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Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story (2015)

Candy Factory Films
DVD Released: 7/18/2017

All Ratings out of

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Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/24/2017

Biopic after biopic has come my way lately and the bulk of them concern true stories about individuals who have made great sacrifices and/or changed the course of history. The other common thread amongst these people is that their stories had been largely ignored up until the movies were released. But, as intriguing as there tales were, the movies themselves left something to be desired, often robbing the portrait of a true human connection. What I needed was a documentary which stripped away pretense and offered a intimate look at a person. Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story comes close to achieving that task.

From a young age, Sandy Collora was interested in entertainment and pop culture. What started with comic books and drawing, soon grew into a passion for movies. When Sandy's family moved to California, he got a job with Stan Winston's studio and soon became involved in creature design and worked on some prominent movies. Following this, Sandy moved into realm of toy design and had success in making action figures. Despite having worked in the industry and having made some money, Sandy's goal was still to make his own movies. So, he came up with a plan -- take the skills he'd gained while making commercials and make a short film which would get the attention of the industry. Using his own money and pooling the talent of his friends, Sandy made "Batman: Dead End", an 8-minute movie which pitted Batman against not only The Joker, but Aliens and Predators as well. The plan worked -- Sandy began to get letters from the studios. Would he be able to take advantage of the opportunities?

Like a lot of people who pay attention to fandom, I had heard of "Batman: Dead End". However, I had not seen the movie and knew nothing about the story behind it. Thus, I was certainly curious to know more. However, I had no idea that Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story was less about the making of the short -- although that is certainly addressed -- but more about the man behind the movie, Sandy Collora. Essentially this film is a biography of Collora, as it examines his lifelong love of science-fiction, comics, and horror and how he made his way into the industry. We also have interviews with is his father and his brother, who describe Sandy's passion for entertainment and also discuss his relationship with his late mother.

But, the bulk of Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story is made up of interviews with Sandy. (Which, it must be said, are oddly shot at times. Director Eric Dow has chosen to have objects in the foreground during some of the talks, which makes it feel as if we are spying on Sandy.) These interviews are certainly interesting, as Sandy is very open and frank about most of his story. Either while talking directly to the camera or while working on a sculpture (I'm sorry, did we catch you at a bad time?), Sandy's comments compliment the other interviews and segments as he tells his life story. Through his talk, we not only learn his history, but get to experience his passion for his work.

The first two-thirds of Sandy's story is very transparent and revealing. We learn about his start in the industry, his frustration with his position and his plans for Batman: Dead End". The movie provides a good amount of detail on the short film, taking us into the workshops as the special effects are being created, through the casting process (which includes a true celebrity), and on-set for the actual production. We then hear about how the short premiered at Comic-Con and the buzz which was created. This is where Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story begins to get a little vague. Sandy talks about getting attention from the studios and we see some of the letters which he received, but the reasons as to why things didn't get any further are somewhat veiled. Sandy goes into detail about one disappointing Hollywood pitch, but that's about it. The movie then focuses on Hunter Prey, Sandy's feature-film debut -- a project which he put together himself. That is somewhat interesting, but part of the appeal of Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story was meant to be an explanation as to why Sandy didn't become the next big thing after "Batman: Dead End". Some of Sandy's peers and mentors do talk about his demeanor (in a negative way), but other then some remarks about how he didn't want to be a part of the machine, the explanation escapes us.

The uneven nature of the movie seems a bit odd until the credits roll and we see that Sandy served as Producer, Art Director and Cinematographer, so it's obvious that he didn't want to cast himself in a bad light, literally. Therefore, we are offered an in-depth look into his life and career, but that depth is clearly pre-determined. The other thing that one can't help but notice about Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story is that "Batman: Dead End" is not included here. I assume that it's a licensing rights thing, but it would have been nice to actually A) see the finished product or B) get an explanation as to why we aren't seeing it. Despite these shortcomings, this is an interesting documentary which shows that there is a difference between drive and arrogance.

Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story does deliver a good joker on DVD courtesy of Candy Factory Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The movie is comprised of the modern interviews and archived footage and home videos. Obviously, the powers that be can't control the quality of the older footage, which ranges from very nice to grainy and blurry. The modern-day stuff looks great, as the image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and offering very good colors. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital stereo audio track which provides clear sound. All of those interviews are clear and intelligible and there is no interference to the audio.

The Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story contains no extra features.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long