March 20 in Twilight Zone History: Celebrating the 1964 premiere of 'The Masks'

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Mar 20, 2018

Today, March 20th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1964 premiere of "The Masks."

TZ acting vet Ida Lupino ("The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine") became the only woman to direct an episode with this corker from Rod Serling about a group of vain, self-possessed family members who gather at Mardi Gras to wait for the death of their wealthy patriarch.

Even though he's close to death, Jason Foster (Robert Keith) seems to be enjoying himself as he torments his kin with the edict that they must wear horrific masks before the stroke of midnight. 

What Emily (Virginia Gregg), her husband Wilfred (Milton Selzer), her daughter Paula (Brooke Hayward) and son Wilfred Jr. (Alan Sues) don't realize is that Daddy Jason (Robert Keith) has cooked up a surprise for his money-grubbing kin – and it all involves wearing some horrific masks for a few hours prior to midnight.

This episode cooks thanks to Lupino's terrific direction, the usual stunning black and white photography of George T. Clemens and a great makeup assist from TZ maestro William Tuttle. Keith, ironically in his final role, portrayed Jason Foster with an inner glee. In real life, he was the father of actor Brian Keith.

Wilfred Harper (Milton Selzer, right) doesn't seem to like the idea of wearing a horrific mask prior to midnight, even if it does mean he'll collect a huge inheritance from his father-in-law Jason Foster (Robert Keith, left) in "The Masks."

Meanwhile, Milton Selzer had previously visited the Zone as an alien opposite Andy Devine in the comedic "Hocus Pocus and Frisby." Virginia Gregg portrayed Anne Francis' mother in "Jess-Belle" and also voiced Norma Bates in the original Psycho. Brooke Hayward was the ex-wife of TZ veteran Dennis Hopper.

So let's raise a Mint Julep to Ida Lupino's helming, Rod Serling's writing, Jason Foster's plotting and twenty-two minutes of clock-ticking suspense on The Twilight Zone.