The Twonky (1953)

72 mins | Comedy, Science fiction | 10 June 1953

Director:

Arch Oboler

Writer:

Arch Oboler

Producer:

Arch Oboler

Cinematographer:

Joseph Biroc

Editor:

Betty Steinberg

Production Company:

Arch Oboler Productions, Ltd.
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HISTORY

The opening title credits read "Arch Oboler's Production of The Twonky ." Contemporary news items in MPH and HR reported that the release of The Twonky , which was produced in 1952, was held up due to production of another Oboler film, Bwana Devil (see above). The copyright statement in the Copyright Catalog indicates that although the copyright year is 1953, the notice submitted by the production was dated 1952. No official release date is listed in contemporary sources. In a modern interview, Sid Pink , a former member of Arch Oboler Productions, Inc., noted that the film, which cost approximately $300,000 to make, had only three theatrical exhibitions when it was ... More Less

The opening title credits read "Arch Oboler's Production of The Twonky ." Contemporary news items in MPH and HR reported that the release of The Twonky , which was produced in 1952, was held up due to production of another Oboler film, Bwana Devil (see above). The copyright statement in the Copyright Catalog indicates that although the copyright year is 1953, the notice submitted by the production was dated 1952. No official release date is listed in contemporary sources. In a modern interview, Sid Pink , a former member of Arch Oboler Productions, Inc., noted that the film, which cost approximately $300,000 to make, had only three theatrical exhibitions when it was released. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
11 Jul 1953.
---
Daily Variety
12 Jun 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
20 Jul 53
p. 11.
Filmfax
May 1991
pp. 40-43, 89.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 1951
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Dec 1951
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 53
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald
5 Aug 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald
14 Mar 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 Jun 53
p. 1887.
Variety
17 Jun 53
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
Wrt for the screen by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Props
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
Sd eng
Boom op
Sd eff
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Producer's asst
Exec secy
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Twonky" by Henry Kuttner in Astounding (Sep 1942).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 June 1953
Production Date:
late November--late December 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Arch Oboler Productions, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
10 June 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2951
Physical Properties:
Sound
Magnastripe by Ryder Sound Services, Inc.
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
72
Length(in feet):
6,499
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15776
SYNOPSIS

Philosophy professor Kerry West’s wife leaves to visit her sister after purchasing a television set for her husband to keep him company while she is away. Kerry dislikes television, and is stunned when the unplugged television set emits a beam that lights his cigarette for him. Kerry becomes nervous when the television repeats its performance. When Ed, the television serviceman, returns for the down payment, Kerry reveals he has only five dollars, and is unaware that he dropped the bill near the television. Ed intends to take back the set but finds the down payment, all in five dollar bills created by the television set, laid out on the floor. After the serviceman leaves, Kerry attempts to drink some coffee but the television set wobbles into the kitchen and zaps the cup, which disintegrates. The set then removes plates from the dishwasher and levitates them into a cupboard. When Kerry’s best friend Coach Trout visits, he makes fun of Kerry’s assertions about the television until he sees it in action. The two men then go to Coach’s house to drink, where the Coach attempts to psychoanalyze Kerry, but talks about himself instead. As the drunken Coach falls asleep, he mutters that the television is a “Twonky,” something that cannot be explained. After Kerry returns home he discovers that the Twonky controls the kind of music to which he may listen and shaves and grooms him as well. When Coach attempts to photograph the Twonky in action, however, the photograph develops as a picture of an infant with Coach’s head. Coach surmises that the robotic Twonky perceives Kerry as ... +


Philosophy professor Kerry West’s wife leaves to visit her sister after purchasing a television set for her husband to keep him company while she is away. Kerry dislikes television, and is stunned when the unplugged television set emits a beam that lights his cigarette for him. Kerry becomes nervous when the television repeats its performance. When Ed, the television serviceman, returns for the down payment, Kerry reveals he has only five dollars, and is unaware that he dropped the bill near the television. Ed intends to take back the set but finds the down payment, all in five dollar bills created by the television set, laid out on the floor. After the serviceman leaves, Kerry attempts to drink some coffee but the television set wobbles into the kitchen and zaps the cup, which disintegrates. The set then removes plates from the dishwasher and levitates them into a cupboard. When Kerry’s best friend Coach Trout visits, he makes fun of Kerry’s assertions about the television until he sees it in action. The two men then go to Coach’s house to drink, where the Coach attempts to psychoanalyze Kerry, but talks about himself instead. As the drunken Coach falls asleep, he mutters that the television is a “Twonky,” something that cannot be explained. After Kerry returns home he discovers that the Twonky controls the kind of music to which he may listen and shaves and grooms him as well. When Coach attempts to photograph the Twonky in action, however, the photograph develops as a picture of an infant with Coach’s head. Coach surmises that the robotic Twonky perceives Kerry as its master, but when he attempts to test the Twonky’s protective response by kicking Kerry, the Twonky paralyzes Coach’s leg and he is forced to convalesce in Kerry’s home. The Twonky later alters the lecture Kerry writes about individuality so that the next day, Kerry instead lectures about “Passion Through the Ages,” prompting his students to laugh uproariously until he runs from the room. Kerry angrily demands that the appliance store take back the television set, but the owner refuses on the grounds that only Caroline is his client. He does, however, agree to replace the set if it is defective. When Coach’s football players visit him he asks them to destroy the television, but the Twonky causes them to collapse unconscious. When they awaken, the students dazedly state that they have no complaints and leave. The television repairman returns with a new television set and is affected the same way as the students, after which the Twonky places a telephone call to the operator, identifying itself as a robot for the Bureau of Entertainment, and requests that a female blonde be sent to the house for its lonely proprietor. The shocked telephone operator presumes the location is a house of prostitution and contacts the vice squad. Coach, meanwhile, has learned from scientists that sentient robots have been sent to earth from the future. Coach hypothesizes that every home in the future will possess a similar Twonky which regulates the home according to the dictates of the government. When the Twonky directs a second beam at the repairman’s head, inducing a trance-like state, the man departs in a daze. Coach and Kerry decide to destroy the Twonky in order to save the future from government control, but the Twonky detects their threat and, after healing Coach’s leg, induces a trance that prompts him to leave. Before Coach can depart, however, the police break in to search for prostitutes and an agent from the Treasury Department arrives to investigate the counterfeit five dollar bills. Kerry attempts to explain what has happened but loses his patience. After the police turn the replacement television on and it displays regular programming, they attempt to arrest Kerry. The Twonky, which had been hiding behind a curtain, emerges and subdues them after which they leave with “no complaints.” After a distraught Kerry goes to Coach’s house, Caroline telephones while he is out. Caroline is alarmed when the Twonky answers the telephone and prepares to leave her sister’s house immediately. Late that night, when Kerry returns home drunk and the Twonky induces sobriety, Kerry retorts that he has the right to be wrong. Eloise, a female bill collector shows up demanding payment for the television and other unpaid department store bills. Because Kerry has no money and she refuses to leave without payment, Eloise spends the night in the house. The next day after Eloise has refused to accept the Twonky as payment, Kerry loudly proclaims that he is going to kill himself and leaves Eloise alone in the room. Moments later he hears Eloise cursing the television set and then screaming. Kerry finds only Eloise’s smoking clothes after which Caroline arrives demanding to know why a naked woman was running from their house. Caroline soon understands after Kerry demonstrates the Twonky’s strange abilities. He then attempts to get rid of the Twonky by claiming that he is going to a meeting in which he will re-write the Declaration of Independence. As expected, the Twonky accompanies him in the car. When Kerry tries to push the car off a cliff, however, the Twonky puts the car in reverse. Kerry then abandons the vehicle on a road and hitches a ride with an older woman, unaware that the Twonky has climbed into the trunk of her car. The woman’s erratic driving prompts the Twonky to push through the back seat and pull the emergency brake which causes a truck to crash into them. In the hospital, Caroline assures Kerry, who has numerous broken bones, that the Twonky was smashed to bits in the accident. However, when Coach arrives moments later with a television as a gift, Kerry becomes hysterical. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.