The Twonky (1953) – Arch Oboler

I venture into a new section of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies, one dealing with monstrous machines, and the first one I encounter is a sentient television set in The Twonky. This kind of sci-fi comedy is probably more relevant today, when seen through the lens of mobile phones and modern technology, instead of a television.

Kerry West (Hans Conreid) is a professor at the local university, and his wife, Carolyn (Janet Warren) pays a deposit on a new television set to keep him company while she’s away – cause he doesn’t have enough work to do? or a book to read?

The television seems ordinary enough when it’s dropped off, but has some interesting bonuses that Kerry seems initially intrigued by – it can light his cigarettes, and seems to be able to walk, making its way around the West home.

Soon, however, it shows a darker streak by seemingly wanting to control every part of Kerry’s life. While part of it is to provide an ease of life, it also controls what he can and can’t do, as well as when. From deciding what music he can play on the Victrola, to what he should talk about in his class lectures, to protecting him from violence the television set, christened a Twonky by Kerry’s friend, the elderly Coach Trout (William H. Lynn) begins to assume control over all aspects of Kerry’s life, and despite his best efforts to eject from his home, nothing works.

There are several funny, and troubling moments (the twonky calling for female companionship for his client, preferably a blonde age eighteen to twenty!) and the effects work to move the twonky around are rather comedic, it’s just a big puppet.

It’s also fun to see Conried’s character descent into madness as, at first no one believes his claims, but soon the twonky is everywhere, seemingly unstoppable.

The coach throws out a theory that the twonky is a robot from the future that has somehow fallen through time, and what they and we are getting a glimpse of is the reality of the future, where technology controls every part of humanity’s existence – not too far from the truth.

It was a fairly amusing little film, hiding in comedy the fear of technology and the future, and some of the occurrences throughout the story are truly comedic.

But I know there are more menaces to come as machines take over the pages of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies. Pick up one today and find something monstrous to watch tonight.

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