THE CLONES (1973) – This neglected sci-fi item from the 70s was directed by Lamar Card & Paul Hunt, based on Hunt’s story. The Clones falls into that category of films that I always refer to as “X-Movies” because of the way they put one in mind of the paranoid and conspiratorial air of the best X-Files episodes.
Michael Greene, who played Secret Service Agent Jimmy Hart in To Live and Die in L.A, stars as Dr Gerald Appleby. Gerald is a scientist who has been cloned and finds himself vying with his clone for ownership of his life, career and girlfriend when the duplicate begins impersonating him.
Gregory Sierra, best known to trivia buffs as “And Gregory Sierra” for the number of times he was credited like that in various television shows and movies, plays Nemo, a government agent tasked to keep the clone project a secret and bring in the escapee.
Helping him out is fellow agent Sawyer, portrayed by Otis Young (Blood Beach). Sawyer suffers a crisis of conscience during this coverup assignment.
Finding Nemo (see what I did there) to be confusing him with his clone (or is he), Dr Appleby must dodge the agent who is determined to bring him in dead or alive. A lengthy cat and mouse pursuit results, as the fugitive Gerald’s friends and loved ones find themselves caught up in a mess trying to determine which Appleby is real and which one the clone.
Stanley Adams, who played Cyrano Jones on the original Star Trek series, is a biologist colleague of Dr Appleby. John Drew Barrymore (Drew’s father) shows up as an undercover government agent and Hollywood midget Angelo Rossitto has a bizarre comedic cameo which utterly destroys the tone of a tense, pivotal scene late in the film.
The Clones is a very odd piece of work. Visually it is very, very impressive and keeps your eyes riveted to the screen. If this flick isn’t already used in film schools it SHOULD be as a wonderful example of the visual tricks of the trade.
However, the sound work is sometimes flat-out awful, including mismatched foley and an unintentionally hilarious bit where Stanley Adams’ character is mistakenly voiced by two different people in one scene.
The storyline too, while promising, winds up meandering too much and overdoes the chase element. It’s also overloaded with scenes where our hero accidentally knocks his head into objects, slowing him down or knocking him unconscious. It’s unintentionally comical and makes The Clones seem like it should be titled Bonk: The Motion Picture.
At one point various developments leave us viewers wondering if maybe the character we’ve been following from the beginning is actually the clone and the seeming “clone” is the real Dr Appleby. That intriguing possibility is ruled out way too quickly instead of being mined to add to the suspense.
SPOILERS: The biologist friend of Gerald’s turns out to be the main villain and the cloning operation is merely part of a larger plot involving controlled nuclear explosions causing tsunamis to wipe out major population centers.
Overall The Clones will leave your eyes very pleased but your ears annoyed at the gaffes and your brain irritated by the meandering storyline. +++
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