The Mask appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That’s one change from the original DVD. The old release offered mediocre visual quality, but this new one thoroughly improved on it in every way.
Whereas the original transfer presented some softness, that didn’t occur here. The new edition offered consistently tight and well-defined images. Virtually no signs of fuzziness manifested themselves, as the movie always looked firm and concise. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and the new disc lost all the nasty edge enhancement that marred its predecessor. In addition, the new print was extremely clean. I saw maybe a speck or two, but that was it, as the movie otherwise was very well preserved.
Although the old disc’s colors were erratic, they excelled here. The movie’s cartoon palette came to life well as the tones often leapt off the screen. The film defined the hues with great vivacity and definition. Blacks were tight and firm, while low-light shots came across as smooth and appropriately opaque. Overall, this was a terrific transfer that finally did justice to the movie.
In another change from the old DVD, the new version of The Mask presented both a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack along with a DTS 6.1 mix. If any differences arose between the two, I didn’t notice them. I thought both mixes sounded virtually identical.
Though the mix usually favored the forward channels, it presented a nicely 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 generally positive. Speech occasionally betrayed a little edginess, and some lines seemed a bit muted and flat. Nonetheless, the dialogue usually 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. Bass appeared slightly boomy on a couple of occasions, but low-end usually worked well, especially in regard to the movie’s songs; “Cuban Pete” sounded very good. In the end, the soundtracks of The Mask presented a solid effort. Unlike the visuals, the new DVD’s audio compared closely with that of the original, but that was fine, since both sounded very good.
The Mask tosses in a smattering of supplements, some of which repeat from the original DVD. I’ll mark extras on both releases with an asterisk, so if you fail to see one, that means the element is new to this set.
Two audio commentaries are 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. He 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 new 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 and 13 seconds as it combines movie shots, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We get 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 16 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 and 41-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 49 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.
The DVD also provides two *deleted scenes. The “Alternate Opening” runs 104 seconds, while “The Death of Peggy” lasts 119 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. One improvement over the old DVD: here the deleted scenes are anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.
We also find the film’s *theatrical trailer and other ads in the More from New Line area. That department presents promos for The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King, Elf, and Raise Your Voice.
As with many New Line titles, The Mask includes subtitles for its video extras. We get English and Spanish text for most of the materials. This remains a nice touch.
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 DVD provides terrific picture and audio along with a very informative roster of extras.
If you don’t already own The Mask on DVD, I definitely recommend this new “Platinum Series” release of the film. Actually, even if you possess the old disc, I’d advise you to snag this re-issue. It provides a radically improved transfer along with many fine new supplements. With a list price of less than $20, it’s a bargain.
To rate this film, visit the 1997 Platinum Series review of THE MASK