Sometimes, it’s fair to say that Rod Serling’s prose could get very purple. In “The Masks,” he never uses two words when ten would do. Almost all of the story’s weight is placed on the shoulders of the family patriarch, played by Robert Keith in his final screen role. He died almost three years after this first aired in March of 1964. The story is structured so that almost all of the exchanges are variations on Keith telling his awful family “You’re all terrible people,” and the ungrateful kin politely replying “Please don’t say such awful things.” They have to be polite. They’re in this for his money.
So I was pleased that our son was able to follow along no matter how florid the language became, and he laughed at the insults. It helped that the rotten children and grandchildren were so obviously rotten, drawn in absurdly broad strokes to make the twist work. I think this one could have benefited from being made in the previous season as an hour-long episode. With more time available, the characterization could have been more subtle and the twist more delicious. At least these jerks deserved their fate, which isn’t always the case in this show. As with many other stories we’ve watched, this one got a pronouncement of “creepy!” I think our kid enjoyed it more than he has many others.
I was interested to see that “The Masks” was directed by Ida Lupino, who had starred in the memorable Zone installment “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine” back in season one. She was doing lots of television directing in the mid-sixties, on shows as disparate as The Fugitive, Gilligan’s Island, and Honey West, when she wasn’t acting.