The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode Twenty-Five “The Masks”

Original Air Date: March 20, 1964
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Ida Lupino

“This must be death. No horror, no fear, nothing but peace.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Jason Foster (Robert Keith) is a cantankerous elderly tycoon living out his golden years in New Orleans. One day, his doctor (Willis Bouchey) pays a visit and announces that Mr. Foster’s death is imminent. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Foster’s ungrateful, deceptive children pay him a visit to pay their last respects. His family members include: a greedy son-in-law Wilfred (Milton Selzer), self-pitying daughter Emily (Virginia Gregg), vain granddaughter Paula (Brooke Hayward), and a sniveling grandson Wilfred Jr. (Alan Sues).

“Mr. Jason Foster, a tired ancient who on this particular Mardi Gras evening will leave the Earth. But before departing, he has some things to do, some services to perform, some debts to pay—and some justice to mete out. This is New Orleans, Mardi Gras time. It is also the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

All of Mr. Foster’s children are quite obviously self-centered grifters, eagerly awaiting their father’s death in order to claim his money. When he realizes the end is near, Mr. Foster requests that his children indulge him in a mask-wearing activity for the evening –each family member is to wear a unique mask crafted by “an old Cajun.” The masks represent something characteristic about their personalities and Mr. Foster informs his family that they must wear the masks until midnight, or else they will be disinherited.

After a long and miserable night for the children (most would rather be out celebrating Mardi Gras elsewhere), Mr. Foster suddenly gives up the ghost just as the clock strikes midnight. The children appear stunned at their father’s death, but they soon begin celebrating their newfound wealth. However, when they begin removing their masks the while family discover that their faces have been hideously disfigured, mirroring the shapes of their masks. Meanwhile, the face of their deceased father appears to be wholly at peace: “This must be death. No horror, no fear, nothing but peace.”

“Mardi Gras incident, the dramatis personae being four people who came to celebrate and in a sense let themselves go. This they did with a vengeance. They now wear the faces of all that was inside them—and they’ll wear them for the rest of their lives, said lives now to be spent in shadow. Tonight’s tale of men, the macabre and masks, on the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

This is another episode featuring a certain degree of cosmic retribution exacted upon avaricious children. There have been several episodes in the fifth season about children exploiting elderly people, perhaps most notoriously in Season 5’s “Uncle Simon.” I thought the setting of Mardi Gras and the fact that these supernatural masks were created by an “old Cajun” sets a wonderfully mysterious, folkoric tone for this episode. The ending brings to mind other shockingly grotesque Twilight Zone reveals as in “The Eye of the Beholder.”

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • Director Ida Lupino starred in the Season 1 classic episode “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine.” She was the only woman to ever direct an original episode of The Twilight Zone, and she was also the only person to act as well as direct an episode of The Twilight Zone.
  • Several minor actors in this episode were borrowed from the popular legal drama show Perry Mason. There was also an episode of Perry Mason released that same year (1964) featuring a character by name of Jason Foster.
  • The remarkably monstrous masks in this episode were designed by William Tuttle and crafted by Charles Schram.
  • This was Robert Keith’s final acting appearance before his death in December 1966 at the age of 76.
  • This episode takes place in Louisiana in February 1964. According to the narrative, Jason Foster died on February 12, 1964.

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

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