The Electric Grandmother

When a family survives the loss of their grandmother, a tangible gap is left. Then comes the day that a helicopter drops packets inscribed with the names of the three children. When properly aligned, they form a golden heart. An advertisement for Fantoccini electronics, he family is drawn to the unlikely warehouse to find that their beloved grandmother can be returned as a robotic simulacrum. But when the electric grandmother is delivered in a golden sarcophagus, it is clear that it is the memory of the woman and not the person herself who has returned. But… is that a bad thing?

First adapted for the Twilight Zone, this version was distributed to public schools in the US. Starring veteran actress of stage and screen Maureen Stapleton, the program is saturated in whimsy and fantasy. It’s interesting to see science fiction concepts such as robotics presented in a manner more becoming of a children’s fable. The film’s science mainly consists of weird lights and sounds, but when you are dealing with a story in which robots are custom-made and delivered by helicopter… where do you draw the line?

I have nothing against Ray Bradbury, but as I was bombarded with his writing during my childhood, his material has never really held any strong pull for me. I can recognize his importance, but I’d rather read some Philip K Dick or Mick Farren, to be honest. The sincerity of this story makes me feel like I’m from another planet. The world seems to begin and end with the grandmother. I miss my own grandma, but I just can’t see deifying her in this way. The robotic simulation can produce hot cocoa at a moment’s notice from her finger tip and play back any event through a speaker concealed in her palm. But none of these abilities can convince the young Agatha that this apparent resurrection is anything other than a sham.

The purpose of the Electric Grandmother is almost cryptic as it defies the purpose of grief and instead offers up a miraculous cure all that neither withers nor wanes. It’s so sweet and sincere that you can’t fault it for much, even the vagueness of several details is also weird but again fitting with the tone.

All but forgotten, I was able to catch a special showing of this and two other short films at the local natural science museum. It was heartening to experience so many people enjoying these oddities, almost as one. It’s an amazing accomplishment of the work that it was able to appeal to such a varied audience amid the glamour of big budget sci-fi epics.

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