Parts - The Clonus Horror (1979) a.k.a. Clonus

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Parts - The Clonus Horror (1979) a.k.a. Clonus

Post  BoG on Mon Apr 12, 2010 3:32 pm

A low-budget entry of the seventies exploring the possible evils of the new cloning technology; there were a couple of TV movies (Clone Master) about cloning made about the same time, as well as the big budget The Boys From Brazil (1978).  This small effort actually ends up presenting a more insidious picture of such technology. The first half takes place at a secret location, in the middle of a sparsely-populated region of California. The area resembles a college campus.

The 'students' are, however, clones - though they themselves don't know this. They are created and raised to believe that, after the proper teaching & training, each will go off to the mythical land of America. The clones are supervised by a security force, which is itself regulated by a group of scientists (headed by Dick Sargent, best known for his role in the Bewitched TV series). Many of these clones are purposely damaged during gestation so that they are mildly retarded or 'out of it.'  Some, for whatever reason, like Richard (Tim Donnelly), retain their intelligence. Richard begins to question some things about this whole set-up after accidentally running into a female clone (Paulette Breen) and finding a beer can which has floated in.
Richard eventually escapes after finding out the true fate of all the clones and makes his way to a nearby town. He's taken in by an old reporter (Keenan Wynn) and his wife, and soon makes the acquaintance of his older self, Professor Richard Knight (David Hooks). The only reason for Richard the clone's existence is to eventually provide replacement organs to the older 'real' Richard. The twist here is that the old Richard was not aware of this; it was Richard's brother, a corrupt politician (Peter Graves), who is involved in this secret on-going project.

BELOW: Frank Ashmore, who has a small role as one of the clones, is best known for his regular role as one of the good Visitors on the mini-series and series V (1983-1984).
This small film was originated by writer Robert Sullivan, director Robert Fiveson and producer Michael Lee, who managed to gather about $250,000 in funds to produce it. Sullivan wrote it in 1975 while a student at UCLA. Fiveson became involved soon after and Lee really got the film going in 1978. Unable to afford much pay to actors, they managed to get actors like Graves & Wynn interested in the script and also with the prospect of only a couple of days work; Graves, for example, worked the days into his vacation at the time.
There are obvious drawbacks to a low-budget film such as this, including the nearly-amateurish acting in some scenes. However, some of the criticism is unwarranted: the clones are intended to be naive, childlike and clueless, so much of their behavior is actually consistent with the premise. They are supposed to come across as a bit dopey, to the extent that Fiveson even instructed the actors on special blinking eye movements. The film also scores a triumph in finding two actors who truly do look like a younger and older version of the same person (Donnelly and Hooks); no old age make-up was needed in this case.

What makes this a bit more sophisticated than the usual low budget sf fare is the presentation of the faux social utopia inhabited by the clones; it ends up a commentary on socialism & communism - the populace are all nearly mindless clones. Some of the story veers towards a horror-like tone as its revealed how the clones are merely living vessels of meat for a select elite and there's then the conspiracy angle, in which the rich & powerful will obviously go to any extreme to keep this all a secret and on-going. BoG's Score: 6 out of 10


Cloned Trivia: This film gained some measure of fame much later, unexpectedly, when The Island (2005) came out; The Island turned out to be an unauthorized remake of this, so Fiveson sued and was awarded an undisclosed sum out of court.
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