Henry Kuttner was one of the best short story writers of the 1950s Golden Age of magazine SF. Along with C. (for Catherine) L. Moore, often writing as “Lewis Padgett,” they produced some of the best stuff I ever read as a kid. Much of it was very, very funny.
I wish I could remember more about “The Twonky.” I liked the word enough that I used it in the early stages of writing my movie, Millennium. It meant something from the future left behind by a time traveler, something that could upset the normal course of history. I have the feeling that Kuttner’s (and Moore’s, though she is not credited) Twonky was a children’s toy from the future, but I can’t be sure of that. Whatever it was, they totally butchered it here. It might have made a good 30-minute Twilight Zone episode, but stretched to almost an hour and a half it is really, really bloated.
It stars a man I’ve always liked: Hans Conried. He did a lot of voice work, narrated a lot of Dr. Seuss cartoons, was Snidely Whiplash on “The Dudley Do-Right Show,” was in “Lost in Space.” He hosted one of my favorite obscure TV shows, “Fractured Flickers,” a Jay Ward production wherein they took old silent movies and made their own soundtracks, like Woody Allen did in What’s Up, Tiger Lily? He is criminally wasted here, the only one in sight with the least bit of talent.
Here the Twonky is a little TV set that interferes with his life. It stumbles around the house, manipulated by stagehands you can almost see from time to time. It lights his cigarettes, cleans his dishes, answers his phone with a monotone, robot voice. And it sobers him up instantly with a zap ray, and when anyone else threatens it, it zaps them and they stumble off muttering “I have no complaints.” With a little tighter editing it might have been mildly amusing, But it’s not. Not a single laugh.
The only other thing interesting about it is that it was directed by someone named Arch Oboler, famous for directing the very first 3D movie, Bwana Devil. I’ve never seen it, but I assume it’s very, very bad.