Rod Serling, creator of the iconic The Twilight Zone, explored a number of topics during the show's original 1959-64 run on the small screen. Paranoia and prejudice was the chosen subject in the classic 1960 TZ episode "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" with guest stars Claude Akins, Barry Atwater and Jack Weston.
The Twilight Zone's The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street: Cast & Credits
Rod Serling wrote the teleplay for "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," with Ron Winston directing. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:
- Narrator (Rod Serling)
- Steve Brand (Claude Akins)
- Les Goodman (Barry Atwater)
- Charlie Farnsworth (Jack Weston)
- Tommy (Jack Handzlik)
- Woman (Amzie Strickland)
- Don Martin (Burt Metcalfe)
- Sally (Mary Gregory)
- Man (Jason Johnson)
- Myra Brand (Anne Barton)
- Mrs. Goodman (Leah Waggner)
- Old Woman (Joan Sudlow)
- Pete Van Horn (Ben Erway)
- Mrs. Farnsworth (Lyn Guild)
- First Alien (Sheldon Allman)
- Second Alien (William Walsh)
Claude Akins as Steve Brand in "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" - Cayuga Productions
The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street: Episode Synopsis
The scene is American suburbia, where a passing shadow and flashing light herald the beginning of a nightmare. The unexplained phenomenon has knocked out the power, rendering electric-powered devices, cars and other machines inoperable. The surprised residents of one neighborhood located on Maple Street gather outside their homes, discussing the situation amongst themselves.
Wanting to check on matters, resident Pete Van Horn volunteers to walk out in order to gauge the extent of the blackout. Steve Brand also wants to embark on a similar trek down town, but is warned against such a move by a kid named Tommy. An avid reader of science fiction comic books, Tommy relates a fictional tale of an alien invasion in which extraterrestrials isolate a neighborhood via a power blackout. One of the neighbors, Tommy declares, turns out to be an alien masquerading as a human.
Imaginations soon run rampant, with panic and wild speculation increasing by the minute. Suspicion quickly falls on Les Goodman, whose car mysteriously starts by itself. One neighbor has witnessed Les looking up at the sky late at night, something which Les dismisses as simple insomnia. The heavy veil of suspicion next descends on Steve Brand, whom neighbors know is working on some type of "secret" radio in his basement.
When an unidentified figure begins to approach from down the street, a panicked Charlie Farnsworth grabs a shotgun. Firing out of fear, Charlie kills the approaching figure, who turns out to be Pete Van Horn returning from his reconnaissance mission.
Weird things begin to happen, with the lights blinking on and off in Les Goodman's house. Fearing for his safety, Les seeks shelter in his home as he is followed by an angry, stone-throwing mob. A panicked Les then accuses young Tommy, declaring it was the kid who initially brought up the idea of an alien invasion.
As lights and machines mysteriously go on and off, Maple Street descends into chaos. Windows are smashed and guns are produced, with the panicked residents taking up arms against each other.
The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street: Air Date & Competition
"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" aired over CBS on Friday night, March 4, 1960, in the 10-10:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition was The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor (ABC) and The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports (NBC).
The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street: Analysis & Review
"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," from The Twilight Zone's inaugural season where it was telecast as episode #22, is right out of the Cold War era. The alien invasion as envisioned by Rod Serling could just as well be a communist invasion, with suspicion and paranoia running rampant as panicked neighbors accuse each other of being "the enemy." When viewing this segment, one can't help but be reminded of the old House Un-American Activities Committee line from the Red Scare era of the 1950s, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"
Noted character actor Claude Akins (1926-1994) has the lead role of Steve Brand, one of the cooler heads on Maple Street who watches in horror as the neighborhood descends into madness. Both Barry Atwater (1918-1978) and chubby-faced Jack Weston (1924-1996) deliver excellent performances as Akins' fellow neighbors.
Never big on costly sets and costumes – yet always big on production values – The Twilight Zone producers borrowed several items from the 1956 science fiction movie classic Forbidden Planet to film this episode. They include uniforms worn by the two aliens and the mockup retractable stairway for their spaceship.
Rod Serling once again sticks the landing in "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," providing the all-important twist at the end. Here we witness two aliens discussing the chaos and madness that has visited Maple Street, and how easy it will be to replicate such behavior elsewhere on Earth. The planet, they conclude, can easily be conquered using nothing but the Earthling's own paranoia and prejudices. As always, Rod Serling delivers the last, penetrating word:
"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own for the children, and the children yet unborn."
- The iconic lamp post and sign from "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" - CBS-TV
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner