The Twilight Zone Episode 145: The Masks

General Information

Director: Ida Lupino

Writer: Rod Serling

Cast: Robert Keith, Milton Selzer, Virginia Gregg, Brooke Hayward, Willis Bouchey, and Alan Sues

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 3/20/1964

Production Code: 2601

 

Overview

While dying of old age, the wealthy Jason Foster (Robert Keith) hosts an unusual Mardi Gras party for his greedy relatives. Notably, family members Wilfred (Milton Selzer), Emily (Virginia Gregg), Paula (Brooke Hayward), and Wilfred Jr. (AlanThe Twilight Zone The Masks Sues) are required to wear special masks throughout the evening—with a horrifying result.

Using grotesque imagery to convey a moral lesson, “The Masks” is a haunting episode of The Twilight Zone. Specifically, this offering deserves praise for its chilling background music, acerbic lead performance from Robert Keith, and cruel but satisfying twist in the penultimate scene.

 

Pros

The Twilight Zone The MasksThe character of Jason should be commended for his sarcastic barbs, which, in addition to being quite humorous and extremely well-timed, offer subtle glimpses into the tainted souls of all four relatives. In order to critique his family members without directly insulting them, for example, Jason demands that each person wear a mask reflecting the “opposite” of his or her nature: the face of greed, avarice, and cruelty for Wilfred (a cunning businessman); the face of a gutless coward for Emily (a whining hypochondriac); the face of skin-deep vanity for Paula (a shallow narcissist); and the face of a dull, stupid clown for Wilfred Jr. (an oafish and sadistic bully).

The Twilight Zone The MasksViewers with an eye for detail may likewise appreciate the physical attributes of Keith, whose raspy voice, skeletal visage, and emaciated body serve to outwardly reflect Jason’s impending death.

Additionally ominous are the titular masks, which, despite being simple in design and ambiguous in origin, lead to a creepy and disturbing outcome for the entire Harper family.

 

Cons

The Twilight Zone The MasksThough somewhat justified, Jason will likely evoke criticism for his spiteful and malicious final deed.

Others may also take issue with the main characters, who, perhaps intentionally, come across as simple caricatures rather than complex and relatable human beings.

 

Analysis

Exploring physiognomy as a narrative concept, “The Masks” indicates that external appearances can assume, correspond with, or be influenced by the inner traits of an individual—a fascinating premise for a horror-themed story.

 

Concluding Comments

Combining supernatural tropes with insightful subject matter, “The Masks” earns its status as an iconic entry of The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling fans and classic horror buffs will therefore enjoy this episode, which contains a dark and penetrating study on the human condition.

 

Overall Quality: 10/10

 

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One thought on “The Twilight Zone Episode 145: The Masks

  1. I’m not sure I see them strictly as caricatures – particularly, Wilfred Sr. One moment occurs with Wilfred Sr. — when his family “acts up,” so to speak, we flash back to him rolling his eyes or some other “f*ck this” reaction. It’s like he KNOWS what he and his family have become, but doesn’t care enough to really give a damn.

    In fact, Milton Selzer is the real surprise of the episode. He always seems to be adding a little more to the story, from the moment when he guides Doctor Thorne out (that little smile), to his little facial tics throughout, and his little “don’t touch me!” moment when he leaves the drawing room and moves out of the way of Geoffrey the butler. I don’t know if that was part of the script or Selzer adding a little something that wasn’t there, but it gives him far more of a characterization than the rest of the actors. Wilfred Sr. may be an a$$hole, but he KNOWS he’s an a$$hole, and that automatically makes him more interesting than the rest of his family who just ARE a$$holes. (Alan Sues was never one of my favorite actors, but he’s good in this in a shallow way.)

    I had never heard of Milton Selzer until I started really watching TZ as an adult, then I started looking out for him in other 60s TV shows – he made several appearances on Mission Impossible and other shows, usually a background character, but he was good enough to be able to add something special to every role he played. That also applies to the two Zones he appeared in.

    And is it me or does Robert Keith sound a little like Vincent Price? I’ve seen reviews that condemn his Jason Foster for being just as bad as the rest of the family, but I never saw it that way. What we have is a man who has long given up on his family and survives on this veneer of nastiness, but we see the reactions of others, and we know how much of a cover it is. Those who know him, his true friends, do see and know the real Jason Foster. Notice the slight laugh from Dr. Thorne in Jason’s first scene and Geoffrey’s smile when he goes to get the masks. They know Jason very well, and they clearly show far more respect for him than for his misbegotten family. Besides, a million dollar windfall (or whatever) can buy a lot of plastic surgery….

    All in all, a good episode — one that makes you wish Ida Lupino was asked to direct more TZ.