Today, March 4th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1960 premiere of Rod Serling’s brilliant 1960 first season episode "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street."
Claude Akins, Jack Weston and Barry Atwater star in this powerful study of a typical American community dealing with a paralyzing power outage, which begins with strange lights and sounds coming from the sky. In many ways, this was Serling's reaction to the McCarthy period in America, a time when unfound suspicions were toppling careers and shredding civil liberties.
Claude Akins, in perhaps his lowest key performance ever, plays Steve Brand, a suburbanite with two feet on the ground who is the least suspicious of the lot. Jack Weston, on the other hand, plays liquored-up Charlie Farnsworth who is Mr. Suspicious. And then there's Barry Atwater's Les Goodman character whose car suddenly and inexplicably starts up on its own.
Both Akins and Weston would do encore TZ performances: Akins as an astronaut on a desert planet populated by tiny people in "The Little People" and Weston as a hack television writer who uses black magic to summon William Shakespeare as his ghostwriter in "The Bard."
Oh, and twelve years later, Atwater would plays Janos Skorzeny, the Vegas vampire opposite Darren McGavin's Carl Kolchak in The Night Stalker.
So let’s raise a summer afternoon snow cone to the residents of Maple Street USA, who allowed their own suspicions to run rampant in the otherworldly neighborhood we call The Twilight Zone.