Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story
R1 - America - Candy Factory Films/Passion River
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (14th August 2017).
The Film

Way back in 2003, Sandy Collora set the world on its ear by unveiling his version of a Batman film, done the right way, at Comic Con in San Diego. Kevin Smith said the film was ďpossibly the truest, best Batman movie ever madeĒ. You would think that this would be his ticket to ride, that Hollywood would be clamoring to sign this young upstart to direct a whole bunch of films, but that didnít happen. So what did happen? Thanks to filmmaker Eric S. Dow, the story can now be told.

Filmed in 4 daysí time with a modest budget of $30,000 dollars, Collora and friends went on to direct a 8 minutes long fan film that had The Joker escape from the Arkham Asylum only to confront the Batman, but that wasnít the only guest appearance. Suddenly there appear three creatures from the film "Alien" (1979), as well as the monster from "Predator" (1987) show up to even the score. This was a first; after Hollywood had produced the abysmal "Batman and Robin" in 1997 and effectively killed the franchise, and years before Christopher Nolan brought the Dark Knight back, Colloraís fan boy short made comic book fans pant and howl. Someone finally got it right. Here was the Batman as he should have been rendered: dark, menacing and dangerous. The entire film looked great; it was gritty and edgy, the Joker as portrayed by Andrew Koenig looked amazing, and the other creatures were terrifying and perfect. Why couldnít Hollywood do what this unheard of comic book enthusiast do? Why didnít they get it? Eric S. Dow goes behind the scenes to get the scoop on the man that directed this incredible film and we get first hand answers from many individuals including Sandy Collora himself.

"Behind the Mask" starts out with an in-depth look at who Sandy Collora is, interviewing friends and family about this talented man that started out as a comic fan and budding artist and how he followed his passions to create. Collora found his way into a career in Hollywood as a lowly assistant at the Stan Winston Studios, but soon gaffed at being at the bottom of the creative chain. Collora went on to contribute work as a sculptor/special effects man for major films such as "Men in Black" (1997) and his hero, James Cameronís "The Abyss" (1989). Along the way we are treated with examples of Colloraís work and we see footage of him working at the Stan Winston Studio; the man definitely has talent and it shows. However the problem, at least how I view it, is that Collora is an extremely competitive individual with a very large ego, and that tends to be part of the reason why he never excelled in Hollywood. Letís face it, I am sure that even Orson Welles was of the same ilk and look what happened to him. In Hollywood there is a definite pecking order and you canít come in from nowhere with an 8 minute film and expect to suddenly be sent to the top. Add to that an abrasive and outspoken individual with a somewhat caustic personality and you will soon be sent packing. And that is exactly what happened to Sandy Collora.

Dow wisely tries to portray Collora in a new light by revealing the facts about how his mother was diagnosed with cancer and was dying all the time that he was creating his film. Working on four hours sleep and trying to keep all the balls in the air at the same time is an admirable quality and Collora succeeded in delivering his vision to packed houses at Comic Con, but there was a downside. Collora rubbed some people the wrong way with his attitude and personality and for this he suffered. The world of the fan boy universe is populated by a million know it allís that certainly can talk a good game, but that is all they do. Critics are a dime a dozen, including myself, but for someone to have the tenacity and talent to deliver his vision to the screen is remarkable. I can easily understand how Colloraís enthusiasm and somewhat arrogance could be bothersome to some people, but at the end of the day, the final product is all that matters.

Dow features a number of personalities speaking about Collora and how they felt about the film, including DC artist Neal Adams, various comic book personalities, and extensively with Collora himself about his feelings regarding what happened. Neal Adams speaks candidly about how he helped usher in the new darker period of the comics, and how there was a seismic shift in the campy Batman from the television series to the Dark Knight that we are all now familiar with. I was certainly more interested in the authentic Collora as he reflected back on his younger self and the mistakes he made and Dow is wise enough to give us both versions of the artist as a young man. There is some damning footage of Collora at the premiere of "Batman: Dead End" (2003) at Comic Con and it is shudder inducing as he acts like he just won an Oscar or something. The more grounded Collora watches the footage and you can feel his pain; he knows that he was a dick and is apologetic. One of the interesting facts that was disclosed is that Hollywood heavy hitter Sylvester Stallone was approached to portray the Batman and Mark Hamill was also interested in portraying The Joker, but like a fan wet dream, it was not meant to be and they both dropped out.

Cinematically Dow shows his subject in a good light, letting him talk at length about his interests and experiences: Collora comes across as an enthusiastic fan that had a once in a life time opportunity and he took it. Interspersed throughout the film are plenty of behind the scenes of the making of "Batman: Dead End" and the actor that played the Batman, Clark Bartram, is interviewed about his experiences with Collora. I do wish that they would have included more backstory on Andrew Koenig because his portrayal of The Joker is right on the money. This is an interesting documentary about a talented individual and there is much to absorb here; Hollywood is certainly not for everyone, and the lessons it dispatches are difficult, but in the long run Collora survived, and he has gone out to produce more films that are distinctly his. This is a love letter to every fan that dreamed a dream; Sandy Collora did it and so could you. Make your dreams a reality!

Video

Presented in a 1.85:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen, the film is shot primarily shaky cam style and intrudes on the interviews and is unnecessary and sloppy; the rest of the film is well done and the direction was strong. Editing was okay and the color quality was fine.

Audio

There's only a single audio track, English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, the stereo sound was sufficient, but hardly remarkable. There are no optional subtitles.

Extras

No extras included, film loops back to beginning after the credits roll. Biggest disappointment was that the actual 8 minute film "Batman: Dead End" was not included for unknown reasons.

Overall

The camera work is a bit shaky at times and sometimes slightly out of focus, but there are plenty of appearances by Stan Winston and other craftsmen. I found this to be surprisingly interesting documentary on a fascinating individual and I look forward to seeing what else Collora can do.

The Film: B+ Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: F Overall: C-

 


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