Fifty years ago tonight, Twilight Zone viewers got a look at an angry, ugly mob. They weren't medeivel townspeople chasing a Frankenstein-like creature through the forest. They weren't Gold Rush-era prospectors trying to beat one another to a new claim. They weren't even ecstatic teenagers racing to get a first look at The Beatles.
These were normal, everyday people, denizens of a normal, everyday neighborhood. Lawns were being mowed. Kids were playing. A typical summer Saturday in Anytown, USA. And then....
It's The Twilight Zone. There's always an "And then....," isn't there?
Rod Serling crafts a gripping tale illustrating just how off-kilter things can get when something unexplainable gives rise to fear and paranoia. The cast is pitch-perfect, particularly the trio of male leads: Claude Akins as the by-default voice of reason, Barry Atwater is the unfortunate neighbor who falls under suspicion (and who reacts defensively enough to make him seem... well, suspicious), and Jack Weston as the loud-mouthed, obnoxious goon (doesn't every neighborhood have one?). As directed by Ron Winston and shot by George T. Clemens, Maple Street starts as an idyllic environment and devolves into utter, brutal chaos.
"The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street" also marks the second appearance of the flying saucer from Forbidden Planet. Get used to it, folks. We're gonna see it again and again as the series progresses. This time, the footage was shown upside-down and in reverse. Like we wouldn't notice.
Next up: Another of my Top 40 favorites. Like last week's "Mirror Image," we'll be challenged again on the subject of identity. Who are we, really? Arthur Curtis thinks he's a normal businessman on his way out the door for a vacation with his wife. A voice yells "Cut!" Suddenly, all bets are off. Do check it out.