The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got.



Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mask of Death (1996)

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I first saw this on a local TV station who knows how long ago. I caught it somewhere in the middle, and figured I got the gist of it from there. Since then, I've caught it a few more times on TV, all from about the same starting point. When I got Netflix, I put this on my list, and figured I'd see what the beginning was like. As it turned out, I had no idea what I was missing.

Mask of Death is the classic bad guy and cop look alike so the cop infiltrates the baddie's crime scene and cracks a case film. In order to make us think that Lamas only slightly resembled Lamas, they made the bad Lamas out with really made-up eyebrows, and made the good Lamas look like Jeff Foxworthy. Anyway, a bad accident leaves the bad Lamas dead, and the good one in need of plastic surgery. FBI agent Billy Dee Williams figured, since you're going under the knife anyway, why don't you look like this bad guy you already look like and help us bring the rest of his friends down. Of course, undercover, the good Lamas realizes there are things he has to do that the bad Lamas did, but make his skin crawl. He kills a rat who might have given up his cover. He kills a cop to make himself look badder. He may be doing police work, but is he losing his identity in the process?

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It turns out the beginning of this film is head and shoulders the best part. Seeing Lorenzo Lamas in a bad wig with a bad moustache is too much. The film makers must've been big Jeff Foxworthy fans. I want to excoriate them for making Lamas look so ridiculous, but it was so funny, I'd feel dumb if I did. It gave the film an overall silliness that it wouldn't have had without it; and I know from having seen the film from the middle on without the silliness how much it added. "If you go out of your way to watch bad Lorenzo Lamas films... you might be a redneck."

The rest of the film was probably even slower than I remembered. The first time I watched it while I was doing something else like writing a paper or perusing the Internet. This time I showed it with a group of friends. The initial hilarity of the Jeff Foxworthy get-up died as the film became mired down in a slow moving plot with predictable action. We could only keep making those jokes so long before we just wanted the movie to end so we could all go to bed.

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Billy Dee Williams is in this, which on its own isn't all that spectacular, but when you add him with Rae Dawn Chong you get the second film she's done with a Star Wars alum (the first being Time Runner with Mark Hamill-- unless you count Soul Man with James Earl Jones). I wonder if she's trying to lock them all up. Was she pissed when Lucas made three more? Especially with A-List actors she'd have more trouble working with? Not that Billy Dee isn't ten times cooler than everyone but one actor in the new ones, and probably five times cooler than that one, Samuel L. Jackson. I read in GQ recently and had it reaffirmed on imdb that he's 70 years old. He was 59 when he did this. Wow. Colt 45: It works everytime!

Tom Cavanagh of Ed and whatnot fame is in this as an annoying lower level gangster that Lamas dispatches in an applause moment in the film. I never got the whole Cavanagh appeal. I've disliked him since I saw him D-ing up Justin Timberlake in a celebrity basketball game like his life depended on it. What kind of loser thinks he has something to prove at a celebrity basketball game? There's a reason why his shows get canceled early in their lifespans, and it's not because their too off the beaten path for the mainstream; it's because they think they are, but are just crappy shows with an even crappier Tom Cavanagh. As far as this movie went, they'd have been better off with Steve Buscemi, because all Cavanagh did was a poor imitation of Mr. Pink. (Someone just informed me that Ed was on for four years, from 2000-2004, and not the single year that I thought it was. That just doesn't make any sense to me. What was I doing all that time that I'd missed that?)

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One interesting Dolph connection in this film. The bad guy Lamas is trying to take out is played by Conrad Dunn, who also played a security guard/special agent in Dolph's Silent Trigger. Conrad was involved in the infamous Chris Heyerdahl drug induced freak-out where he ripped off his shirt and screamed about his tattooed spiders. If you haven't seen Silent Trigger and are unfamiliar with Chris Heyerdahl's work in it, check it out. You won't be disppointed.

This film is only worth watching really for the Lamas as Jeff Foxworthy. The rest is take it or leave it. If you've got Netflix like I do, it might be worth blowing a rental if you have an unlimited monthly plan just for that. Otherwise, you gotta ask yourself if it's worth the money to rent Mask of Death just for the first fifteen minutes. For me and my friends, it probably was, but we're sick like that. Are you?

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1 comment:

  1. Was rereading this review and I love how you referenced Chris Heyerdahl, who I recently saw in this crime drama with Michael Pare & Peter Greene (Pulp Fiction, The Mask, Training Day) called Coyote Run.

    It's known by another name which I've forgotten already and speaking of Peter Greene, you would love many of his other movies, he's the f**king man!

    Any chance there will be any other Billy Dee Williams reviews up soon?