Mask's Second Stringers (Part One)
posted by The W-D Staff on 11/06/01
When Dave and Paul first told me about this Mask week, I thought to myself, “God, these guys really are sick. They want to dedicate a whole week to make fun of a guy who couldn’t help his unfortunate congenital birth defect? They want to make fun of a guy who couldn’t even get a hooker to sleep with him…so instead he tapped into the resources at a camp for the blind? A boy who died at the tender age of 16, leaving behind a legacy of 1955 Brooklyn Dodger baseball cards and travel plans that never materialized?” Needless to say, I was a little shocked that my co-writers could be so callous, so unsympathetic. So, having never watched said Mask before, I rented a copy and settled down to watch it with my mom. Now, saying my mom is overly sentimental is like saying that Andy Dick is kind of annoying. I had a feeling there would be a few tears shed, a few wracking sobs, and a few “Oh, this poor boy, this poor innocent boy” comments said here and there. I had a feeling that little Rocky would tug at my heart strings and I would just contribute to the W-D posts as Rocky’s protectorate. You would think as a female with a sentimental mom watching beside me, that my own sense of decency and empathy would be at a heightened level, to the point where I just couldn’t help but focus my attention on the sad lot of a boy named Rocky Dennis who was born with an unfortunate congenital birth defect. You would think I’d be crying a river for the very unfortunate fate that befell a loving little boy. But you would be wrong.
You see, if Peter Bogdanovich really wanted us to feel sorry for the real Rocky, he would have distorted the cast of characters in such a way to make them appear completely unremarkable. He would have given them fewer lines, instead focusing on the antagonistic “If that’s a mask he’s wearing…I SURE WISH he’d take it off” comments. Bogdanovich would force us to expend our energies feeling sorry for him. But he doesn’t choose to do this. Instead, we are given a cast of character so rich and unintentionally hilarious, that we almost forget this is a movie about a guy with a lion face. And so, after having watched this movie a few times now, I wonder, is this really a drama…or a comedy?
Maybe if I hide behind this log for just a little longer...Cher will be a pop singing sensation.
Let’s start with a brief look at the character who, in my opinion, is the real tragic hero of the movie. And he goes by the name of Dozer…Bull Dozer, that is. You can pretty much sum up the tragedy of Dozer in the opening scene. Rusty (Rocky’s mom) drives up to the house with one of her many tricks (I’m not talking Hocus Pocus here…I’m talking about a piece of ass). The guy steps out of the car and says, “How ‘bout a little kiss on the side?” In the next moment, this guy destroys any chance of getting any kind of kiss on the side, when Rocky emerges from the house, lion-faced and all and the guys exclaims, “Jesus…who’s that?” All of a sudden, Rusty’s motorcycle gang zooms up to the house out of nowhere, not even hearing the offensive remark. None of them ask if this guy is a friend or foe, no need. Dozer starts banging his head against the car and beating him side-to-side.
After all is said and done...you're gonna be the only one
At which point, the guy says, “I was just givin’ her a ride home!” It was then that Dozer first stood out to me…because the other guys were just punching the guy as a means to protect Rusty. But Dozer…Dozer wore this little grin while he punched the guy’s face back and forth. Not a sadistic grin, just a boyish little “this is all I know” grin. Dozer truly didn’t know anything different than stepping off his bike, all 600 pounds of him, staring menacingly at anyone who so much as looked at Rocky sideways (which is the only way you can really look at a guy whose face is twisted) and laughingly beating down anyone who rode in a rival motorcycle gang.
And why am I beating the shit out of you? I'm not really sure.
If Bogdanovich wanted to make him unremarkable, he wouldn’t have given him a severe speech impediment…and he certainly wouldn’t have let him overcome it on Rocky’s graduation day…because if there was ever a time in the movie when all eyes SHOULD have been shining on Rocky, you would think it was his graduation day. But no…at the end of the ceremony, Dozer grabs Rocky by the face and manages to spit out the definitive line of the movie, “I’MMMMMM….. RRRRR REEEEEAAAALLLLL… PPPPPPP – PPPPPP---PPPPPP—ROWWWWDD…OF…. YYYYAAAAAA---YYYAAAA----YYYOOOUU….RRRRR----RRRRR----OCKKKKKK----EEEEEEE.”
To be honest...it's not that I can't speak...I just can't bear the sight of you any longer.
Now, ordinarily I wouldn’t spend so much time writing out a six word sentence…but honestly, it took Dozer more time to utter this line, than it did for Rocky to take advantage of a blind girl. Dozer is truly the king of this movie, because he commands more attention than almost anyone, with the least amount of lines uttered.
Ben...do I look like a freak to you?
Although Dozer may have been the tragic hero in the movie, there was a character who stands out as the true victim in the movie. It’s a kid who gets treated poorly by his only friend, a kid who suffers from a lack of parental guidance, a kid whose baseball card collection could never flourish the way he wanted. Am I talking about Rocky? Of course not…I’m talking about Rocky’s poor friend Ben. When Ben first stepped on the scene, he uttered a line that would foreshadow all of the anguish and maltreatment he would suffer at the hands of Rocky. After his mom started complaining about his deadbeat father, Ben rolled his eyes and said, “Here it goes…the usual crap-o-la is starting again.” Oh…there would be a whole lot of crapola in this poor kid’s ensuing days with Rocky. In that first scene, Rocky cons him out of a 1955 Brooklyn Dodger baseball card, a Rube Walker (can you believe it? A Rube Walker!)
I got a fair trade for you Ben...how 'bout my Steve Garvey, for that sweet watch of yours?
Rocky tries to pretend that by trading the Rube Walker for a Steve Garvey, that poor Ben is making a killing. Didn’t Ben ever read Cynthia Garvey’s autobiography? Steve Garvey was an abuser! I might be one of three people in the world to have read that book. Why you ask? I really don’t know. Anyway, so first Ben loses an invaluable baseball card, thinking Rocky is trying to help him. At the conclusion of this scene, again, Dozer illogically throws a rival motorcycle gang off the porch of the trailer. You gotta love Dozer.
So anyway, as if robbing Ben of his baseball cards isn’t punishment enough, Rocky feels the need to snub him intellectually. How’s this for dialogue:
Ben: (looking at Rocky’s map) You should get some of those, you know…
Rocky: (not giving him a chance to finish) map tacks. Yeah.
Ben: Yeah, yeah
Rocky: I want to go to every place I’ve ever read about. All those great cities our relatives came from.
Ben: Not mine (heaves dramatic sigh)…we’re Americans…
Rocky: (chiding) Only the Indians were Americans first, Ben. The rest of us come from someplace else.
Ben: Oh yeah, like my grandparents are from Budapest or Hungary or whatever.
Rocky: (again, chiding) Budapest is IN Hungary, Ben.
It’s like, no sooner were the words out of Ben’s mouth, then Rocky was jumping all over it, trying to prove that he outsmarted him. Do you think the fun stopped here? No, Ben gets abused AGAIN at the carnival, when literally, Ben’s bumper car was the ONLY one that got rammed into every five seconds. After Ben disappeared off the scene for a little while, I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, he won’t have to deal with the abuse from a deadbeat dad, a malicious, condescending friend, and a mob of bumper car drivers. But the worst was yet to come. When poor Ben came to talk to Rocky about the change in plans, Rocky didn’t handle it too well…
I guess you’re expecting me to FLIP OUT, aren’t ya Ben?
As it turned out, Ben wouldn’t be able to go to Europe with Rocky as planned, because his dad found him a job in Michigan.
Here’s an example of how a normal person would have handled the news:
Normal person: Damn, Ben! That sucks! I was really looking forward to our trip to Europe…but I’m glad you found a job and you’ll be closer to your dad. Best of luck to you!
Here’s how Rocky handled the news (to spare your eyes, I’m not putting it in caps lock… But imagine it all in angry CAPS LOCK, every last word):
Rocky: I don’t WANT the frigging money, Ben…I wanted to go to Europe!!! It’s all we’ve talked about for a year!!”
Ben: (sheepish) Um actually, it’s all YOU’VE talked about for a year.
Rocky: BULLSHIT BEN!! We both talked about it and you know it. But you know what, you are STUPID!!! You are SOO STUPID, Ben! (Repeats insult to intelligence quite a few times)
Ben: Um, take it easy (this right here demonstrates what a nice guy Ben is…because if he was a jerk, he probably wouldn’t have been able to resist saying something like, “take it easy, you fucking lion.”)
Rocky: No more, Ben! No more taking it easy! Get out of here Ben! (Slamming things and causing a fuss)
So let me get this straight...my mom has been forcing me to hang out with you for 16 years...and now you're telling ME to get out of your house?
Poor Ben…he may not have had a distorted face, but he sure took a lot of shit from Rocky. Which kind of makes you wonder…is it worse to have an ugly distorted face or to be the guy who takes shit from the guy with the ugly distorted face?
One of the most overlooked aspects of the movie, "Mask", is the wealth of great characters it has to offer. To really appreciate the movie, you should know that it was directed by Peter Bogdanovich, a man who will obviously be familiar with disfiguring diseases - he did, after all, used to date Cybill Shepherd. On the surface, you might think the movie is the life story of a hideously deformed biker kid. But on a deeper level, it's actually the life story of a hideously deformed biker kid with a troupe of cool friends. Sometimes when I watch "Mask", I find myself becoming envious of how lucky Rocky Dennis is. Sure, he may have been born with a face to frighten small children and timid animals, but for every "alien" insult thrown his way, he'll have a "I love guys with red hair" comment to soften the blow. Telling someone like Rocky that you love guys with red hair (in the futile attempt of boosting his self-esteem) is the equivalent of telling Richard Simmons you like sensitive men: it may be a compliment they could grasp, but it's hardly appropriate for when you think you about it.
There's no question that the greatest character in this movie (no, EVER) is Rocky "Roy" Dennis, but that's like saying Sharon Stone has slept her way through Hollywood : it's a widely accepted fact. But what I want to do here is acknowledge some of the secondary characters that make this masterpiece so effective. These characters not only help us appreciate the wonder of a skull-faced guy who sticks tacks in maps, they help us appreciate the wonder of life. Well, not really. That would be cool though.
Our first candidate is the hooker, Lorrie. Now, you may be aware that most guys that need to pay for sexual services aren't going to be the brightest, tenderest or most sexy bunch. Indeed, it's pretty much understood that they'll be the polar opposite of those three adjectives. Hookers, I'm sure, prepare themselves to service the greasiest, foulest, most socially inept cretins imaginable - and in return they'll get a dirty $50 and sixty sexual diseases. Well, I guess that just goes with the territory. What doesn't come with the territory is being forced to service someone like Rocky Dennis. This isn't a guy you meet everyday. This, however, is the unfortunate fate of Lorrie, hired by Rocky's mother.
OMG, what happened to your face?!
Her first impression says it all. Well, it's the obligatory first impression upon witnessing RD. Rusty did what any junkie mother would do for her socially inept offspring - she paid a hooker to sleep with him. Clearly, Rocky isn't the sort of guy who's going to be snagging many booty call opportunities, so you'd think he'd grab his one chance with both claws - regardless of the fact that Lorrie has seen more Wangs than a Chinese phone directory. That's the beauty of this character though (and the only time I'll use "beauty" in reference to RD). Rather than trying to sow his oats as any red-haired, acne-faced teenager might do, he decided instead to have a heart-to-heart with the friendly hooker. Proving that he is actually Lionitis' answer to Dawson Leery - with his big head, shocking dorkiness and depressing level of morality.
He even cracks one of the lines of the movie when, softening the agony in Lorrie's eyeballs after seeing him for the first time, he explains "My folks did a lot of drugs in the seventies" - talk about an effective anti-drugs campaign. Of course, Lorrie's initial reaction is priceless. She is absolutely terrified, and the way she rasps (it's as though she just saw a dead body) is simply priceless.
Lorrie is one of those classic movie stereotypes - the "whore with a heart". You'd expect her to be cold, filthy, vile and depressingly cynical, but the movie makes her young, fresh, warm and only moderately cynical - the sort of cynicism that passes when you throw enough buzzwords at her. The cool thing is, she and Rocky get to put the world to rights. It's curious that during this scene Rocky sits on the floor, passing out damning criticism like "you really have kinda a shitty attitude, you know". Getting life lessons from a deformed guy whose primary passions are collecting Brooklyn Dodgers' trading cards and fantasizing about riding a motorcycle through Europe is about as fascinating as watching ladybugs mate - or as enlightening.
Once I get this egg inside me, I want Gar's hot sausage inside me. OMG LOL!
Rocky has such an impact on Lorrie that she stays the night, wakes up the next morning and enjoys a cosy breakfast. By this stage she's vowed to stay away from prostitution (presumably because it put her at risk of meeting guys like Rocky again). It's a nice notion, but when we see Gar (with that roguish twinkle in his eye) running her home, it's clear that her new-found life path is just a ruse. Gar, you see, will make anyone's panties go moist.
Whenever I watch a movie, I have a tendency to focus on very minor characters. You know.. the ones that come in and have maybe a line or two.. or are involved in just one short scene. Usually the actor or actress portraying these types of characters are either hungry, out of work actors who are looking at this small part as their big break or one shot at stardom… so they have a tendency to maybe overachieve on the material that is presented to them… or they are people who must obviously be related to or are at least very good friends with somebody involved in the making of the film… because their performances are so hilariously bad, that they end up becoming more memorable than somebody with a bigger role, who might have given just simply an average performance.
Mask definitely has its fair share of these types of roles and performances. I’m going to spend a few minutes here, going over a few of my favorites.
Hey.. you in the back. Take that mask off so I can see who I’m talking to.
With that simple line, Dewey cements his place as one of the greatest characters in Mask. Whereas, any other character that made a reference to Rocky wearing a mask, did so in a mean or derogatory fashion.. Dewey was just actually that stupid. He really did believe that the guy at the end of the line getting off the bus was wearing a mask. Now I gotta ask…who the hell would show up for the first day of camp wearing a huge grotesque Halloween mask? Does that make sense on any plane of reality?
Of course, even Rocky sensed that the Dewey was just an imbecile.. and not trying to be mean… so he humored him and tried to “remove” his mask.
”I’m serving watermelon. Come and get it!!”
Dewey was quick on his feet though and in an effort to make it look like he didn’t put his foot in his mouth too badly… he cleverly retorted in a puppy dog voice…
Oh gee, I’m sorry. I really thought it was a Mask.
No, the above wasn’t a joke. It was actually Dewey’s response. Hey Dewey, the hole wasn’t deep enough before. Just keep on digging. A scene later, we see Dewey in the backfround doing the announcing duties for a game of blind kickball.. in which somebody rolls the ball, the blind batter is on their knees with a bat and they tell the kid when to swing. This is an actual quote from Dewey on the mic:
“Fastball down the middle. Alex swings. It’s a MISS! Oh, it was close though.”
A blind kid swung and missed and Dewey got excited, realized what he did.. and then pulled a “Oh, it was close though” to try and cover up what a shitty thing he just said. Simply classic.
Porn star quality actor alert!
Fresh off the heels of encountering Dewey, Rocky gets the pleasure of meeting Norm Kaplan, the director of the camp. As Kenn pointed out to me while we were doing the screen captures… ol’ Normy’s skunk stripe is just a little off centered on his beard. Now I don’t know who the guy playing Norm knew on set, in order to get the part… but this guy seriously gives a performance that makes Keanu Reeves look about as animated as Carrot Top in comparison.
The camp counselors spent a lot of time making a banner for themselves to look at.
At the New Year’s Eve in July party… Norm gives the most emotionless 10 second countdown to New Year’s ever. By the time he reached 3.. half of the campers were probably hypnotized into thinking that cigarettes had no power over them or something..
Tomorrow, Paul, Jen and myself will delve into some more of the unsung heroes of Mask with some additional profiles of the second stringers. Who knows? If you’re really lucky… you’ll get to hear about some of our favorite scenes as well. Stay tuned. See you tomorrow. Same Mask time. Same Mask channel.
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