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Nose Norton

Location: Plainville
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 6,529
Subj: Creature Feature 214: Boris Karloff's Thriller - Masquerade (1961)
Posted: Sat Nov 14, 2020 at 09:17:45 pm EST (Viewed 97 times)

"Masquerade" was the 6th episode of the second season of  the anthology series Boris Karloff's Thriller, which first aired on October 30, 1961.  The episode was directed by Herschel Daugherty and starred Tom Poston, Elizabeth Montgomery and John Carradine.  Thriller ran from 1960 to 1962, with 67 episodes.

When a honeymooning couple get stranded on a typical stormy night, they seek refuge at a spooky Southern mansion run by the weird Carta family.  The Carta patriarch Jed (Carradine) makes suggestions of vampirism to the young couple, either as a warning or playful scaring, which does scare them but not enough to make them flee the situation.  They search the house, finding crazed and imprisoned Ruth Carta, whom they release.  The story ends with several characters dead via a neat twist which caught me by surprise.

"Masquerade" was a great episode of a classic anthology series from the '60s.  The story worked and the performances were great but what made it work was the way the director played with the viewers perceptions.  
It starts as a typical Old Dark House story and quickly adds vampiric tones with Carradine being wonderfully ambiguous.  His character recalls his role as Toby in the Bela Lugosi film Voodoo Man (1944), which seems to be a precursor to the small town villains that would plague unsuspecting teens in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes.  You never know whether Carradine and his family are simply playful hotel owners, inbred cannibals, or true vampires, but the ending whimsically makes this all a moot point.
While Tom Poston never makes you think he is anything but an actor, who likes the sauce,  Elizabeth Montgomery is great as a wise-cracker who users her quips to cover her fear.  There is a feeling that the couple doesn't appreciate the dangerous situation they are in, even though they are clearly frightened, especially when they free the deranged Ruth, but it all makes sense in the end.
The episode uses the house from Psycho and follows the plot of The Old Dark House, with themes that'll make you think of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it ends with a twist that is well ahead of its time and makes sense out of any questionable moments.

Memorable Moments:

The setup.  Honeymooners Charlie and Rosamond Denham are stranded in a car during a storm in front of a creepy house.  It's cliche, but Poston and Montgomery play the scene with appropriate humor and apprehension.  It's a great setup, making you expect the usual Old Dark House story, with a lighter tone, lulling you into the usual light horror of TV in the era.  Poston isn't particularly believable but he does remind you of a 1930s horror movie hero.

Jed and Lem talking about killing the couple.  It's unsettling listening to the two talking about slaughtering but they leave it vague enough that you might think they're talking about livestock instead of people.  Are they vampires. cannibals, or just talking about pigs or chickens?  

The Denham's finding Ruth locked up.  This is straight out of The Old Dark House.  So much so that you you yell at the TV, "Don't do that! Are you stupid?!?!?"

The ending.  The show sets up the premise of a typical TV show episode, in the horror vein, of course.  You question why the characters are acting the way that they do, but, in the end, you figure it's just a TV show.  The ending, however, makes all the actions fall in place.  It's more of a "that was clever" instead of "that blew my mind!" ending.

Elizabeth Montgomery starred as Samantha Stephens in the classic sitcom Bewitched (1964-72).  She also appeared in 70s TV movies A Case Of Rape (1974) and The Legend Of Lizzie Borden (1975).  Her father was actor Robert Montgomery (Lady In The Lake - 1947).   Tom Poston has an odd everyman appeal and has appeared in The Old Dark House (1963) and The Happy Hooker (1975).  He appeared as a "man in the street" on The Steve Allen Show.

Other TV vampires include Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows (I'm definitely intrigued by Dark Shadows, but also intimidated by the 1000+ episodes of the show), Gilligan in "Up At Bat" (Gilligan's Island 3x1), Vincent Price in "V Is For Vampire" (F-Troop 2x22), Joanna Pettet in "The Girl With The Hungry Eyes" (Night Gallery 3x2), Hal Lindon in "Elegy For A Vampire" (Ghost Story), Tiny Tim in "Love And The Vampire" (Love, American Style 2x18),  John Carradine in McCloud Meets Dracula (1977), and Robert Reed in "Vampire" (Fantasy Island 2x13).  

John Carradine had uncredited roles in 1930s Universal classics like Murders In The Rue MorgueThe Invisible ManThe Black CatThe Bride Of Frankenstein.   In the 1940s. he got better roles in Revenge Of The Zombies (1943), The Invisible Man's RevengeThe Mummy's GhostHouse Of Frankenstein, and House Of Dracula.  

You can watch Boris Karloff's Thriller - Masquerade here: