I’d heard about this silly ’50s science fiction movie from my friend Emma, who watched it on late-night TV. It’s about a TV from a dystopian future which ends up in our time, where it tries to make professor Cary West’s life easier- by making him a mindless obedient drone! It’s low-budget, silly and loads of fun.
Hans Conried- the voice of Thorin from The Hobbit animated film (full review), the Dr. Seuss classic The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T and many other roles- plays Professor West, whose wife buys him a TV to keep him company while she leaves on business. But it’s no ordinary TV! First of all, it lights his cigarettes for him with a zap of electricity. Then it counterfeits money when the TV shop wants payment. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?
But as is always the case, you pay dearly for these conveniences. The little TV marches around on little goose-stepping legs, and soon it’s zapping his temples when he writes about individualism and freedom of expression. His neighbor, Coach Trout, visits and tries to help. It’s he who realizes what the TV- or “the twonky” as he calls it- really is. It takes the desire for ease and convenience and extrapolates it to its most frightening degree- what if we want to be so comfortable that we simply can’t be upset about anything?
The movie veers between situational humor where the Twonky behaves one way when Cary is alone, and then acts like a normal TV when he tries to prove he’s not nuttier than squirrel turds. It has some risque humor for the ’50s, such as when it dials the phone in its robotic voice to ask for a female companion for his lonely master, and the operator girl sends the cops; and when a female bill collector drops by and the Twonky sends her packing by zapping her clothes off and levitating her brassiere.
Directed by Arch Oboler, quirky director of the post-apocalyptic 5ive and infamous safari exploiter Bwana Devil, wrote the screenplay based on a short story by classic sci-fi writers Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. This is a classic B-movie of the time that rises above the typical space monster sci-fi of the ’50s. Hans Conried is hilariously apoplectic as the poor harried professor, and even makes the cheapo special effects tolerable.