Earlier this month, Shout Factory released M.A.S.K. The Complete Series on DVD. I had been given a set to review, but it’s taken a long time for me to go through the episode (it is a mostly complete series) as well as going back over a few episodes to really try and absorb the series.
Click the headline of the story to read the Toyark review of M.A.S.K. The Complete Series DVD.
The Show and Review
M.A.S.K. stands for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand. They are a group of heroes lead by Matt Trakker battling against V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem) and their leader Miles Mayhem. The show, initially, focused on a main group of warriors, their vehicles and their masks. Each episode would, for the most part, feature the teams going head to head, with M.A.S.K. attempting to stop V.E.N.O.M. from (usually very petty) crimes.
The animation is decent enough. It fits in perfectly with other DiC produced shows in the 80’s. It tries hard to mimic the look of G.I. Joe more than anything, and mostly succeeds there.
I’ll be honest, I had a very hard time getting through many of the episodes. I wasn’t a fan of the show as a kid, so was a bit excited to get a hold of these and visit them, mostly, for the first time. What I found was that the show had horrible pacing and was almost purely episodic. The creators clearly wanted to bring together aspects of Transformers and G.I. Joe and meld them into its own thing. But, while it worked wonderfully for the toys, they really never took took the best aspects of those shows. V.E.N.O.M. ever feels like a true threat to anyone, especially Trakker and the M.A.S.K. team. The writing is definitely the weak spot here. If you haven’t meticulously followed the show since it’s original airing, then keeping track of the characters, their masks and their vehicles becomes a chore. Add to that the antics of Scott and T-Bob, which are irritating beyond belief.
While hardcore fans will likely dismiss a lot of the series problems, I could not. Casual fans or newcomers will likely be put off by the horrible writing and the nonsensical “master plans” of Miles Mayhem. Nostalgia only got me so far here and it wore off pretty quickly.
Overall 5 out of 10
M.A.S.K. is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. I’m guessing this series was transferred from video tape masters, as opposed to the original film masters. The colors, in many episodes, is very washed out and dull and ink lines aren’t noticeably crisp. This seems to be a bigger problem earlier on, as later episodes seem to have slightly better transfers. However, all episodes suffer from noticeable dust and dirt specs. Vertical interlacing lines and compression artifacts are also noticeable throughout the set.
The transfer is, in a word, disappointing. This is especially so when compared to some of Shout Factory’s other releases, like Transformers, which received very good transfers. I took the time to view these on both a 36″ standard definition tube TV as well as a 55″ LED HDTV. And while it definitely looked better on the tube TV, the dirt, scratches and compression artifacts were still visible throughout. The transfer is worlds better than the awful YouTube videos out there, but videophiles will certainly be disappointed.
Overall 4 out of 10
The discs have a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. Not unexpected. The audio is spread evenly over the speakers, with none of the music or effects having any noticeable depth. This is more a product of the show itself than the audio transfer. However, the audio is crisp and clean, and is free of any hissing and doesn’t suffer from any degrading due to compression. Voices and the effects come through nicely. Won’t blow you away, but will definitely not dtract in any way.
Overall 7 out of 10
There are two extras in the set; “Unmasking M.A.S.K.” and “Saturday Morning Krusaders”. Both a fairly short, with “Saturday Morning Krusaders” being the longer of the two.
“Unmasking M.A.S.K.” sees series writers Mel Gilden and Jina Bacarr talk about their approach to writing the show. It’s a surprisingly insightful look at the show.They talk about their approach, as well as some of the difficulties they encountered. Honestly, I would have loved to hear more from these two. this is a feature worth watching.
“Saturday Morning Krusaders” is a bit more light hearted in its approach. This feature takes various fans of the show, including a few filmmakers, and has them talk about the show. they talk about what they enjoyed, what hasn’t held up, etc. It’s played up for humor, and is similar to some of the VH1 style shows like “Best Week Ever”. It’s a fun little addition, but doesn’t do anythign to expand on the series like “Unmasking M.A.S.K.” did.
There’s a ton of information that could have been added to this disc. Character profiles, toys galleries, interviews with others involved with the show, commercials, select episode commentaries…The list goes on. The two features present are worth watching for sure, but I can’t help but feel some stuff was left on the cutting room floor.
Overall 5 out of 10
One thing that needs to be mentioned, as the packaging neglects to mention this. This is NOT the complete series. This is the 65-episode first season. there was a short lived second season that consisted of 10 episodes, and they are not present on the disc. The second season is a wildly different take on the series. This is most likely due to licensing issues, but calling it a “Complete Series” is a bit misleading.
This is a show that, in my opinion, simply hasn’t held up as well as some other 80’s nostalgia shows. Many of the episodes are simply a chore to get through. Add to that the sub-par video quality, the missing second season episodes and you get a set that’s a bit hard to recommend to non-hardcore fans. I really wanted to like this, but sometimes it’s better to leave these shows as fond memories.
Overall 5 out of 10‘