The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode Eighteen “Black Leather Jackets”

Original Air Date: January 31, 1964
Writer: Earl Hamner, Jr.
Director: Joseph M. Newman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Three strangers arrive in a small town; three men in black leather jackets in an empty, rented house. We’ll call them Steve, and Scott, and Fred, but their names are not important; their mission is, as three men on motorcycles lead us into the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Three hoodlums donning leather jackets roll into an ordinary suburban neighborhood and dismount from their motorcycles. Their names are Scott (Lee Kinsolving), Steve (Michael Forest), and Fred (Tom Gilleran). We soon learn they are actually a trio of aliens, part of a much larger planned invasion of earth. These aliens are in need of bigger living space and since humans have proven to be a violent and unworthy race, these aliens now intend to destroy humanity by poisoning the water supply and to claim earth for themselves. Once inside their rental home, the boys set-up an antenna device to communicate with their leader but it causes radio and television disruptions to nearby neighbors.

The youngest member of the alien trio, Scott, somewhat accidentally falls in love with a girl next door, Ellen Tillman (Shelley Fabares). During their courtship he learns that humanity is not all bad –in fact, many humans are not violent at all! Scott attempts to persuade his leader against the attack but is efforts only label him a traitor. He runs away to warn Ellen but instead a sheriff is called (Michael Conrad) and we soon learn that he, too, is an alien. The episode ends on an ominous note as Scott is dragged away kicking and screaming while Ellen and her parents look on, disturbed by Scott’s seemingly unbalanced mind, unaware of the impending destruction of humanity.

“Portrait of an American family on the eve of invasion from outer space. Of course, we know it’s merely fiction—and yet, think twice when you drink your next glass of water. Find out if it’s from your local reservoir, or possibly it came direct to you….from the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

“Black Leather Jackets” shares a great deal in common with other episodes like “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” or “The Invaders” or “The Shelter” –in which a safe suburban community suddenly becomes ground zero for a hostile alien invasion. I had a chuckle over of the trio of aliens who believe themselves to be casually blending in with their surroundings while strutting around like The Fonz on Happy Days and using dated beatnik slang terms like “Daddy-O.” Despite the fact that this episode portrays a mostly implausible tale with some notable plot-holes I thought this was nevertheless another fun adventure into… The Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • The street used in this episode is the same as the one featured in the Season 1 classic “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.” The living room set was the same one used in “Living Doll”, “Ninety Years Without Slumbering” and “Ring-A-Ding Girl”.
  • The motorcycles in this episode were 1964 Harley Davidsons.
  • Amusingly enough a close-up of the invading commander’s eye closely mirrors the CBS logo.
  • The sunglasses/goggles worn in this episode were re-used from the earlier Season 5 episode “The Old Man In The Cave.”
  • In a 2003 interview Earl Hamner Jr. expressed disappointment with this episode.
  • The famous town square, the Universal backlot from Back To The Future, was featured again in this episode.
  • Denver Pyle plays Ellen’s father. He was a recognizable television actor having appeared in The Andy Griffith Show and The Dukes of Hazzard.
  • In The Twilight Zone Companion, Marc Scott Zicree suggests this episodes is akin to a crossover between The Wild One and It Came From Outer Space.

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

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