|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 very wealthy old man named Jason Foster (Robert Keith), who is dying, has just been visited by Dr. Sam Thorne (Willis Bouchey) on the night of Mardi Gras. Cranky and candid, Jason is not cheered by a visit from his daughter Emily Harper (Virginia Gregg) and her family—husband Wilfred Harper (Milton Selzer), son Wilfred Harper Jr. (Alan Sues), and daughter Paula (Brooke Hayward). All four have various, terrible traits.
- Emily is a cowardly, self-centered hypochondriac who whines and complains about the most trivial things.
- Wilfred, a successful businessman, is introverted and greedy, thinking of everything in monetary terms.
- Paula is extremely vain, constantly checking her appearance in the mirror. In fact, she is looking in one when she greets her grandfather.
- Wilfred Jr., meanwhile, is an oafish, sadistic bully who enjoys causing pain and suffering to other people and animals.
Moreover, it is clear that they are only there in order to claim Jason's fortune once he dies. Jason is not shy about his opinions of his family and openly insults each of them. In an act of apology, he says he has a special Mardi Gras party planned for the little group that night.
After dinner, the family gathers in Jason's study where he offers them special one-of-a-kind masks. These masks, which he said are "crafted by an old Cajun", are very ugly creations. Jason informs his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren that a Mardi Gras custom is to wear masks that are the exact opposite of a person'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 claiming that the opposite of life is death. The family is reluctant 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 vast estate is train fare home to Boston. So the foursome comply in spite of their disgust.
As the hours tick by, all four beg to be allowed to take off the masks...claiming that they are worse than uncomfortable, they are unbearable. Yet their pleas are wasted on Jason who delivers his final tirade to his family as he dies. He explains that even "without [their] masks, [they'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, it appears as if nothing has changed, but his face is actually the expression of death itself—calm, peaceful, and serene. As Dr. Sam Thorne observes "This must be death. No horror, no fear...nothing but peace." As the episode ends, the butler Jeffrey (Bill Walker) looks upon the relatives' ugly faces.
|“||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.||”|
"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)