This week’s journey into the dark reaches of the psyche as I continue my travels with Paramount Pictures through the Twilight Zone starts with one of the series iconic episodes – The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.
Rod Serling penned this episode that had an original airdate of 4 March, 1960. Disaster is about to strike on Maple street as odd occurrences and unusual people are sighted on the familiar street. Fears are stoked, and things aren’t going to play out well when the monsters finally arrive!
Claude Akins and Barry Atwater lead the cast of neighbors whose fear of the unknown drives them to madness. A strange light in the sky starts everything, and from there fear is the fire that is stoked, as we, as humans, respond as we always do.
Steve Brand (Akins) seems to be the de facto leader of the neighbourhood, but it is a young boy, Tommy (Jan Handzlik) who really causes problems by sharing his thoughts on UFOs, aliens, invasion, but it’s enough to start people worrying, and turning on one another, especially focusing on Les Goodman (Atwater) who is just a little different. This judgement and fear is augmented by the fact that his car started when none of the others would.
A commentary on the Red Scare, or anyone who is different, but one that can be applied to today’s environment as well, this episode doesn’t boast a big reveal (though one exists), so much as serves as a pointed remark on society as a whole.
The episode features a commentary by Marc Scott Zircee author of the Twilight Zone Companion, an isolated score by Rene Garriguenc and a radio adaptation starring Frank John Hughes.
A World of Difference aired on 11 March, 1960 and was written by Richard Matheson.
Arthur Curtis (Howard Duff) is your everyday businessman, hard at work in his office, until he discovers that his office is a set, and he’s a movie star. Sounds like an ideal dream for some, but Arthur just wants to return to his home and family.
Is he a method actor who has just lost himself in his role, or is something truly bizarre going on?
The story plays out fairly generically, probably not Matheson’s best, but the character work by Duff is spot on, and grounds it nicely. No real explanations are given, no hint of what really happened, but it plays out entertainingly just the same.
It’s solid, just not as stellar as the episode that precedes it.
This episode features a commentary by its director, Ted Post, as well as an isolated score by Van Cleave.
The final tale this week is Long Live Walter Jameson. Charles Beaumont wrote this one, which aired on 18 March, 1960.
Kevin McCarthy is Walter Jameson, a history professor who really knows his subject. He has fallen on love with Susanna Kittridge (Dodie Heath) and wants to marry her. Her father, a fellow professor, Sam Kittridge (Edgar Stehli) is against it. It seems Jameson has a secret that Sam has discovered.
It seems Walter is some kind of immortal, having lived, without ageing for centuries. Not only does Sam not want an Walter marrying his daughter now, he wants to know the secret of Walter’s enduring longevity.
McCarthy makes the character bittersweet, imbuing Walter with a loneliness though you are left to wonder why he would want to marry Susanna if he is only going to outlive her and watch her die.
But maybe time and Walter’s past are catching up with him.
This episode features a commentary by Kevin McCarthy, another by film historian Gary Gerani, an isolated score, and a radio adaptation starring Lou Diamond Phillips.
Next week watch for the signpost ahead as Paramount Pictures takes me deeper into The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray.