Friday, July 22, 2005

DVD: Clonus (1978)

Attractive young people clad in monochromatic running gear live in bliss and isolation, awaiting their chance to be sent to paradise. One of the innocents begins asking questions. When they’re not answered, he escapes into the outside world only to find somebody who looks an awful lot like him.

It’s not THE ISLAND, opening in theaters today, but CLONUS, aka PARTS: THE CLONUS HORROR, aka THE CLONUS HORROR. (I suppose the next release of the movie will be called HORROR. Or maybe just THE.) Reports of the similarities between these films have been circulating for weeks. But as long as I beat PARADE magazine, I’m content.

This is where I’m supposed to say that CLONUS outshines its big-budget competitor, that it’s a triumph of scrappy ingenuity. Sorry. ’tain’t. The fact that it’s been featured on MST3K is a dead giveaway. Director Robert S. Fiveson does what he can with limited resources, but the script is simply too thin. I’d prefer to see this story done on a grand scale with attractive stars like Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson.

Part of my problem is that the lead in CLONUS is Tim Donnelly, a member of the Jack Webb stable of players. He was a regular on EMERGENCY, but I know him from his numerous appearances on DRAGNET. In one episode he played Stanley Stover, a lonely geek who donned a homemade costume and fought crime as ‘The Crimson Crusader.’ Thanks to DRAGNET’s harshly clinical style, Stanley is one of the most pathetic characters I’ve ever encountered. So much so that I recoil whenever I see Donnelly in another role.

On the plus side, CLONUS does feature a true B-movie attitude toward nudity. Which THE ISLAND could have had but doesn’t, due to financial concerns over the movie’s rating. Sometimes capitalism simply doesn’t work.

According to the publicity material for THE ISLAND, director Michael Bay wants the movie to spark conversation. CLONUS certainly did the job around here. Assuming it were possible to develop a clone to be used for spare parts, I said I’d probably do it but would have moral qualms. Rosemarie said she’d have moral qualms but would probably do it. It’s the little differences that keep a marriage lively.