the film for a sneak preview, the filmmaker had scored a major coup: securing permission from then-budding rock legend Bruce Springsteen to use some of his most heart-wrenching rockers for inclusion in the soundtrack; being the kind of singer-songwriter that wears his heart on his sleeve, songs like Badlands and Thunder Road fit the real-life story of Rocky Dennis' plight with deformity perfectly. Sadly, record company politics came in at the eleventh hour preventing them from complimenting each other artistically. Though more than adequate compositions from fellow working-class rocker Bob Seger were substituted in the portions of the film where the Springsteen songs would have been, what could have been nagged at Bogdanovich for years.

Nearly two decades later as the slightly revamped film was put in the pipeline for a DVD reissue, Springsteen used his clout with Universal to help the director finally present his 1985 classic as intended. But with or without the Boss, Mask remains an involving, emotionally stirring portrait of a courageous young man whose lack of self pity, strong sense of humor, and smarts earned him quick friends and charmed adversaries, which in turn helped him deal with an horrendous medical condition much easier than facing it alone.

On the surface, Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz) is not unlike any other teenager. He loves baseball (especially his local heroes, the Los Angeles Dodgers), rock and roll music, girls, and gets along great with his Mom. But due to the ravages of a rare disease known as craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, the otherwise normal adolescent has an enlarged skull and facial features that can't help but make him stand apart in a crowd. But thanks to the no-pity, iron-jawed attitude of mother Rusty (Cher) and the acceptance by her motorcycle-riding friends who possess hearts of gold underneath their leather get-ups, Rocky develops a superb attitude that comes in handy during his latest crisis: registering for admittance to a junior high school in his new neighborhood of Azusa, California. Once that hurdle is cleared (in a classic scene that firmly establishes Rusty's no-nonsense personality as her son's biggest ally) and he's in with his peers to such a point that the letterman-jacketed crowd seeks his expertise with homework help, you'd think, What a wonderful start to a most pivotal period of youth. However, Rocky's off-campus existence is marred by his mother's growing substance abuse, to such a point that he hesitantly accepts a counseling gig for a nearby summer camp for blind kids, where he meets his soul mate, Diana (Laura Dern)—an achingly beautiful attendee who makes him feel beautiful for perhaps the first time in his life.

Mask: Director's Cut gives us a chance to revisit a film that hasn't aged a bit, very unusual for a piece of cinema originating from a period that's very spotty in terms of movies holding up. Touching without being manipulative, it benefits from wonderful scripting, Bogdanovich's excellent direction and an amazing cast, not the least of which is due to Cher and Eric Stoltz, whose effortless chemistry pays off with one of the most believable mother/son relationships ever showcased on celluloid; in fact, she's at least as good as here as her Oscar-winning work in Moonstruck and celebrated turns in Silkwood and Suspect; she truly becomes that tough-talking motorcycle mama like she was born to portray her. And rather than just simply sitting behind Michael Westmore's Oscar-winning make-up and letting it do all the work, Stoltz literally pours his heart and soul into a performance that can be defined in one word: Unforgettable. Equally memorable in supporting roles are Elliott as Rusty's laid-back former beau who serves as Rocky's father figure, the winning Laura Dern in her first major role as Dennis' sweetheart, and scene stealing character specialist Dennis Burkley as Dozer, the nearly mute biker who's never far away from Rocky's side when needed.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Previously released in the early days of the format by Image in a nonanamorphic package, fans of the film will certainly be pleased by Universal's 16x9 treatment on this go-round. While not a cinematographic showcase (Lazlo Kovac's visuals are almost to the point of de-saturation, which may have been an artistic move to reflect the Dennis' family's working class background), the picture is letter sharp, super crisp and occasionally startles you with vivid colors here and there when you least expect it (Cher's red-hair; the greens of the trees in long shots, etc.), so the enhancement is definitely a plus on this re-release.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Like the visuals, Mask doesn't possess a flashy soundtrack, but it does rock during the musical selections from the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Beatles and Bruce Springsteen; its particularly fun to hear the latter artist sounding so good in multi-channel form (especially in DTS form). But aside from the sharp separation during such instances and slight ambient flourishes that pop up intermittingly, this dialogue-heavy film mainly resides in the center and front channels where it performs excellently.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Peter Bogdanovich
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Mask Revealed: A Conversation with Peter Bogdanovich
  2. Uncredited Post-Film Interview with Cher
Extras Review: Those expecting a wealth of extras are bound to be disappointed at what appears to be very slight bonuses noted on the back. But director Bogdanovich is an excellent, though very laid back raconteur who's rarely at a loss for words on both the commentary track and accompanying featurette. Exterior shooting details, recollections on virtually every actor, what was scripted and ad-libbed, the key moment that made Eric Stoltz the front-runner out of a crowd of over 200 gunning for the lead during auditions, and more; definitely one of the most enlightening talk tracks I've heard in recent memory. Although the director repeats many of the more memorable stories on the accompanying Mask Revealed interview, such moments are made more bearable by the inclusion of many behind-the-scenes photographs and rare audition footage featuring Cher.

Those lamenting the apparently missing-in-action participation by the actress will be pleasantly surprised thanks to an unbilled interview that follows the film. Taken from a Maury Povich talk show appearance, Cher recalls meeting Rocky's real-life mother and how it, in turn, led to her attending a camp gathering of children with conditions similar to Rocky, which emotionally moved the singer to take up their cause (which you can read more about at www.CCAkids.com) Though brief, the five-minute hidden bonus truly brings home the courage that children affected by craniofacial problems display. Or, as the Grammy-winning performer surmises, "You don't know brave until you meet these kids".

Finally, for those wondering about additional material included in this Director's Cut (aside from the re-insertion of the Springsteen music noted earlier), it only amounts to two scenes: an emotional farewell to a close friend of Rocky's, and a late night campfire biker's jam session that climaxes with a very un-Cher like, but still riveting performance of the vintage Coasters-Elvis Presley chestnut, Little Egypt. Some may find the latter superfluous, but I found it a terrific diversion from the bittersweet aura that hangs over a majority of the film as well as showcasing how the power of vintage, timeless rock and roll aided in cementing a bond between Rocky and his mom.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

One of the 1980s' best films, Mask: Director's Cut breathes new life into Peter Bogdanovich's classic. Though not packed to the rafters in supplements, the director's forthcoming commentary and interview combined with Cher's unbilled bonus appearance and the above average tech specs make this disc more than worthy of purchasing. Highly recommended.

 


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