|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 5
|Directed by||Ida Lupino|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Featured music||Stock from A Thing About Machines|
|Original air date||March 20, 1964|
|“||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.||”|
A wealthy old man named Jason Foster, who is dying, has just been visited by Dr. Sam Thorne on the night of Mardi Gras. Cranky and candid, Jason is not cheered by a visit from his daughter Emily Harper and her family: husband Wilfred, son Wilfred Jr., and daughter Paula. All four have terrible traits. Emily is a cowardly hypochondriac who whines about her perceived ailments. Wilfred, a successful businessman, is introverted and greedy, thinking of everything in monetary terms. Paula is vain, constantly checking her appearance in the mirror. Wilfred Jr. is an oafish, sadistic bully who enjoys causing pain and suffering. Moreover, Jason believes they are only there in order to claim Jason's fortune once he dies. Jason is not shy about his opinions and openly insults each of them. He says he has a special Mardi Gras party planned for the group that night.
After dinner, the family gathers in Jason's study where he instructs them to put on special one-of-a-kind masks, which he says are "crafted by an old Cajun". Jason informs his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren that a Mardi Gras custom is to wear masks that are the exact opposite of one's true personality. Thereupon, he says sarcastically that these masks are just that. Jason offers the mask of a sniveling coward to Emily, a miserable miser to Wilfred, a twisted buffoon to Wilfred Jr., and a self-obsessed narcissist to Paula. He himself dons a skull saying that the opposite of life is death. The family declines to wear the ugly masks, until Jason quotes his demands as a proviso from his will. Unless all four of them don the masks and leave them on until midnight, all they will receive from his estate is train fare home to Boston. They comply in spite of their disgust.
As the hours tick by, all four beg to be allowed to take off the masks, saying that they are unbearable. Their pleas are wasted on Jason who delivers his final tirade to his family as he dies. He says that "without your masks, you're caricatures!" He then dies. The foursome rejoices in the fact that they are now rich, until they remove their disguises and find to their horror that their faces have conformed to the hideous shapes of the masks. When Jason's mask is removed, superficially it appears as if nothing has changed, but looking on Jason's serene face Dr. Sam Thorne observes, "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 the shadow. Tonight's tale of men, the macabre and masks, on the Twilight Zone.||”|
- Robert Keith as Jason Foster
- Milton Selzer as Wilfred Harper
- Virginia Gregg as Emily Harper
- Brooke Hayward as Paula Harper
- Alan Sues as Wilfred Harper Jr.
- Willis Bouchey as Dr. Samuel Thorne
- Bill Walker as Jeffrey The Butler
- Maidie Norman as Maid
- Rod Serling as Host / Narrator – Himself
"The Masks" was directed by Ida Lupino, who had starred in the first-season episode "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine". She was the only person in the history of the original Twilight Zone to have acted in one episode and directed another. She was also the only woman to direct a Twilight Zone episode.
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)