Thursday, March 28, 2013


A philosophy professor (Hans Conreid) bids farewell to his wife, who is off to visit her sister. As she leaves, she warns him that a new-fangled appliance, a television set, will be delivered soon. She hopes it will keep him company, but when it comes, it does more than that: it walks around, shoots a beam from its screen which lights his cigarette, puts dishes away, and produces a stack of dollar bills. It turns out the TV is inhabited by a spirit from the future and all it wants to do is meets Conreid's needs, even though Conreid is freaked out and keeps trying to get rid of it—as in the song, "The Cat Came Back," the TV keeps returning no matter what, even when Conreid puts it in a car and tries to drive it off a cliff.

The inspiration for this low-budget fantasy comes from a 1942 short story which focused on a walking radio. Perhaps ironically, the film has the look and feel of a TV show. Things begin well, with Conreid giving a relatively nuanced performance—in one of his rare leading roles—as a mildly absent-minded professor, and the potential for satire on the way in which television can take over our lives is present, but the movie takes a sharp turn for physical humor after the first half-hour and it goes downhill from there, playing out almost like a series of uninspired vaudeville sketches. The supporting cast is not strong; Janet Warren is OK as the wife, and it was fun to see Joan Blondell's sister Gloria in a small role as a sexy bill collector, but Billy Lynn drags down the proceedings (he was in his 60's at the time of filming and died before the movie came out) playing a college football coach who comes up with the name "Twonky"—a name to use when you don't know any other name—and who, through bizarre plot machinations, winds up sleeping over in Conreid's house. This leads to one of the better scenes, in which four husky football players try to destroy the TV and wind up almost zombified, each chanting, "I’ve got no complaints." The Twonky itself (pictured above left) is a cheap puppet-like prop; it's fun to watch for a few minutes, but it quickly wears out its welcome. Conreid (at right) a very familiar TV face, tries his best and is the main reason to see this oddity. [TCM]

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