A borgo favortite…
“What’s the matter? You never seen anyone from the planet Vulcan before?” – Rocky Dennis
Mask was a 1985 movie that attempted to tell the story of Rocky Dennis, a boy afflicted with a disease colloquially known as “lionitis” but goes by the scientific name of craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. The disease causes calcium deposits to build up on the skull and forces the face to bend out of shape. Luckily it only occurs in about 1 in every 22 million births. Let's start with a little poem written by Rocky when describing his outlook on life.
Things I Like
Riding a Harley
The 52 Dodgers
Walks on the beach
and the sun shining down on my face
Things I Don't Like
Dust in my hair
Cleaning my room
and the sun shining down on my face.
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Cher as Rusty, (Rocky’s biker mama with some drug issues) , Sam Elliott as Gar, the biker and Cher’s love interest (he wears a t-shirt during the movie that advertises “Free Mustache Rides”), Laura Dern, as a rich blind girl and Rocky’s love interest, and Estelle Getty as Cher’s doting mother.
I guess you could say that that Rocky was your typical American teenager except for the fact that he was horribly disfigured. He likes to collect old Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cards, does excellent at school and given his exposure to a world of “bikers”, has mapped out a trip to ride a Harley across Europe after graduating from high school. After transferring to a new school and some initial confrontations with some of the other kids, Rocky begins to gain a measure of acceptance. He finally gains their respect when he relates the tale of Helen of Troy and the Trojan Horse in terms the other students can understand. It isn’t long before he is asked to start tutoring some of them. In return, he decides to charge them a fee for funds for his planned trip to Europe.
Its at this point in the flick that Rocky begins to notice girls and what it would be like to have a girlfriend. Rusty (Cher) responds to his dilemma by going out and getting him a prostitute. Rocky is embarrassed and while he has a nice long chat with her, does not engage in any sex.
Sensing his disillusionment, the kind hearted principal of his high school (I forget who that was) suggests that Rocky take a job over the summer at a camp for blind kids. After first declining the offer, Rocky eventually accepts the idea after coming home and finding his Mom stoned out of her mind.
It’s here where he thinks he meets his soul mate in the form of Laura Dern. Everything seems like a perfect match. She is blind and can only see Rocky’s “inner beauty” and he is captivated by her grace and willingness to accept her own blindness. (There are some very touching and believable scenes as Rocky attempts to describe “colors” to the blind Dern.). Ah, true love at last!
Yeah right., As the camp closes for the summer, Dern’s parents come to pick her up. It’s here where she introduces them to Rocky and they are immediately disgusted by his appearance. He tries in vain to contact her via the phone but each time he calls, her parents claim that she is not available.
Despondent over his loss. Rocky sorta retreats. The final scene ends with him pulling the pins out of his planned places to see in on his bike tour of Europe. His mom discovers him dead in his bed the next morning as she tries to wake him for school.
A personal note on the final scene
It never fails to evoke a tear from my eye. As Rocky’s mom discovers him in his bed, one can hear the strains of the Grateful Dead’s Ripple being played in the back round. This is a tune that I used to sing to my kid in her early years when she went to bed. She still remembers most of the words. Now for some…
Cher was named Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance.
Make-up artist Michael Westmore won an Oscar for his work in depicting Eric Stoltz as Rocky.
Director Peter Bogdanovich was pissed at the producers and Universal Studioss for substituting some Bob Seger’s songs into the movie over those of the Boss. It seems that the studio couldn’t get an agreement from Springsteen to use his work and that Rocky Dennis, in real life, was a huge Springsteen fan.
Done mostly from memory with a little bit of reference to http://www.fast-rewind.com.mask.html