With the new movie Replicas starring Keanu Reeves opening this weekend I thought a themed entry regarding cloning would be a good idea. Replicas is about a man repeatedly attempting to clone his dead family members and it put me in the mind of how movies have dealt with the issue of cloning. It turns out, aside from several classy documentaries on the issue, narrative fiction has mostly steered clear.
For the most part, cloning has been relegated to the dregs of the sci-fi genre with few serious looks at the issue and plenty of schlocky nonsense. This brought me to the 1973 sci-fi flick The Clones, directed by Lamar Card and Paul Hunt and starring Michael Greene and Gregory Sierra. Why The Clones? Mostly because it was available on Amazon Prime but also because it had a strikingly surreal poster that you can see here, on the film’s IMDB page.
The Clones stars Michael Greene as scientist Dr Gerard Appleby, Gerry to his friends and colleagues. We meet Gerry as someone is watching him work in his nondescript lab on something vaguely scientific that the film doesn’t bother to describe. Something goes wrong and Gerry is forced to flee for his life. The film is so clumsy about what has taken place that it only occurred to me as I write this that someone intended for Gerry to die in this lab accident.
When Gerry does escape he sees some leaving in his car. When he makes it to the nearby security office for his lab facility, the guard is surprised to see him… again. According to the security guard, Gerry had just left driving Gerry’s car. When Gerry arrives back at his office on the campus of the Pacific Institute of Technology, his assistant tells him that he’d just been there and that he’d just called campus security before he’d left. She appears convinced that Gerry has sudden onset Alzheimer's.
Finally, Gerry returns to the home of his girlfriend, Karen (Barbara Bergdorf), and has his most unusual encounter yet. In Karen’s kitchen is Gerry, or at least, a perfect copy of Gerry who has Gerry’s wallet, ID, memories and personality. Our Gerry flees the scene, recovering his car and wallet only to be stopped by police and taken to the campus security office where a pair of FBI agents are waiting to take him into custody for a crime they refuse to reveal. Gerry manages to escape and thus begins one of The Clones’ interminably long chase scenes.
The Clones packs its 97 minute runtime with a great deal more running, jumping and chasing than anything to do with cloning. If you are thinking that you are going to watch The Clones and find out why the government suddenly wanted Gerry dead and replaced with a clone you can forget it. The filmmakers apparently believe that being as vague as possible is a substitute for drama. Unfortunately, the clumsy scripting makes it appear that they simply never had a clue how this story was to play out.
Michael Greene isn’t exactly your classically handsome and charismatic leading man. He’s wiry and being forced to run for most of the movie, he looks kind of odd. We never really get a chance to connect with Gerry because the silly plot, rather than being about sci-fi and cloning is more about action movie chases that are desperately overlong and silly. One has Gerry being chased through a swamp and has him slip his captors by hiding in a tree in plain sight.
The final chase scene and shootout is set in an amusement park for reasons that only the filmmakers understand. This leads to an amazingly dumb payoff wherein the lead government good, played by future Hill Street Blues supporting cast member, Gregory Sierra, attempts to hunt Gerry down and avoid Gerry at the same time by boarding a rollercoaster. The director then shows us a sign that says ‘No Standing on the Ride’ but fails to pay off the scene with a clever decapitation.
Then again, everything about The Clones is disappointing so why should that ending be anything other than a disappointment. Am I glad I spent time watching The Clones? Eh, it’s bad but in a somewhat enjoyable fashion. I was certainly laughing at the movie and not with it but I did have kind of a good time. I don’t recommend it but if you are, for some reason, looking for movies about cloning, The Clones is a movie that has clones in it. So there’s that.
At the very least, The Clones is available at no extra charge to Amazon Prime members.