As It Happens

Iconic pig mask from The Twilight Zone goes up for auction

A huge consignment of American TV memorabilia is going up for auction — and one item has true collectors in awe: the original prosthetic pig mask from The Twilight Zone episode The Eye of the Beholder.

Memorabilia collector James Comisar says it's 'a miracle' the delicate mask still exists

The iconic pig mask from The Twilight Zone episode 'The Eye of the Beholder' is expected to fetch thousands of dollars at auction. (Prop Store Auction )

If you ask a diehard fan of The Twilight Zone to name the most memorable moment from the show, they'll likely name the scene with the pig masks from the episode The Eye of the Beholder.

The episode stunned audiences in 1960 with its human actors and their grotesque pig snouts and mouths.

Now, one of the masks is up for auction as part of a huge consignment sale of American TV memorabilia happening next month.

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke to collector James Comisar about why he is letting the iconic prop go.

Here is part of their conversation.

James, you are putting up a lot of interesting TV items up for sale in this auction. But this pig mask is special. Why is that?

I agree with you. There's 400 pieces in the sale. This piece is perhaps the most interesting to me because it's frankly a miracle that it exists. This is made out of a very thin piece of foam, and it was purposely made thin so the actor could get a performance out of the piece. It was probably made to survive one day of filming — 50-plus years ago. Yet it still is here today.

One of the great blessings is it ended up in the collection of Forrest J. Ackerman. He was a literary agent. He was a writer. He had a very famous American magazine called Famous Monsters of Filmland. And he was also a bit of collector. He didn't have a museum skill set. But he did his level best to care for the piece during his lifetime.

When we acquired it, we knew that this was a special piece with special needs. There was a little bit of damage inside one of the nostrils. There was a bit of a hole. So we backed that with rice paper and toned the area to match. And now it lives on its own special mount to reduce handling. But other than that, it's in good vintage condition.

And this is from the Eye of the Beholder episode of The Twilight Zone. What happens in that particular episode?

That particular episode is perhaps the most beloved by the fans. It's also noteworthy because Rod Serling, who created the show and narrated the show, wrote this episode.

It was a tale about a woman who was undergoing surgery in an attempt to look "normal." It is revealed at the end of the episode that the look she was trying to improve was being a classic beauty. In the end, they revealed what the doctors and the other people in the room looked like and they have these horrendous pig snouts — hence the title, Eye of the Beholder.

For this, and many other reasons, it's the definite Twilight Zone episode. And in my 30 years as a treasure hunter, this is the only piece I have ever found from the series — and I can't imagine a better one.

James Comisar says it's a miracle the delicate mask is still in such good condition. (Prop Store Auction)

What do you think this pig mask will sell for at the auction?

I think it's estimated in the catalogue at around $10,000 to $15,000 (US), which would be a great buy actually, if you could get it for that price. What we see in this particular art market is science fiction memorabilia is tops here. It sells for quite a lot more money than any other genre.

There are some other really fascinating items that you're putting up for auction. Like, Uncle Martin's spaceshift from My Favorite Martian is for sale.

That is such an amazing piece. You have very good taste, by the way, Carol. These are my favourite pieces.

It's not a miniature. The design was based on the Jaguar car of that era. There's a nice slope to it. It has beautiful reverse wing doors and this shiny silver paint. It's really sculpturally stunning to look at and it can still get into your house or business. But it's just beautiful. It seats one beautifully, Carol.

One Martian. Then, of course, there's Captain Kirk's toga, which we can never forget having seen him in that episode.

When that was filmed in 1968, a white man kissing a black woman on camera was not something you would see. And there were actual crew members on the Star Trek crew that didn't want to be any part of it. But it was Bill Shatner, the great Captain Kirk, who said it was going to be shot. And it was shot. 

I believe they shot it two ways, so that when it played in the South, they wouldn't see the kiss. But interestingly, it is rumoured that the original script had Spock kissing Uhura, and not Kirk. And it is rumoured that Mr. Shatner said, "Well, if anyone is going to kiss her, it's going to be me!" And the rest is history.

Written by Ashley Mak and John McGill. Produced by Ashley Mak. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.