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