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‘Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story’ (review)

Produced by Sandy Collora, Eric Dow
Written and Directed by Eric Dow
Featuring Sandy Collora, Eric Dow, Neal Adams,
Clark Bartram, Kurt Carley, Henry Alvarez
Sean Clark, Andrew Koenig,Joseph Collora,

 

In 2003, writer/director Sandy Collora and his crew made an ambitious, 8 minute fan film called Batman: Dead End. Collora made it as a calling card but it was born of his passion for comic books and genre film.

Much to his delight and surprise it absolutely killed during its premiere (and subsequent showings) at that year’s San Diego Comic Con.

Collora started taking meetings and seemed poised to embark on a major directing career.

But, alas, it didn’t pan out that way.

I vividly remember hearing about and then seeking out Dead End in 2003. While there’s little story to speak of, Dead End is incredibly impressive for an unauthorized fan flick. The costumes and effects are especially effective. It’s a cool short and well worth tracking down.

Still, when I saw that Behind the Mask was a 99 minute documentary about the making of an 8 minute film, even one as lauded as Dead End, I was very skeptical of the doc maintaining interest for its entire running time.

I’m pleased to say Behind the Mask is an entertaining, interesting and at times fascinating film. The pace never lagged for me, as director Eric Dow wisely crafts the film as much more than a standard making-of.
Certainly, the gestation and aftermath of Dead End is the backbone of the doc, but the real subject is Collora. An extremely talented artist and sculptor, Collora got a job at a young age at Stan Winston’s studio. He made some friends there, but alienated others due to his inexperience coupled with arrogance.

Mask does indeed posit the question of whether Collora is his own worst enemy, á la Overnight, the fascinating doc about Troy Duffy (Boondock Saints’ writer/director). Collora certainly receives warmer reactions from his colleagues here than Duffy does in that film, but nearly everyone, including Collora, admits he could be quite abrasive and obnoxious in his younger days. No one questions the guy has talent, though, and the present-day Collora comes across as someone who has mellowed with age yet still is quite passionate about movies and comics.

Mask also does work as a straightforward behind-the-scenes doc. There are some very interesting stories here: two very well-known acting icons were close to taking the Batman and Joker roles, for example. The on-set footage is very cool, as well, including Collora’s and other crew members’ vocal reactions when a shot really works.

Behind the Mask was a very pleasant surprise. It’s a niche doc that should appeal to a much wider audience than its subject matter might suggest.

 

Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story
is available on DVD and Digital HD.

 

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