Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Mask, The

US movie (1994). New Line/Dark Horse. Pr Bob Engelman. Exec pr Michael De Luca, Mike Richardson, Charles Russell. Dir Russell. Spfx Industrial Light & Magic. Mufx Greg Cannom. Screenplay Mike Werb. Based on the Comic (1991-current) by Mike Richardson. Novelizations The Mask * (1994) by Steve Perry and The Mask * (1994) by Madeline Dorr. Starring Jim Carrey (Stanley Ipkiss/The Mask), Cameron Diaz (Tina Carlyle), Peter Greene (Dorian), Richard Jeni (Charlie), Peter Riegert (Lt Kelloway), Amy Yasbeck (Peggy Brandt). 93 mins. Colour.

Divers in the river disturb some old chests, and a wooden mask floats to the surface; it is the Mask into which Odin banished Loki for his eternal mischief. Lowly bank clerk and Animated-Movie fan Ipkiss finds the mask. That night he dons it and is transformed pyrotechnically into The Mask – a Toon-type character capable of supernatural feats of speed and Metamorphosis. Love for improbably beautiful nightclub singer Carlyle drags Ipkiss into a gang feud; coincidentally, The Mask is drawn into the same dispute. After many adventures, Ipkiss and doughty dog Milo save the day and the gal, and deliver the baddies to the law. Ipkiss and Carlyle – who has confessed it is gawky Ipkiss rather The Mask whom she loves – throw the mask away.

Extremely funny, TM is a highly sophisticated piece of fantasy open to several different readings aside from its straightforward magical-conversion-to-Superhero veneer. Clues abound to suggest that all that alters when Ipkiss dons the mask is his own self-Perception; other clues suggest The Mask is a reification of Ipkiss's Dreams, with one clue pointing to both these interpretations (a fragment of cloth cut from The Mask's tie transmutes into a shred from Ipkiss's pyjamas). It is also of interest to read TM as a converse-Toon movie: whereas toons are generally depicted as vulnerable intruders into our Reality, The Mask is a solid creation, a toonified human being who is more real than the mundane world into which he explodes. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.