Jason Foster is a wealthy old man living in New Orleans but not for much longer. When we meet him his family physician is informing him that he has at most hours to live. Foster tells the doctor that he will force himself to live until midnight. It is Fat Tuesday and Foster has invited his daughter and her husband, son and daughter to spend the night with him. They have come from Boston because they fully expect him to die and they are in a rush to inherit his estate.
His daughter Emily is a whining hypochondriac completely immersed in concerns for her own health. Her husband Wilfred is a cold calculating businessman with no love for anything but money. Their daughter Paula is a vain, selfish young woman with no patience for anything and only interested in her own appearance in her mirror. Wilfred Junior is a hulking sulking lout who we hear repeatedly enjoys torturing insects.
When told that they will need to spend the Mardi Gras sitting around Foster’s living room wearing hideous masks they revolt and refuse but Foster informs them that they must wear the masks till midnight or they will forfeit their inheritance. This of course changes their minds. Foster tells them that the grotesque masks are the opposite of their true personalities but of course by his descriptions you hear that he is revealing the masks as their true selves. Foster also wears a mask and it is the skull, the face of death. By the last few minutes the masquerade becomes unbearable and they complain bitterly about wearing the masks. But finally midnight strikes on the clock and Foster informs them that he is dying and they will all be very wealthy. He slumps in his chair and after checking for his pulse Wilfred Senior removes his mask and the other three react in horror. Wilfred’s face has changed to look remarkably similar to his mask. And the same is the case for the other three.
The doctor is called by the servants and removes the death’s head mask from Foster but he looks normal and as remarked by the doctor death is without horror only providing peace.
Ida Lupino, a very famous actress and later in her career one of the only Holywood Golden Era actresses who did much directing, directed this episode. It’s a transparent plot and telegraphed from the beginning. But, in my opinion, it’s one of the best Twilight Zone episodes. Good work Serling. A+