Twonky, The (1953)

“That television set isn’t a hallucination; that’s a twonky. I had twonkies when I was a child. A twonky is something you do not know what it is.”

Synopsis:
When his wife (Janet Warren) leaves town for a few days, a professor (Hans Conried) finds his new television set acting very strangely–

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Review:
This quaint sci-fi curio by Arch Oboler (a former radio scriptwriter who directed the first post-apocalyptic cautionary film, Five) is badly dated in many ways, but its premise — a mobile television set is inhabited by a time-travelling alien which fiercely protects its “owner” (Conried) at any cost — remains intriguing. As with Five, Oboler is once again remarkably prescient: at a time when television sets were still a brand-new fixture in Americans’ homes, he effectively lampoons their tendency to literally “take over” one’s life, utilizing the metaphor of TV-as-alien-entity to show just how powerful the agency of this seemingly innocuous “entertainment box” can be.

While the satire in Twonky is never fully developed — it devolves into unfortunate slapstick by the final scenes, and the Twonky’s ultimate nefarious purpose on Earth isn’t revealed — I’ll admit I was impressed by Oboler’s attempt to skewer the mind-numbing qualities of television long before it became commonplace to do so. Indeed, when the Twonky hypnotizes everyone around it into drawling, “I have no complaints,” one can’t help admiring this time-travelling creature for so accurately “predicting” its future role…

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A clever satirical premise
    TV
  • Hans Conried’s unintentionally campy performance as the put-upon Professor West
    Hans Conried
  • Billy Lynn as West’s well-meaning football-coach friend
    Coach

Must See?
Yes, simply for its status as a cult curiosity.

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One Response to “Twonky, The (1953)”

  1. First viewing. Yes, a must – for the thorough reasons the astute review points out and, as well, for its singular status as a cult item. My only added observations: I don’t find the ending one of “unfortunate slapstick” – it seems a ‘logical’ extension; and I don’t feel Conried’s performance (as ‘straight man’ to the twonky) is particularly campy – when compared with his rather ‘colorful’ role in ‘The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T’. …But, yes, “prescient” is the word for Oboler!

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