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"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" is the twenty-second episode of the The Twilight Zone.
From the CBS Video Library cover:
"Maple Street, Anytown, U.S.A. A tree-lined street filled with white picket fences, neighborhood barbecues and children's laughter...until late on Saturday afternoon. After a sudden flash of light and a rumbling in the sky, Maple Street loses all of its power—cars, lights, telephones, appliances. The neighbors come to the conclusion it was just a meteor, but 8 year-old Tommy, a sci-fi buff, says he knows the real cause...aliens disguised as humans have infiltrated Maple Street and now they're taking over."
Maple Street, USA. Late Summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice cream vendor. At the sound of the roar and a flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 PM on Maple Street.
This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street, in the last calm and reflective moment...before the monsters came.
The citizens of Maple Street are enjoying life as usual, going about their business on a late summer day, when they all hear a roaring humming noise pass over them, afterwards lightly dismissed as a meteor. Soon, all electrical objects, telephones, radios, and automobiles stop working. A handyman named Pete Van Horn leaves to check Floral Street, the next street over, to see if they are having the same issues, explaining the hammer hanging from his side pocket.
The remaining citizens contemplate what's happening, puzzled over the incident, although most believe the cause to have been the mysterious meteor. A boy named Tommy Bishop warns Steve Brand, a resident who wants to head into town to confront the police, that aliens have come from the dull roaring noise, and want to prevent the citizens from leaving (based on the belief from his comic books). He also warns them that nobody could leave, except the aliens who infiltrated the population and are disguised as humans, leaving the people in suspense despite Steve's lighthearted jesting about finding the alien family among them.
A neighbor, Les Goodman, tries to start his car and has little success. As soon as he walks away however, it starts on its own, and the townspeople eye him indignantly. Soon, they start wondering why he didn't come out to look at the meteor. Steve warns the people they shouldn't be a mob and as they approach Les, his car stops, and the townspeople start to heckle him. Les denies it as a "gag," but his car starts up again on its own and the townspeople have even more doubt towards him. A woman, Mrs. Sharp, notes that she's seen Les standing in his yard looking at the sky in the early morning. Les defiantly states that he has insomnia. Despite his warning that their suspicions will only cause something terrible to happen, Les and his wife are isolated from the neighborhood.
Night falls with Les and his family still under vigil from the distrusting people of Maple Street; in absence of light the neighborhood is reduced to using candles and lanterns, standing watch. The wife of a resident, Charlie Farnsworth, is doubtful that Les really an alien, but Charlie dismisses her concerns for the ostracized neighbors. Steve approaches Les, who defends his claim of insomnia. However, when Steve agrees with Les that the actions of the other people are "some kind of madness", he is turned on by Charlie and the rest of Maple Street, including by his own friend Don. Don reveals to the others that Steve's wife mentioned that he had been spending his nights working on a radio the other residents have never seen; Mrs. Brand attempts to damage control the situation she created by offering to show everyone the radio, but Steve refuses and again reiterates that if they continue this hunt for a "scapegoat", they are "going to eat each other up alive", suggesting that they set up a kangaroo court.
Unfortunately, as Steve's words nearly get through to the people, the sound of footsteps is heard coming down the street. A shadowy figure advances towards the crowd, reactivating their fears as Tommy fearfully whispers that "it's the monster". Don produces a shotgun. Steve takes it away, saying that it would be no use, and Charlie, ignoring Steve, grabs it and shoots at the figure. To the horror of Charlie and his neighbors, the figure he had shot and killed was none other than Pete Van Horn, the man who went to check if Floral Street had lost power as well. The residents, turn on Charlie, especially when the lights of his house inexplicably turn on by themselves. Les and Don call Charlie out on his being so quick to judge everyone else, and accuse him of intentionally killing Pete to keep him quiet, and even Steve refuses to defend him. The residents chase Charlie, attempting to stone him to death, but the injured and frightened Charlie screams out that he knows who the aliens really are...and points out the boy Tommy as the culprit. Citing Tommy's knowledge of how the aliens operate, they begin to chase him down instead.
Events escalate to a climax when various houses and appliances around the neighborhood turn on and off randomly, throwing the entire neighborhood into a frenzy of panic. The crowd scatters, some of the people grabbing weapons and guns with which to kill others. As chaos engulfs Maple Street, the camera pans out to reveal the surrounding streets silent, peaceful and with power. Further out above the town, upon a hill are two humanoid figures observing the slaughter going on below. They are the true aliens, manipulating the power of Maple Street deliberately in order to trigger the peoples' suspicions against each other and resulting panic, thus slowly but surely conquering Earth one street at a time. One alien remarks that when deprived of power, "[humans] pick the most dangerous enemy they can find and it's themselves. All we need do is sit back - and watch". Their mission accomplished, the aliens board a nearby spaceship and depart to outer space as the episode ends.
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 the thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own: for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined... to the Twilight Zone.
Preview for Next Week's Story
Next week, Mr. Richard Matheson lends us his fine writing talents when we bring you a unique and most arresting story of a movie actor who finds himself on that thin line between what is real and what is a dream. Mr. Howard Duff stars in "A World of Difference", which I think you'll discover is a television play of difference, too. That's next week, a journey into The Twilight Zone. Thank you and good night.
Preview for Another CBS Show
Be sure to see the fun-filled family life on one of America's greatest entertainers, The Danny Thomas Show, Monday nights over the most of these stations!
The central theme of the episode regards how people can be their own worst enemy, even people who have been friends and neighbors for years. The notion of "divide and conquer" is used by the aliens in the episode to great effect, allowing them to play on the Maple Street residents' imaginations and mundane idiosyncrasies. Reasonable quirks among the neighbors become dangerous anomalies as the people fall prey to their growing fear of infiltration. The episode also calls to mind "mob mentality", as under the stresses of the aliens' manipulations, the residents begin to engage in immoral behavior, including murder and attempted murder. Logic, despite Steve Brand's tries at recalling it among his fellows, is dismissed in the face of the mounting horror and distrust among the neighbors. Furthermore, the crowd continues to feed into the fear by bringing up accusations against one another, either to save themselves or simply to find someone to blame for the loss of power, with lethal results.
- Rod Serling as Narrator (voice only); uncredited
- Claude Akins as Steve Brand
- Barry Atwater as Les Goodman
- Jack Weston as Charlie Farnsworth
- Amzie Strickland as Woman
- Burt Metcalfe as Don Martin
- Jason Johnson as Man
- Sheldon Allman as Alien
- Bill Walsh as Alien (billed as William Walsh)
- Robert McCord as Ice-cream Vendor
- Jan Handzlik as Tommy
- Rod Serling (executive producer: Cayuga Productions)
- Buck Houghton (producer)
- George T. Clemens (director of photography)
- Bill Mosher (film editor)
- Millie Gusse (casting; credited: Mildred Gusse)
- George W. Davis (art director)
- William Ferrari (art director)
- Rudy Butler (set decorator)
- Henry Grace (set decorator)
- Ralph W. Nelson (production manager)
- Edward O. Denault (assistant director; credited: Edward Denault)
- Franklin Milton (sound; credited: Frank Milton)
- Jean G. Valentino (sound; credited: Jean Valentino)
- Van Allen James (sound effects editor; uncredited)
- Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1960) (USA) (TV) (original airing)
- United Productions of America (UPA) (animated title)
Home media release
- The uniforms worn by the aliens, their spaceship's ramp, and the shot of the flying spaceship were originally used in the 1956 film Forbidden Planet.
- Redone (and updated) four decades later in the UPN edition of The Twilight Zone (2003).
- The book "Stories from the Twilight Zone" gives more background to the story of the episode and its characters. In addition, there is a short epilogue revealing that, by morning, all residents of Maple Street have brutally killed one another and, within a week of the massacre, the aliens have moved into the neighborhood in their place.
- The episode You Might Also Like from the 2019 iteration references the episode briefly. The registration form in the opening of that episode shows Jane S. Doe's address as 12345 Maple Street in Anytown USA.
- Charlie: [after inadvertently shooting who turned out to be a neighbor and presumed to be the invader] No! No it's nothing of the sort! It isn't me I swear it isn't! Someone's pulling a gag or something!
- Steve Brand: A gag? A *gag*? Charlie there's a man lying dead in the street and you killed him; does that look like a gag to you?
- Charlie: Look! Look, I swear it isn't me! I swear it isn't! But I know who it is! I know who the monster is! I know who it is that doesn't belong among us! I swear I know who it is!
- Don: Alright, Charlie, let's hear it.
- Charlie: It's... it's...
- Les Goodman: Well, what are you waiting for!
- Don: Come on Charlie, come on!
- Man: Who is it, Charlie? Tell us!
- Charlie: It's the kid! It's Tommy! He's the one!
Notes and References
- CBS Video Library: Twilight Zone #? "?/?"; UPC: ?, EAN: ?, ASIN: ?; Format: NTSC, VHS, Collector's Edition (1987)