Monday, May 21, 2018

The Life of (Dexter) Riley

This is my entry in the Kurt Russell Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews and Return to the 80's.

Kurt Russell has been around for decades.  People my age can probably first remember seeing him as the Jungle Boy who showed up in an episode of Gilligan's Island.  Or maybe even earlier.  He had a handful of appearances on TV shows in the early sixties, beginning with an appearance on Dennis the Menace in 1962.  And although he was in at least 15 movies and TV shows over the first 7 years of his acting career, he didn't really hit the big time until he was cast as Dexter Riley, a student at Medfield College.

Dexter was a college student at the institution who was constantly in dutch with Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn), mainly because he was a supreme screw-up.  He and a cast of fellow ne'er-do-wells were constantly on the verge of being kicked out of the university.  These were not the Omega fraternity malcontents of Animal House (it was Disney, after all), but they did not get on the Dean's List, either.  The core group of misfits are probably just winging it to avoid the draft.  (Although in Disney films, war never really exists, unless it was to glorify heroes of the American Revolution or the Civil War.  Vietnam, to my knowledge never was even mentioned in Disney films at least during the actual conflict...)

Russell made three movies with Disney as Dexter.   I don't remember a hell of a lot of my childhood experiences at the movies, but I can vaguely remember seeing The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.  I would have been about 7 or 8 at the time it came out, but it might have been a re-release and was showing a year or two later.  The Dexter series was my guilty pleasure as I grew older and me and my compadres thought we had outgrown Disney movies.  I still enjoy Dexter even 50 years later.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969):

The "bad boys" of Medfield College indulge in their favorite pastime, that of bugging the board meeting of the university.  This was the late 60's, of course, and it wasn't James Bond, so "bugging" essentially comprised of setting up a two-way walkie talkie, one hidden in a plant in the board room with the mike open, and the other with the group who would listen in to the proceedings.

Dean of Medfield College, Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn), expounds on how the budget of the college can ill afford the $20,000 outlay for a computer.  I know you can buy one personal computer for about 1/50th of that these days, and I'm not entirely sure that $20,000 would have been enough for the room size contraption that passed for computers in the late 60's, but this is Disney, so accuracy is not a factor.

Anyway old fuddy-duddy miser Dean Higgins wants to spend the money that could be used for a new computer on such things as sidewalks and such, despite the objections of his science professor, Quiggley (William Schallert).  Dexter and his buddies have a plan, though.  They get in touch with A. J. Arno (Caesar Romero), a local wealthy business man, and convince him to let the college have his computer.  Unbeknownst to everyone, however, Arno is wealthy not from his business dealings, but because he is running illegal gambling joints around town.

Arno comes through for the guys however, and the computer is set up in a lab on campus.  Dexter, while fiddling around with it, however, gets fried by an electric storm, which somehow downloads the entire contents of the memory banks of the computer into his head.  It also gives him incredible abilities to absorb other knowledge, such as an ability to learn languages just by reading a book, and to garner the contents of an encyclopedia by speed reading it.

With dollar bill signs lighting up in his eyes Dean Higgins sees Dexter as his ticket for the college to win a trivia challenge and for once and for all putting his nemesis, Dean Collingsgood (Alan Hewitt) of nearby State.  But Dexter insists that instead of fellow big brains on the team, he wants his buddies, none of which are much smarter than a package of Juicy Fruit.  (How these guys every made it past the entrance exams is a mystery, but in 1969 you had to do something to keep from being sent to Vietnam...)

Things go well for the Medfield team even though Dexter ends up having to do all the answers to the questions himself, since his buddies can't even reasonably take a cue from him on how to answer.  But a question that involves the answer "AppleJack" triggers a memory of the illicit records in the computer concerning Arno's gambling ring, and Arno and company realize that Dexter is a threat to their misdeeds and kidnap him (with the intention of disposing of him).

His buddies realize what has happened and devise a plan to rescue Dexter.  Hijinks ensue, as is typical of this type of Disney fare, with an ultimate car chase that is a riot, and Dexter is safely (sort of) delivered to the studio where he can be on the quiz program.  But not all is well that ends well, as Dexter suffered a concussion during the rescue and is gradually losing his grip on the computer knowledge he garnered.  Stay tuned for the end, because it is worth it.

Now You see Him, Now You Don't (1972):

The next film in the series we finally discover that Dexter is studying chemistry and has a wacky plan to develop the formula for invisibility.  But his efforts are dismissed as a flight of fancy by Dean Higgins.  The dean has his sights on a fellow student, Druffle (Ed Begley, Jr.), to win an award being offered by philanthropist Timothy Forsythe (Jim Backus).  Druffle's experiments with bumblebees is thought to be the saving grace for Higgins to put Collingsgood in his place once again.

Meanwhile, A. J. Arno has been released from prison (where he went at the end of the previous movie for his illegal gambling operation).  Arno has obtained the college's mortgage, but his intentions are not altruistic.  Fortunately Dexter's experiment has, through unforeseen circumstances, produced a real viable invisibility formula.  Using the formula, Dexter and his buddy Schuyler (Michael McGreevey) sneak into Arno's offices and discover Arno's true plan; to foreclose on the college and use the land as another gambling mecca.

After revealing the nefarious plans, Higgins realizes his hopes are hinged on winning the Forsythe award, but Forsythe has turned down Medfield College as an entrant in the contest because he doesn't think much of Medfield's potential.  So Higgins enlists to play a round of golf with Forsythe.  But Higgins is an incompetent player (he has never even played, although he touts himself up enough that Forsythe allows him to play.  Using the invisibility formula again, Dexter manages to help Higgins win the round and Forsythe agrees to let Medfield back in the contest.

But Higgins thinks his golfing ability is good enough to win a contest with the pros and enters a tournament with a couple of pros.  But without Dexter being on hand, it is evident that Higgins is exactly what he is, an incompetent duffer.  Arno sees this and realizes there is something funny going on and has his henchman spy on Dexter, where he discovers the truth about the invisibility formula.  Arno plans to use the invisibility formula to hijack a bunch of money from the bank.  Hijinks ensue once again as the ubiquitous car chase with Dexter and friends trying to stop Arno, who now has Dexter's invisibility formula and makes not only he and his henchman invisible, but ultimately the getaway car, too.  Once again, stick around for the end, because you won't want to miss how Dean Higgins reacts when he discovers that Dexter's formula is not really a fraud.

The Strongest Man in the World (1975):

The boys in the chemistry lab are up to their usual antics, sneaking a cow into the lab for experiments.  Schuyler has been working on a formula that will increase the potentia to make fatter healthier cows.  But all is not bright in Medfield.  It seems that the college is on the skids financially and Dean Higgins is about to be ousted.  The Board of Regents wants some new blood.

Higgins desparately pleads for a 30 day reprieve to try to get things turned around.  Although what he could manage to do in thirty days is anybody's guess.  His first try is to fire Professor Quiggley (William Schallert, who was absent for school when they filmed the second feature.).  The science professor has been too lax in his spending habits for the college, at least in Higgins' mind.

But an accident in the chemistry lab causes Schuyler's cereal mix to become very interesting.  It gives it an incredible power boost. Schuyler's mutt Brutus, which is a shrimpy little terrier being bullied by a Doberman, eats some of the cereal and then barges down the door to chase the Doberman.  Dexter also ate some of the ceral and found his strength increased exponentially, too.

Since eating the enhanced cereal is seen as the key to the new strength, Dean Higgins sees dollar bills again.  He contacts the owner of the Crumbly cereal company, Aunt Harriet Crumbly (Eve Arden) and proposes a show of the potential.  After virtually destroying the board room, Higgins and  Crumbly concoct a plan that has potential.  They will have a televised weightlifting contest between Medfield and it's arch-rival, State.

Coincidentally enough, Crumbly's rival in the cereal business, Kirwood Krinkle (Phil Silvers) and the Krinkle cereal company are big supporters of State.  So a televised match between the State weightlifting team and what Medfield can manage to field has the potential of being a media advertising extravaganza.  Of course, Medfield doesn't really have a weightlifting team, but Dexter and his pals, along with Schuyler's super cereal think they have the game in the bag.

One of Harriet's board members is a traitor and lets Krinkle in on the secret.  Krinkle gets in contact with A. J. Arno (can't they keep this guy behind bars?) and Arno is hired to sneak in to the Medfield chemistry lab and steal the formula.  Unfortunately the Keystone Kops syndrome affects them and they are unsuccessful.  So they fall back on plan B.  Kidnap Schuyler and find out what the formula is from the source.

But the information Schuyler gives them is faulty as it turns out that, really, what caused the increased strength was not the cereal concoction at all.  Will Dexter and company solve the riddle in time to save the day?  (Foolish question, it's Disney after all)  But the final race to save the day is again worth a watch.

I guess I should have stayed in college.  Maybe by now I would be rich from my invention of a device to rescue cats from trees without actually having to climb the tree.  Drive home safely folks.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Friends to the End?

This is my entry in the Dynamic Duos in Classic Film Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen and Classic Movie Hub

Only one comedy acting duo has managed to stand the test of time and appeal to all generations throughout the ages.  Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis.  All had their days during their run in Hollywood. But try showing them to kids and young adults of today and you may just as likely get a yawn as a laugh.

On the other hand, show a Bugs Bunny/ Daffy Duck cartoon and only the most cynical of octogenarians will not get a chuckle at the antics on screen.  Over the course of roughly 13 years, from 1951-1964, the duo teamed together to make some of the best cartoons Warner Brothers Studios ever put on the screen.

Unlike most comedy team duos like Abbott and Costello, and Martin and Lewis, the comedy duo of Daffy and Bugs rarely got along on screen.  Also unlike those others, the friendship off screen never deteriorated into a rancorous relationship.  Even after they parted ways as an on-screen team, the two remained lifelong friends, and even got together for more on screen antics later in life, including several full-length  Looney Tunes movies.

Beginning with Rabbit Fire (which coupled with Rabbit Seasoning and Duck! Rabbit, Duck! comprise what is known as the "Hunter's trilogy"), Bugs and Daffy played the classic straight man/comic duo that their predecessors such as Abbott/Costello and Laurel/Hardy did, but with much more exaggerated antics, since they were cartoons and could be blown up/shot/fall off cliffs with impunity.

Rabbit Fire:  was the first pairing of Bugs and Daffy.  Elmer Fudd is out in the woods and sneaking along hunting wabbit (as in "Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet.  I'm hunting wabbit. Hahahaha")  Bugs an Daffy go after each other trying to convince Elmer is alternately either duck season or rabbit season.  Some of the classic gags include Bugs accusing Elmer of hunting rabbits with an elephant gun, and then telling him to go shoot an elephant.  And behind Elmer is an elephant who responds (in a Joe Besser of the three Stooges voice) "You do and I'll give you such a pinch!"  The show ends with Bugs and Daffy tearing off posters on a tree, shouting "Duck Season!"  "Rabbit Season" until the final poster reveals a picture of Elmer and the words Elmer Season.  Elmer takes off like a rocket and Bugs and Daffy follow.  "Shhh.  Be vewy vewy quiet.  We're hunting Elmers.... Hahahaha."

Rabbit Seasoning:   was the second in the so-called Hunter trilogy.  This one had Daffy trying to convince Elmer that it's rabbit season when it's really duck season.  The main gag involves a repartee between Bugs an Daffy which has Bugs tricking Daffy into saying "and I say he does have to shoot Me now.  Shoot Me NOW!"  Hmm pronoun trouble... As in the previous episode, it ends with Daffy spluttering to Bugs "You're despicable."

Duck! Rabbit, Duck!:  was the third entry in the trilogy once again has the two fighting over whether it's duck season or rabbit season, including a couple of scenes where Daffy calls Bugs a dirty rat and Bugs calls Daffy a dirty skunk.  Daffy expostulates "I'm a dirty skunk?  I'm a dirty skunk?" at which point Bugs holds up a sign that says "Dirty Skunk Season" and Elmer shoots Daffy.  Then Daffy says "Well, I guess I'm the pigeon" and of course Bugs holds up a sign, "Pigeon Season".  After Daffy loses his cool, Bugs shows up in a ranger's outfit and Elmer asks "What season is it really?"  Bugs holds up a baseball and says it's baseball season, at which point Elmer exits enthusiastically shooting the baseball.

But the hunter's trilogy wasn't the only appearances by our two battling heroes.  Over the next few years there were some more classics, including:

Beanstalk Bunny:  Daffy has just been hoodwinked by a huckster into trading the family cow for some beans.  This is, of course, a takeoff of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale, so Daffy is named "Jack" in the feature.  The beans grow a beanstalk up to the sky and Daffy rubs his greedy hands together thinking about all those "solid gold goodies".  The fly in the ointment is that Bugs, into whose hole Daffy inadvertently threw the beans is on the beanstalk.  After Daffy kicks Bugs off the beanstalk, Bugs mutters "I don't remember there being a rabbit in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.  But there's going to be one in this one!"  The giant turns out to be Elmer Fudd, and various antics ensue as both Bugs and Daffy try to escape the giant.  One of the best lines, after Daffy has tried to convince Elmer he's not Jack, that bugs is.  "Jack rabbit!"  Elmer's response is "I guess I'll have to open with a couple of Jacks."  (Kids won't get it, probably, but we adults do, and that's what makes it so funny.  But most of the WB cartoons had little references that were designed to appeal to adults.)

The Abominable Snow Rabbit:  Bugs and Daffy have been tunneling to the coast, but Bugs took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and they end up in the Himalayas.  Angrily Daffy jumps back in the tunnel to return to his starting point, but runs into the foot of the Abominable Snowman, who thinks Daffy is a rabbit.  Ecstatically, the Snowman picks up Daffy, exclaiming that he has a pet rabbit and that he will name him George (a reference to the character of  Lenny in Of Mice and Men.)  The usual chaos occurs as Daffy continually tries to get out of his predicament by redirecting his nemesis to Bugs. 

The Million Hare:  Daffy is visiting Bugs, and is the usual annoying house guest as he watches TV instead of hanging out with Bugs.  He is watching a game show that involves two friends who must race to the studio, the winner getting a million bucks.  Daffy tries all sorts of shenanigans to win while Bugs plays it cool, and Daffy arrives first.  But the prize is not exactly what he expected.

These are just my favorites.  Bugs and Daffy were paired in several other WB shorts, and all of them are worth seeking out.  Check them all out when you get a chance.  (At only about 6 minutes each, you could watch all 15 of them in a couple of hours.)  Time to ride off into the sunset, folks.  Drive home safely.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

In Old Gay Paree

This is my entry in the MGM Musical Magic Blogathon hosted by Hometowns to Hollywood

Androgyny has always been a staple of Hollywood moviedom.  Whether it has been two innocent bystander musicians on the run from the mob (Some Like it Hot), or a young Jewish girl trying to achieve her dream in learning the Talmud (Yentl), men posing as women and vice-versa have appeared in film numerous times, sometimes to great effect and with great affection for the role reversal.  It has also been used in comic venues, often as a focal point of ridicule for the cross-dresser.

And that in effect is the primary point in many of the films featuring androgynous characters (usually depicted as being gay and then ridiculed for that, too.)  Prior to Stonewall (which I think was a turning point in more ways than one), Hollywood usually made gay characters either one of the villains, or as a foil for the audience to laugh at simply because of his gay-ness.  That is, when Hollywood even deigned to admit that a character was gay in the first place.  This was in keeping with the Hays Code which specifically banned "sexual perversion" (their words not mine).

But after the Stonewall riots (and if you don't know the history behind this trend-changing event, I would recommend a little light reading at the very least), gay characters made great strides in cinema, (as well as in society in general), becoming people that were accepted as viable members of society as well as heroes, in some cases in said movies.  To be sure, not always, but definitely more frequently than before.  Of course, not all of the gay characters were actually played by gay actors and actresses, but the fact that Hollywood was more sympathetic to the culture was an improvement.

The movie we discuss today is a result of an active trend towards portraying gay characters not only openly, but with a sympathetic attitude towards them.  Robert Preston, who portrays Carroll "Toddy" Todd, is an example of a gay character who is one with whom straight audiences can identify.   And Hollywood's changing attitudes even went so far as to nominate Preston as Best Supporting Actor (unfortunately losing to Louis Gossett, Jr for his role in An Officer and a Gentleman).

The movie was a remake of sorts of a 1933 German film, Viktor und Viktoria, and the film garnered more recognition at the Oscars besides the aforementioned Best Supporting Actor.  Leslie Ann Warren was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (losing to Jessica Lange), Best Adapted Screenplay (losing to Missing) and Julie Andrews for Best Actress (losing to Meryl Streep).  It did come away with an Oscar for Best Adapted Score, however.  And the song Le Jazz Hot, from the film is one of the more memorable songs in my opinion of a musical.

Victor/Victoria (1982):

The movie follows Victoria Grant (Julie Andrews), a struggling singer in 1934 Paris.   She is on the verge of starving because her particular style of singing is not what the clientele want.  After performing for a cabaret owner, Labisse (Peter Arne), and being dismissed, she heads back to her hovel of a hotel room where she owes back rent.  Willing to sacrifice her moral virtue just for a meatball, she sees a roach and has a panic fit.

Later at a restaurant, where she plans to eat a full meal, then release the roach and thereby get a free meal, she encounters Toddy Todd (Robert Preston).  Toddy had seen her performance at the audition at Labisse's cabaret, Chez Lui, where he works as a lounge singer, and thinks she has potential.  He encourages her to start a performance in which she will become a man who is a female impersonator.  As such, she will be transformed into Count Victor Grazinski, and he, Toddy, will be her agent.

Toddy is doing this for altruistic reasons, as he has no designs on Victoria.  One of the funniest scenes in the movie, after he has admitted he is gay, is when she asks "How long have you known you were gay?" and he responds "How long have you known you were a soprano?".

Victoria as Victor as Victoria becomes a sensation in Paris.  On her triumphant premiere she performs the song "Le Jazz Hot" to a sold out crowd at the cabaret.  Among the attendees is King Marchand (James Garner) who is infatuated with her, to the displeasure of his moll, Norma (Leslie Ann Warren).  That is until Victoria removes her wig revealing herself as "Victor".  At that point, the roles reverse, as it is Norma who cheers while King looks on aghast.  King is shocked that he had been attracted to what turns out to be a man, and of course Norma's thrill is primarily due to King's reaction after his discovery.

Hijinks ensue as Marchand tries desperately to come to terms with his infatuation.  He is convinced that he is not really attracted to a man and becomes convinced that there is some shady doings in the mix.  As a result he tries to get his henchman, Squash (Alex Karras), to try to get to the bottom of the story but Squash fails.  Marchand sneaks into the hotel room where Victoria and Toddy are staying and finds out the truth.

Much of the movie involves others trying to establish just what is going on.  Norma is sent packing back to America where, in a bitchy mood, she tells Marchand's mob associates that King is doing dirty things with another man.   Labisse, who has his suspicions, hires a detective to try and prove there is more than what he is being told to the situation.

Given that this movie is about a woman pretending to be a man, we are expected to believe the situation can actually happen.  And maybe it could.  But is Julie Andrews truly convincing playing a man?   Not really, but I tend to side with Dr. Rebecca Bell-Metereau who, in her book Hollywood Androgyny, states that "[t]o quibble with the fact that Andrews and Preston both deliver totally unconvincing performances as the opposite sex... would be as pointless as to wonder why Shakespeare's characters cannot recognize Ganymede as Rosalind" (a reference to the play As You Like It, for the uninitiated).  (For the record, the only scene where Preston is supposed to be playing a woman, I thought, was supposed to be for laughs and I don't think even the characters in the context of the movie were supposed to believe he was a she...)

Despite that fact, this movie is very entertaining.  Coincidentally, it was released the same year that Dustin Hoffman made his movie Tootsie, which involved a male actor who goes to great lengths to get an acting job, so much so that he pretends to be an older woman to get a role on a soap opera.  Viewing both of these movies as a double feature gives a very nice insight into the theme of androgyny as it was in its early stages of being an accepted theme in Hollywood.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

"Zone"d Out with Ida Lupino

This is my entry in the Ida Lupino Blogathon hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films

Ida Lupino is the only person to have ever starred in one Twilight Zone episode and to have also directed another Twilight Zone episode.  She is also the only woman to have directed one of the episodes of that iconic series.

 Spoiler Alert!:  I can't do Twilight Zone posts without revealing the ending.  But if you are a fan of the show, you know there's always a twist at the end.  Still, if you'd like to watch the episode first, feel free to do so.  Come back, I'll still be here.

The Twilight Zone "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine":

Barbara Jean Trenton (Ida Lupino) is an aging movie star who lives in the past.  She spends hours at a time cuing up old movies, ones in which she was a leading lady, and watching them by herself.  She has no real interest in the outside world.

Rod Serling delivers one of the most enigmatic introductions of his entire career as series host:

"Picture of a woman looking at a picture. Movie great of another time, once-brilliant star in a firmament no longer a part of the sky, eclipsed by the movement of earth and time. Barbara Jean Trenton, whose world is a projection room, whose dreams are made out of celluloid. Barbara Jean Trenton, struck down by hit-and-run years and lying on the unhappy pavement, trying desperately to get the license number of fleeting fame."

Danny Weiss (Martin Balsam), Barbara's agent, shows up frequently to try to coax Barbara out into the real world.  For the most part he is unsuccessful because this is a woman who believes her heydey is not really in the past.  In her mind she is still a viable romantic lead star.  She is only interested in re-imagining her role as a leading lady.

When Danny tells Barbara that a director, Marty Sall (Ted de Corsia) is interested in her, she is ecstatic.  Finally someone realizes her potential!  But the brief wall comes crumbling down when it turns out that the director only wants her to play a bit part, and as a mother!  She is indignant, claiming she has never played a mother and that she deserves better roles.

Barbara retreats even further into her fantasies.  She tells Danny she wants to throw a party and invite all of her old co-stars from the movie days.  Danny tries to talk he out of it, and eventually finds her old co-star (and her favorite leading man) to come visit.  Jerry Herndon (Jerome Cowan) shows up, but of course it's not the Jerry that she sees daily on the screen, but a man who, like she, is now 25 years or so older.  Barbara refuses to believe that this "imposter" is Jerry, insisting that Jerry is young and captivating, just like she believes herself to till be.

Barbara's isolation becomes complete.  When her maid comes to deliver a snack for her in the projection room she doesn't find Barbara there.  Instead she sees something shocking on the screen.  A little later Danny comes by and the maid reveals that something terrible has happened.  Barbara is not there.  When Danny enters the projection room and runs the movie he finds out the truth.  Barbara, the older Barbara, is now a part of the movie and is now living in her past glories.

The similarities between this episode and the Billy Wilder movie Sunset Boulevard are many.  In both we have an aging film star who is convinced her glory days in the cinema are not in the past, but are in the present.  And both had music by Franz Waxman.  Although the plot is predictable (most of the plots on Twilight Zone were predictable, if not for the precise ending at least for how it would turn out in the end),  what draws you into this episode is the remarkable performance of Lupino.  She has the nuances right, and given enough leash she could easily have taken this to even higher levels.  One of the flaws of many of the great episodes of the series was it's confinement to stage settings.  Many of them have the feel of the old live setting performances from just a few years earlier.

Rod Serling himself was quoted as saying this one was one of his least favorites, and it suffers from it's lack of a cult following in many ways.  Most DVD collections of highlighted episodes ignore  it in favor of much more well known episodes such as "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" or even the classic culinary episode of "To Serve Man".  It barely makes the top 100 (out of all 156 episodes) on one ranking site I looked at.   It was an early episode in the series, when it was still getting its chops as a powerful show, which should give it at least a little credit.  But its still a fairly good outing.

The Twilight Zone  "The Masks": 

Ida Lupino returned to the sound stages of "The Twilight Zone " in the fifth season, this time in the director's chair to give the haunting tale of  a New Orleans dysfunctional family.

Jason Foster (Robert Keith) is a rich old man who is dying.  His physician tells him he hasn't got a whole lot of time left, but Jason is holding out for the hope that he lasts until midnight of Mardi Gras.  See, while the rest of New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras outside his window, Jason has a devious plan.

He wants his daughter, her husband and their two children to spend Mardi Gras with him in his mansion.  His daughter, Emily (Virginia Gregg) is a whiny complaining shrew.  Her husband, Wilfred (Milton Selzer), is the essence of a greedy conniving business man.  The daughter, Paula (Brooke Hayward) is vain and egotistical a selfish.  The son, Wilfred, Jr (Alan Sues) is a sadistic brutish thug.

Jason's plan involves each of his "guests" to wear a mask for the entire evening; masks designed by an old Cajun medicine man, which are supposedly the embodiment of the exact opposite of how each of the four sees him or herself (but in reality are the fitting embodiment of their own true personalities, as we the audience are aware).

Of course these four are reluctant to follow through with even such a minor demand, even to humor a dying man.  That is until Jason tells these greedy S.O.B.s that if they refuse all they will get out of his inheritance is a plane ticket back home.  Apparently his will is already prepared and the one that will take precedence is the one that will follow their decision.

Of course, being the vain and greedy people they are, they agree to wear the masks, albeit not without bitching about it every second they get.  Finally just before midnight Jason goes on a tirade and tells each of them exactly what he thinks of them and that he hopes each will be happy with what they get from him.  At the stroke of midnight, Jason dies.  And the four remove their masks.

If you know how Twilight Zone stories end this won't be any surprise.  You would be expecting nothing less from Rod Serling.... Each of the family member's faces have been contorted into exact replicas of the masks they wore.  They are rich, but they are forever disfigured.  (Just try going to Neiman-Marcus now, Paula..)

Once again, the Twilight Zone gods gave us a remarkable episode.  And in this case, "The Masks" crops up on just about everyone's top 10 lists.  The previously mentioned list above ranks this one as #8.  I was only familiar with one of these actors with any real knowledge of their work.  Alan Sues is just a caricature, albeit a rather devious one, but it is a far cry from his usual role as a comic actor.    OLder readers may remember his campy personality as a regular on game shows like Hollywood Squares and his frequent appearances on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.  This was definitely nothing like it.

Hope you enjoyed the foray into one of the best TV shows in television history.  Time for me to travel down the road.  There's an odd sinpost down the road I've been meaing to check out.