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"Maple Street, USA. Late summer. A tree-lined little road of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice-cream vendor. At the sound of the roar and flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 P.M. on Maple Street... This is the Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon, in the last calm and reflective moment - before the monsters came." The Monsters are Due On Maple Street is a 2009 radio adaption of a 1960 Twilight Zone episode written by Rod Serling and features Stacy Keach and Frank John Hughes. After what is presumed to be a meteor speeds overhead Maple Street casting a shadow and provoking a flash of light, the residents experience a puzzling power cut that affects telephones, appliances, even the cars. A boy in the street who always has his head stuck in a comic or science fiction book says he knows exactly what has happened. He believes the meteor was a UFO and that Maple Street has been infiltrated by aliens disguised as humans. This sparks a increasing panic in the town with neighbour turning against neighbour and suspicion falling on everyone. Where will it all end and what really was the source of the inexplicable power cut?
The Monsters are Due On Maple Street is Serling's commentary on how easily people can turn on each other when faced with frightening and unexplainable situations. Do you really know your neighbour? Could you trust them in a crisis? The story is about the brute group entity. It is a violent chaotic force, powered by fear and nurtured by irrationality. The subtext is about our distrust of outsiders. Prejudice exists in or out of the Twilight Zone. I don't think this is one of the very top tier Twilight Zone stories but it's solid enough and works relatively well as an audio drama. The strange otherworldly noises from the sky at the start are nicely atmospheric and set the scene in spooky fashion. The residents of Maple Street wandering outside chattering to see what all the commotion was and being bemused by the power failure. Frank John Hughes is fine here as central character Steve Brand. Hughes was in Band of Brothers and The Sopranos so I actually know who the guest star is for a change in one of these. He's a decent everyman centre to the story. The street plunging into electrical failure is suitably eerie as they try to make sense of it all and slowly begin to look at one another with suspicion. Serling's point is that thoughts, attitudes and prejudices are weapons that can kill and destroy. A thoughtless search for a scapegoat can have dangerous consequences.
Brand wants to go into town but is warned that the power shortage is meant to isolate and contain the neighbourhood. It might be dangerous to leave. He isn't convinced though and not impressed by the increasing paranoia. "Stop telling me who's dangerous and who isn't and who's safe and who's a menace. And you with him too, all of you! You're all standing out here all set to crucify somebody! You're all set to find a scapegoat! You are all desperate to point some kind of a finger at a neighbor! Well, believe me friends, the only thing that's gonna happen is that we're gonna eat each other up alive!" The Monsters are Due On Maple Street is rather similar to another Twilight Zone story called The Shelter where a group of middle classs friends hear that the bomb might be about to drop and soon turn on each other as they squabble and fight over access to the one small nuclear shelter in the street. The Monsters are Due On Maple Street is a bit more sophisticated than The Shelter though and less dramatically obvious. It also has a nice Twilight Zone style twist at the end which emphasises the message of the story. The twist works quite well in the audio drama although it was of course more fun in the visual medium of television.
One person in the street even comes under suspicion because he's been seen looking up at the sky at night! Maybe he might be waiting for something suggest the more paranoid residents of the street. He protests his complete innocence and explains he merely suffers from insomnia and likes to get some air when he can't sleep. "You know, really, this is for laughs. You know what I'm guilty of? I'm guilty of insomnia. Now what's the penalty for that? Well, you heard what I said. I said it was insomnia! I said it was insomnia! You scared frightened rabbits, you. You're sick people, do you know that? You're sick people, all of you. And you don't even know what you're starting here because let me tell you, let me tell you, you're starting something here that, that's what you should be frightened of. As God as my witness, you're letting something begin here that's a nightmare!" The Monsters are Due On Maple Street is 35 minutes in this format and another solid addition to this radio series. The Twilight Zone atmosphere is present through the famous theme and Stacey Keach reading the famous introduction and opening and closing monologues that were so memorably done by Serling in the original sixties series. I don't think this is one of the very best I've listened to so far but I did enjoy it. These are not straight 100% transcripts of the television series scripts so there are a few modifications around the edges (they are updated to be in the present day) but nothing too jarring that detracts from the spirit of the source material. At the time of writing The Monsters are Due On Maple Street can be purchased as part a collection of these or downloaded individually for £1.19. If you look up the website for this series you can listen to free sample clips to give you a taster and idea of what to expect.