A few words on The Mask (Eyes of Hell)

Warning: This post contains an animated image, which might cause a reaction for those with epilepsy.

Last night, I went to the TIFF Bell Lightbox to see their new digital restoration of the 1961 Canadian horror film The Mask (Eyes of Hell). The film has its place in Canadian film history as the first horror film produced in Canada, as well as the first 3D film.

The film involves an archaeologist, who goes crazy and commits suicide after uncovering a haunted tribal mask. The mask is acquired by the archaeologist’s psychiatrist, who experiments with The Mask and slowly begins falling under its evil power.

It’s undeniable that The Mask (Eyes of Hell) holds a place in Canadian film history. However, the film is little more than a trippy B-movie, which does not have the deepest of plots, even though it’s neat seeing 1960s-era versions of Toronto landmarks, such as the Queen’s Park legislature and the Royal Ontario Museum.

Ultimately, the story of how The Mask came to be restored is much more interesting than the film itself. TIFF owned the only remaining 35mm print of the film in their archive, which was screened at the Lightbox in 2011. However, afterwards it was revealed that the print would never be able to be screened again, so a fundraising campaign was started to restore The Mask and make sure that this film was not lost. For the restoration, TIFF partnered with The 3-D Film Archive in New Jersey, which had good materials to restore the 3D sequences of the film.
Unlike modern digital polarized 3D, The Mask (Eyes of Hell) is presented in anaglyph 3D, complete with the old school red and blue glasses. There are only three extended sequences in The Mask, which is presented in 3D, with the film audibly giving the cue to “put the mask on now.” I will say that the anaglyph 3D works pretty well with the black & white visuals, since there isn’t really any distortion of colour. While many of the 3D effects are limited to things like fireballs shooting at you, there was definitely a certain charm to these scenes. It’s a shame that they only make up a pretty small percentage of the film.
The Bell Lightbox also had a few props on display from the film, including the titular mask. While ultimately The Mask (Eyes of Hell) is only worth seeing for the novelty, it is still wonderful that TIFF managed to save a piece of Canadian film history.
The Mask (Eyes of Hell) screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox daily until November 1
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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).