M-M-M-M-MASK!

Full disclosure, I. Love. MASK. It was a great toyline and an even better cartoon series. There are some episodes of questionable quality, but overall I love it, so The Prometheon from Superman and The Rock Giant from Thundercats had me thinking about MASK’s episode that reminds me of it.

In Dutch

Matt Trakker is visiting Holland to see a demonstration of a device called the ultrasound analyser, which can detect any weaknesses in dykes, when dogs start barking, T-Bob goes haywire, and cracks appear in a nearby dyke. Then T-Bob sees a flying windmill to add to the weirdness. As Bruce Sato said in the first episode, if a fish flies, look not for a fish but a bird inside, which points to VENOM being up to their usual tricks with a stolen ultrasound analyser that destroys rather than protects. They’ve paired up with a corrupt Dutch politician and are holding the country to ransom by flooding.

Characters like T-Bob get a lot of stick, but he was quite a funny character. They changed his voice from the early episodes, where he was very dry, to more tense and uptight. Going with what he saw, he knocks on the doors of windmill owners asking when the next flight is. If you watch this episode (or any MASK episode) there are a lot of puns and wordplay gags, which are probably quite lame, but I’m a a fan of lame dad-jokes anyway.

MASK loved to have end of part one cliffhangers, rather than typical three act structures. Here it involves Matt getting trapped underwater, upside down, in Thunderhawk, with Spectrum of no use to him. At that point he calls in the team once he’s emerged. They dispense with the usual “day in the life” clips to get from Boulder Hill to Holland quickly. There’s also a lack of vehicle vs. vehicle battles, but as always the writers select appropriate vehicles for the setting (aerial and water-based). VENOM mostly work out of a transforming freighter, which itself becomes a phoney oil rig. They even bother to show the reorientation of the internal workings so that everyone is the right way up.

This isn’t the best episode to show off all the vehicles and gimmicks of the show, but it’s fantastically animated, the script is good, and it shows off the James Bond-esque plot better than GI Joe often did. The corrupt politician even has a pet cat! There’s a great bit where the prime minister has laughed off his ransom demands, and Mayhem starts putting the weapon into action. The politician protests, claiming he was only bluffing and that he doesn’t want to destroy his country. “I NEVER bluff!”, replies Mayhem.

In a post-episode public service announcement, T-Bob jumps off the top of Trakker’s mansion and ends up with his knees where his shoulders are, because he saw it on TV one time. Scott laughs it off. If you don’t know already, Scott was played by Brennan Thicke, who also played Dennis the Menace and is the brother of Robin “Blurred Lines” Thicke.

The Lippizaner Mystery

Probably my favourite episode of the series between the plot, the animation and the direction. Matt and Dusty Hayes are in attendance at the Palace of Vienna for the performance of the famous Lippizaner stallions, for the benefit of the Emir of Amrah. All of a sudden they freak out and disappear. Matt and Dusty stick around to investigate where they’ve gone and who’s got them. No prizes for guessing who stole them, but who they’re selling them to is more interesting, as Matt works out in a shocking revelation later in the episode.

MASK had awesome incidental music, especially VENOM’s theme, which kicks in when their involvement in the crime is revealed and we cut to their hideout on the hillside. I always find it interesting that one of the Emir’s bodyguards is obviously not Arabian and looks more Aryan. There’s a great battle between Matt and Dusty and Mayhem and Rax, with Switchblade putting Gator in the trees and Matt almost getting the drop on Rax before he can get Stiletto on. End of part one cliffhanger is Matt possibly getting chopped up into little pieces in a corn threshing machine before they make use of Gator’s odd functionality with the speedboat inside.

Scott is told to stay at the hotel and actually does for a change instead of getting involved in his usual “fun” (almost getting trampled to death by elephants in Singapore and jumping off the top of the Eiffel Tower without a parachute). It’s when T-Bob goes haywire when Scott tries to turn him into a popcorn popper that he actually finds the final piece of the puzzle as to the horse theft. At that point Matt calls in the team, and I realise that mechanic Buddy Hawks, with his flat cap, would probably be reinvented as a hipster today. For shame, I don’t think they’d call his intangibility mask Penetrator by that name any more.

It’s really one to watch, much like some of my other favourite episodes, including The Death Stone, The Roteks, Highway to Terror, The Magma Mole, The Secret of Life and Secret of the Andes.

The Sacred Rock

I guess it’s the rock connection that makes me connect this episode and The Rock Giant from Thundercats. As a kid, I always found this one of the more boring episodes, but I appreciate it more as I’ve grown up. At Ayers Rock, aborigines worship their god, Mimi, when they see “dancing rocks” appear before them. MASK, comprised of the present Matt, Bruce Sato and Brad Turner, investigate, knowing that VENOM has been seen in Australia.

Not talked about VENOM much, and both previous episodes included Vanessa Warfield, who was my fantasy as a kid with her tight outfit, boots and long gloves, and big hair, but she’s not in this one. Instead, it’s the original trio of Mayhem, Sly Rax and Cliff Dagger. They have a good dynamic of Mayhem barely tolerating the other two, Rax and Dagger being the henchmen but always bitching at each other, Rax more of a sneaky manipulator and Dagger the dumb muscle, managing to insult Rax by telling him, paraphrased, “You’re as dumb as me!”.

As mentioned in a prior episode, T-Bob ended up taking more interesting roles in episodes than you’d think for a comedy character, and here he’s mistaken by the aborigines for a sky god, which leads to a greater dilemma for him and Scott. Brad has to create a “rock giant” to free them at the end of the episode. Good episode, no issues with it, very straightforward and fun.

Conclusion: Hope you’ve enjoyed this review and hopefully it’ll encourage you to have a look at MASK on YouTube or somewhere some time. I really need to go all the way back through it again some time soon.