(director/writer: Arch Oboler; screenwriter: from a story by Lewis Padgett; cinematographer: Joseph F. Biroc; editor: Betty Steinberg; music: Jack Meakin; cast: Hans Conried (Cary West), Janet Warren (Carolyn West), Billy Lynn (Coach Trout), Ed Max (Ed, TV repairman), Gloria Blondell (Lady Bill Collector), Evelyn Beresford (Old Lady Motorist), Norman Field (doctor), Bob Jellison (TV Shop Owner); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arch Oboler; United Artists; 1953)

“Some films are so moronic that even seeing is not believing.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Twonky is a loose adaptation of a 1942 short story by noted science fiction author Henry Kuttner (writing with his wife C. L. Moore and using the pseudonym Lewis Padgett).

Some films are so moronic that even seeing is not believing. This goes for The Twonky (a film on the same low level as “Plan 9 From Outer Space”). Its catchy title is explained away as a reference to something you don’t know what it is, in this case a 16-inch Admiral TV owned by a college professor that has been infiltrated by a force from outer space.

Former radio writer and producer Arch Oboler (“Five”/”The Arnelo Affair”/”Bwana Devil”), the creator of radio’s Lights Out, directs this shoestring budgeted science-fiction comedy as if for a TV program that supplied laugh tracks. The comedy is weak and the satire heavy-handed (clumsily tells of the loss of free will to a futuristic State that can spy on everyone ala 1984), and it becomes a strange little curio that is too poorly executed and unable to clearly say sitcom things about the stifling suburban domestic situation it raises without seeming plodding. It bombed at the box office.

Small college town staid philosophy professor Kerry West’s (Hans Conried) overbearing wife Carolyn (Janet Warren) visits her sister and for company in her absence gets him on a time-payment plan a new television set—something he really has no interest in. Though not even plugged in, the TV sends out laser beams (creating five dollar bills to pay the delivery man and lighting West’s cigarette), it walks, washes dishes, opens his bottle of Coke, and ties his tie. It’s also destructive, as it destroys a classical record the professor plays on the phonograph and replaces it with a marching music record. It’s nicknamed by West’s alcoholic loser football coach neighbor (Billy Lynn) as the “Twonky.” The Twonky is a futuristic servant lost in time that censors the professor’s books and newspapers, and can read one’s thoughts. The robotic creature has been designed to help people but the professor, who detests television, can’t get a handle on how to use it for his benefit, so it becomes an oppressive force.

All one has to say about such a turkey, is that it’s a really bad film. It has a plausible and cutesy idea that blows up in the filmmaker’s untalented hands, a terrible script, the acting is terrible, the dialogue is terrible, the cheesy sets are terrible and it has no visual flair. Its appeal might be to elementary students or adults wishing to relive their childhood or to dwork Twonkies (if there is such a creature).

Promotional poster for The Twonky.