Director: Ronald Winston
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Rod Serling, Claude Akins, Barry Atwater, Jack Weston, Jan Handzlik, Amzie Strickland, Burt Metcalfe, Mary Gregory, Jason Johnson, Anne Barton, Lea Waggner, Joan Sudlow, Ben Erway, Lyn Guild, Sheldon Allman, and William Walsh
Composer: Rene Garriguenc
Air Date: 3/4/1960
Production Code: 173-3620
When a meteor-like object flashes over Maple Street and causes a variety of bizarre electrical disturbances, the neighborhood residents begin accusing one another of conspiring with alien monsters. Within a matter of hours, the once idyllic community is transformed into a chaotic nightmare.
A study on how fear of the unknown can affect individuals of an otherwise normal temperament, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” sheds light upon a harrowing facet of the human condition. Fans of The Twilight Zone will therefore enjoy this episode, though it should be noted that a heavy emphasis on Cold War themes may fail to resonate with those who were born long after the so-called Red Scare.
By showcasing a collection of unique and memorable characters, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” makes creative use of the monotonous setting in which it takes place. For example, the central conflict is set in motion by a young comic book geek whose obsession with alien invaders initially sows, albeit innocently, the seeds of paranoia that later spread throughout his entire neighborhood. Refusing to allow moronic goofball Charlie Farnsworth (Jack Weston) to tear apart the Maple Street community with his witch hunts and kangaroo courts, Steve Brand (Claude Akins) provides a voice of reason in the ensuing pandemonium. As evidenced by the above examples, a diverse but realistic assortment of fictional people will give audiences sufficient reason to accept the fantastic premise upon which Rod Serling’s narrative operates.
Also commendable, an atmospheric tone stems from the air of uncertainty that permeates nearly every scene. Charlie’s idiotic ramblings concerning the nighttime activities of insomniac Les Goodman (Barry Atwater) in particular are worth noting, especially for leaving open the unnerving question as to whether a collaboration between extraterrestrials and Maple Street residents may in fact be possible.
As indicated earlier, Serling’s commentary on the devastating implications of McCarthyism may seem relevant only to those who lived through the second Red Scare. That being said, any political undertones are overshadowed by a more timeless statement regarding the human inability to maintain civility when faced with emergencies that could threaten the homeostatic conditions which define modern existence. Specifically, the late teleplay writer drew attention to the irony that the most intelligent, scientifically accomplished species on Earth has yet to evolve beyond those primitive and often irrational drives that influence decision-making under extraordinary pressure.
While young viewers may have difficulty relating to the perfect picture of 1960s suburbia painted by Serling, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” should nevertheless be praised for demonstrating the absurd rationalizations that people will offer when confronted with inexplicable phenomena. Additionally relevant, an amusing science fiction twist makes for an excellent contrast to the ominous nature of preceding events.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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