The Mask appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though it showed its age, the image usually pleased.
Overall sharpness seemed good. Largely due to the film stock in use, some mild softness crept into the presentation at times, but this didn’t cause substantial distractions. Instead, the movie usually looked well-defined.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and the disc came with no edge haloes. Print flaws failed to mar the presentation, and with a moderate layer of grain, I didn’t sense any digital noise reduction to mar the image.
The movie’s cartoon palette came to life pretty well. These didn’t quite excel on a consistent basis, but they showed mostly positive vivacity and range. Blacks were tight and firm, while low-light shots came across as smooth and appropriately opaque. This turned into a satisfying image.
Though the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix usually favored the forward channels, it presented an engaging and active track for the most part. In the front, stereo music sounded clear and lively, while the effects appeared well delineated and accurately placed across the spectrum. The surrounds mostly came to life during the Mask sequences, and for those scenes, we got a nice sense of the comic book tone.
Audio quality appeared positive. Speech appeared acceptably natural and distinct, and I discerned no problems related to intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate. They showed good range and presented no signs of distortion.
Music also featured positive dynamics and brightness. Low-end usually worked well, especially in regard to the movie’s songs; for instance, “Cuban Pete” sounded very good. The track didn’t dazzle but it added some life to the proceedings.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2005 Platinum Series DVD? Audio showed a bit more range and involvement, while visuals seemed tighter and smoother. The Blu-ray offered an obvious step up over the DVD.
The Blu-ray repeats the 2005 DVD’s extras, and we get two audio commentaries as part of this package. The first comes from director Charles Russell, who offers a running, screen-specific affair recorded back in 1996. Russell brings a nice sense of energy and excitement to his monologue, and he provides a solid level of information about the film. For example, we learn that The Mask was originally conceived as the first in a new series of horror films.
Russell also tells us about deleted scenes, the cast and working with them, the movie’s production design and look, makeup and effects, music and choreography, editing and pacing, and changes from the original comic. Some gaps occur, but Russell fills most of the piece with good information.
For the second commentary, we get a 2005 compilation that includes remarks from director Charles Russell, New Line Cinema co-chairman Bob Shaye, writer Mike Werb, executive producer Mike Richardson, producer Bob Engelman, ILM VFX supervisor Scott Squires, animation supervisor Tom Bertino, and cinematographer John Leonetti. All of them are recorded separately for this edited piece.
We learn a ton in this track. The participants go over the origins of the character and how it came to the attention of New Line, Russell’s early career and his affiliation with the studio, development of the project and scripts, the Tex Avery influence, casting and other possibilities for the roles, the film’s color palette, visual effects and all those challenges, the rules of the Mask’s universe, story issues and changes, working with the dog, marketing the movie, testing it, and expectations for its success.
Does this commentary not touch on any relevant information? I don’t think so – it’s an awfully complete discussion. Of course, it repeats a little material from Russell’s old solo track, but those moments of redundancy remain few. This tightly-edited piece packs a ton of quality details and proves extremely useful. While I liked Russell’s original commentary, if you only want to listen to one, I’d recommend the new track.
Next we find a series of featurettes. Return to Edge City runs 27 minutes, 16 seconds as it gives us notes from Engelman, Richardson, Russell, Shaye, Werb, Leonetti, Bertino, animal trainer Steve Berens and actor Jim Carrey. They discuss the origins of the project, Russell’s desire to work on it, scripts and changes, influences and themes, the characters and casting, improvisation and the atmosphere on the set, use of the dog, the movie’s look and setting, makeup, visual effects, reshoots, the film’s release and its legacy.
On its own, “Return” presents a solid overview of the production. However, since I watched it after I listened to two audio commentaries, it became much less valuable. Really, you’re unlikely to learn much new from this piece if you’ve already screened the commentaries. Some of the behind the scenes footage is fun, even though the program teases us with those bits; I’d like to see more of the test between Carrey and Cameron Diaz. Nonetheless, this is a good - if redundant - documentary.
Entitled Introducing Cameron Diaz, the next featurette lasts 13 minutes and 17 seconds. It presents remarks from Russelll, casting associate Mark Paladini, and casting director Fern Champion. They delve into the casting of Tina with an obvious emphasis on their experiences with Diaz. Of course, some of this repeats what we heard elsewhere, but it digs into matters with greater detail than in the other pieces, so it becomes a good piece.
For a look at the movie’s influences, we head to Cartoon Logic. The 13-minute, 43-second featurette provides comments from Engelman, Russell, Bertino, Squires, Beren, Leonetti and animation historian John Canemaker. They go over the work of Tex Avery and his impact, particular cartoons that connected to Mask, bringing the Avery concepts to a live-action film, visual effects and necessary techniques.
As with “Diaz”, we hear about these topics elsewhere, but “Logic” delves into them with more depth. In addition, the inclusion of Avery cartoons and test images makes this one useful. I also really like the raw footage of Carrey as he does his work before the addition of the effects.
Entitled What Makes Fido Run, the final featurette goes for 10 minutes and 51 seconds. It features notes from animal trainers Beren, Nicole Zuehl, and Brandon McMillan. They discuss general notes related to dog training, adapting the pooches to specific roles and casting, and issues connected to working on the set. “Fido” doesn’t focus much on The Mask itself, which is fine with me. It’s fun to learn more about how dogs receive their training and behave during shoots, so this proves to offer a lively and informative chat.
In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc also provides two deleted scenes. The “Alternate Opening” runs one minute, 49 seconds, while “The Death of Peggy” lasts two minutes, four seconds. These are interesting to see but not missed in the final film. In a new component, we can watch these with or without commentary. He provides some production notes about the clips and lets us know why they cut “Peggy”, but we don’t find out why the “Opening” got the boot.
In The Mask, we find one of the best uses of Jim Carrey’s talent. The film lets him show off his exuberant side while it also allows him to broaden his range, and the movie offers a generally amusing and winning experience. The Blu-ray provides good picture and audio along with a strong roster of bonus materials. I still like the movie and I think the Blu-ray replicates it well.
To rate this film, visit the 1997 Platinum Series review of THE MASK