The Clones (1973)
WRITER: Screenplay by Steve Fisher
Original story by Paul Hunt and Lamar Card
DIRECTOR: Paul Hunt and Lamar Card
STARRING: Michael Greene as Dr. Gerald Appleby
Gregory Sierra as Nemo
Otis Young as Sawyer
Susan Hunt as Penny
Stanley Adams as Carl Swafford
John Barrymore Jr. as Brooks Brothers Hippy
QUICK CUT: A scientist narrowly escapes a lab accident, but soon discovers there is someone running around with his face. It's a running chase to figure out what's going on, before someone catches up with him and makes sure there's no duplicates.
Gerald Appleby - A scientist working on fusion reactors, who finds himself getting cloned one day. He's a good guy, with a good job, who stumbles into this whole thing. The best part is, he's an action scientist!! He can throw a punch as well as he can balance an equation!
Gerald Apple-B - A clone of a scientist who's just trying to find his place in the world, who really should've gotten more screentime.
Gerald Apple-C - Another clone that...naw, I'm just funnin' with ya. The third clone is only seen briefly being grown on a slab in a chamber.
Nemo and Sawyer - The two government thugs who are chasing Appleby throughout the movie. One is a bit unstable with anger management issues, the other is starting to think it's time to let things go and find a new line of work. Together, they fight clones!
Carl Swafford - A colleague of Gerald's who just so happens to be working on a project involving cloning. I wonder if he has anything to do with Appleby's problem?
THE GUTS: Psst. Hey. Hey you. Yeah, over here. Hey. I've got some people after me, but before they disappear me, there's something you need to know. There's a secret conspiracy going on right underneath your noses, involving clones. You don't think cloning a human is possible? Huh? Yeah, that's what they WANT you to think. They've been trying to keep this secret for over forty years, but I recently uncovered the truth. Our entire way of life is being controlled by...The Clones.
Well...this is not the movie I was expecting to do today, but when a Mysterious Stranger handed me this DVD of a movie I'd never heard of, and with the truths it reveals, I had to pull an emergency change in the schedule. It's also been awhile since we've done a straight up Sci-File, and this was as good/bad a choice as any. I had The Clones planned for later in the summer, but it looks like Mister Sinister got his batch done early, and here we are.
The movie starts off with a block of text that is fortunately read off to us because yellow text against sand is a pain. It explains what cloning is, because in 1973, nobody had a clue. Oh, and human cloning might be possible within 25 years...which was in 1998. Still waiting...
As the credits roll, we watch as Dr. Appleby fiddles with his equipment of classic 1970s era computers. And oh, I could gush endlessly about how much I love how clunky and unwieldy tech was back then. The giant tapes spinning around, all the blinky lights, and dials, and switches, and just plain realness of it all. Oh, and Nixie tubes!! I love Nixie tubes!!
There's also an ominous voice commenting that it's time for the systems to malfunction, and the gigantic mainframes dutifully begin to explode, spark, and most worryingly, BEEP FURIOUSLY WITH MUCH ANGER.
Applebees tries to deal with the flaming dessert, but armed men try and grab him. And thus, the running commences. This movie has a LOT of running, so get comfortable, and pour a tall drink. We start off with running through a tight corridor lined with gigantic pipes. The classic of any good hallway chase.
He climbs out of an escape hatch, and begins running through a field of tall plants, trying to escape. He passes out briefly, and soon makes his way to the parking lot, where he sees someone steal his car. Which is just going to lead to more running, I know it.
The doc makes his way to the front gate where the guard acts like he just drove by, wondering how he got back at the Secret College Lab behind them. Appleby yells at him, and gets a new car so he can head to his home.
When he gets there, Gerald runs into his housekeeper? I dunno, but she also acts confused because he was just there, with his car, and called a guy, then rushed off. But Gerald has no memory of such things!
He next heads to his girlfriend's place and oh! There he is! And when I say there he is, I literally mean, there's Doctor Appleby running into another Doctor Appleby! They should start a chain of restaurants.
I appreciate not wasting any time and diving right in, leaving no mystery to this. We all know WHY people are seeing multiple Applebys, no need to drag the thing out.
Gerry grabs his keys, reclaiming his car, and tries to head back to work and figure out what's going on, but he gets pulled over and immediately arrested, because some government agents are hunting him down and have him held for disappearment.
The agents Nemo and Sawyer show up to claim their chicken fried steak, and take him to meet one of his colleagues, Fred. Who is unfortunately in on the evil cloning plot.
Fred calls in the stooges to take care of the double Appleby problem, but Gerald ducks out through an improbably small and convenient door. And now we're running again, down a fire escape this time.
Which leads from running down a fire escape (With spiral staircase!!) to running through the campus he's on, to running through a classroom where he panics the students to try and stall the agents giving chase, to more running through the campus, and eventually and inevitably, as these things go, running along rooftops.
Gerald reaches the end of a rooftop, and stares forlorny at other rooves he can't quite jump to, and the ground far below. Oh, if only parkour won't be invented for another 30 years.
He actually manages to climb over a ledge where he dangles just out of sight, and Nemo can't see where he's escaped to, so they give up the chase for now.
Meanwhile, back with Apple-B, he's hanging out with his girlfriend, when Fred calls him and tells him to kill the other guy. He wonders why, and gee, maybe because two guys that are exactly the same is a problem, even if there isn't some government conspiracy afoot.
The original flavour mozzarella stick heads to another colleague to try and get some help, but it seems like every single person Gerry knows is in on this, so Swafford tries to drug the doctor.
Gerald overpowers Swafford, but not before he gets injected with the drug and stumbles around for a bit, which is at least a change up from running.
But after he stumbles into like three different carts of experiment ready animals, Gerry continues his aimless stumbling wanderings outside, and eventually crashes into a ditch and passes out.
When he wakes up, he sees the tunnel he ran out of earlier, and runs down the road back to the lab he exploded in earlier.
But Nemo and Sawyer are waiting for him, arguing over whether or not they should kill the guy, or just bring him in. Who do you think you guys are, Jules and Vincent from Pulp Fiction??
Nemo tries to take a shot when he sees Appleby's head poke through the brush, and hey! More running! And chasing with a car!
The doctor escapes into some tall grassy marshland, where the agents can't follow with their truck, and have to continue on foot. Nemo gets in a lucky shot of I think Gerald's *hand* of all things, and he starts to pass out.
Before he can take a nice nap on a rock pillow though, he keeps sneaking through the marsh, while Nemo takes occasional pot shots at rabbits left over from Night of the Lepus.
Gerry manages to get behind Nemo, and clonk him over the head with a log, and he grabs the agent's gun and runs off some more.
Sawyer grabs his pal, and while Nemo doesn't wanna let the guy escape, he's clearly in no shape, and Sawyer's not feeling it, so Gerald escapes into a conveniently passing RV filled with drugs and hippies.
After a brief flashback to Appleby under some heatlamps and surgery, we cut back to Apple-B, because right, we need to be reminded there's two of them. And the clone is having a great time with the girlfriend.
If the running wasn't bad enough, whatever the hippies gave Gerry for his pain, is making him trip balls before waking up in a hospital.
There's another friend there who actually isn't in on whatever the plot is, just like the rest of us! But when he leaves the hospital room to try and help Gerald, he runs into Swafford and the goon squad.
Nemo seems to have replaced his gun, and does some hilarious searching the rooms to kill some more movie runtime. I'm surprised we didn't see Appleby running out of the hospital.
Gerald sneaks off to Swafford's lab and runs into Apple-B. They have a brief philosophical discussion about clones and memories and which is real etc etc. All while Apple-3 is being grown in a chamber next to them.
Swafford returns to his lab, and Gerald stuffs him and his clone into a closet, while an errant gunshot damages the equipment and kills yet another clone being grown, Gerald Apple-3.
Our hero, and I use that term with great reluctance, grabs some research notes and rushes off to find a payphone, which gets accosted by a dwarf who also needs to use the phone.
And in that instant, "The Clones" briefly enters "What even IS this movie?!" territory. I mean...what? Was that necessary? What??
Now that he has proof of the cloning procedures, Appleby calls a friend in the government and they arrange to meet at the airport when he flies into town. Because this clearly can't backfire.
As he drives to the airport, Nemo and Sawyer show up, because we haven't had any chasing in a good ten minutes or so. At least it's not running.
Shooting at cars on dangerous blind curves lead to the inevitable car crash, where Gerald bails out and rolls down the hill, and his car explodes for no apparent reason. Because even as far back as 1973, that was a thing. Is this the very first nonsensical car explosion?
They stupidly assume Gerald probably went boom with the car, while he sneaks off on the van that caused him to swerve into the ditch in the first place.
Oh, and it turns out the clone now knows what's going on, and HE is on the run too, so they've gotta grab him now as well. So, whatever this plot is, requires the clones not being aware? That...will make less sense shortly.
Gerry meets up with his girlfriend, who says she realises he's the real deal, and they talk about clones. There's a point where he gets angry with her for not understanding what was going on, because she supposedly knew about the experiments.
Dude, it took YOU half the movie to realise there was a clone of you running around, so don't go being a jerk to her for not getting it right away!! You were in the dark, and YOU are the scientist!!
Gerald finally arrives at the local airport, and finds out his government buddy got shot down by missiles because he flew 'over a restricted area'. Uh huh, sure he did.
A pilot offers Gerry and Penny a flight back to town, but surprise! He leads them into the hands of Nemo and Sawyer instead, and they punch up Gerry a bit.
Nemo drives off with the plate of endless appetizers for an executional in the middle of nowhere, and Gerry actually gives him a bit of a fight.
It may be absurd for a doctor who spends all day in the lab to even have a chance against a trained CIA agent or whatever Nemo is, but screw it. ACTION SCIENTIST!!
After taking care of the agent, Gerald heads off to the location where Penny stashed the new franchise, and the pair have another chat, eventually deciding to team up for great justice.
The clonenamic duo head back to someone's lab, and see a collection of scientists that Gerry recognises as some of the top weather experts in the world.
And this is where Orphan Bland's plot goes off the rails.
See, they cloned the scientists, and Gerald, to control the weather. Because whomever controls the weather, controls the world. Okay, that's fine I suppose, if a bit complex. Weather manipulation has a long history in scifi and action movies. But why Gerald?
Because they need fusion reactors for their weather control doomsday weapons or whatever nonsense, and Appleby is the ONLY scientist in the world who can control them. And that's dubious bullshit plot point #1. No one else on his team? No other scientist in the world working on it that could get caught up? No one anywhere that couldn't study diagrams and papers to work the equipment?
Sigh, whatever, okay, but why clones? Well, that's because the facility they're in can only control a small area of weather, so the plan is to create 52 separate stations like this across the globe, all manned by the same people. And that's dubious bullshit plot point #2.
Won't that be noticed? 52 copies of the same person? Won't they run into each other eventually? Or look suspicious when 52 Gerald Applebys try to apply for a credit card?
And dubious bullshit plot point #3...the clones need to not be in on what happened to them, right? So they think they're the original? But how do you just grab four guys, let alone over 200, and get them ALL to do your bidding in your global weather domination plot?
Hell, global weather domination is absurd to begin with, not to mention how we get from there to "And we'll staff them with CLONES!!" Not just one kind of bullshit science, but TWO kinds of bullshit science! THREE if you count the fact that the clones are fully grown and with complete memory sets.
The movie just gleefully rocketed off into "And our plot instantly becomes a convoluted mess of intricacies that can go wrong at every turn"! Well, let those turnings begin.
Making 52 of anything never goes well, anyways. What are you trying to do, make an entire chain of Applebys??
They kill off the clones in this lab, and Swafford shows up. Gerald says the jig is up, the clones are dead, but you can all see the problem here, right? The entire plan hinges on clones! Clones everywhere! And I absolutely love that Swafford is all, "Pffff, kill all you want, we'll make more."
Because seriously, if your plan is already all about making clones, killing off a handful ain't gonna matter a damn.
Action Scientist beats up Swafford and finds out where they're holding Penny...and it's off to the fair! And if that sounds like a jarring change of pace as the movie changes locales, you aren't hearing the jaunty music they play to go there after clone deaths.
Gerald and Apple-B crash into the Fun Zone to try and rescue Penny, and the entire crew comes rushing out with guns to try and stop the clones.
Swafford and Nemo escape, and of course, there's lots of running around the amusement park. I'd almost thought the movie had forgotten its main gimmick. I am honestly surprised at their restraint at staying out of the Hall of Mirrors. A guy literally passes a sign for the Hall of Mirrors, glances, and moves on.
You just know this was the entire reason this scene was made, right? Someone said, "Okay, we're gonna do a clone movie, but what if we end it...at an amusement park!! We can do an entire clone thing with symbolism in the Hall of Mirrors!!"
I mean, you're doing clones, you're at the amusement park, there's the mirrors RIGHT there...how does that scene NOT happen?? It HAD to be the original plan, the sole reason we are currently at an amusement park in the FIRST place, right?? Someone clearly looked at the budget, leaned over to the producers and went, "Ummm, we actually can't afford any broken mirrors with our remaining money. Do something else."
Lots of redshirts get killed as the Applebys rampage through the park, and this does NOT seem like a very Fun Zone at ALL to me. Oh, and Apple-B gets shot in the carnage. Which is a shame. The alternate version never really got any screentime worth a damn, and it would've been good to see his side of the story, and how he pieced together the diabolical weather plot.
After Nemo shoots Sawyer while his partner tries to protect Penny from Nemo's rampaging anger, everything leads to one of the greatest shootouts in film history. Don't agree with me? Come on, fight me.
We didn't get a chase through a funhouse, so what DID they do instead, now that they already had the Fun Zone location secured?
Gerald Appleby vs. Nemo...on a roller coaster. Yes, that actually happens. It looks incredibly dangerous, and I doubt they bothered with the level of safety we do today. Oh, and there's also hand grenades that Nemo keeps throwing at Appleby as he tries to run around the structure of the roller coaster on the ground.
Yes, lobbing hand grenades at the underlying structure of the thing you're clacking around in. That's smart.
But it finally ends, as it must, with Nemo getting shot in the head, but not before he finally kills Penny.
So the movie ends as it began, with more running, leading up to Swafford getting shot, and I suppose that ends the weather domination plot and cloning, right?
WRONG!! Because Swafford CLONED HIMSELF. And the clone pops up out of nowhere to presumably kill Appleby, because that's when the credits roll, after he shoots right at the camera, killing the movie makers, the audience, and anyone who could possibly know about this diabolical plot. Nobody wins, the clones are everywhere, and the weather is now in their hands! We're doomed, DOOMED!!
That's right, their plans were not stopped. Why do you think the weather has been getting progressively stranger and more aggressive over the last decade? It's Swafford and his clones. They are at the center of it all. Someone tried to get the truth out in 1973, but with this movie going completely unnoticed for all these years, they've been able to quietly build more and more of their weather control stations, and perfect the process.
You know the truth now. Even if they make me go away, this review will remain as a testament to their plan, and it will spread, and grow, and they can finally be stopped. You can't stop the signal, you cannot silence the reviewer, the truth is out there! No give up, never surrender! No surrender, no retreat! If you buy five, the next one's free!
Video: Definitely in the "I've seen worse" category. For an unknown 1970s flick, it's quite bearable.
Audio: The sound on this is borderline terrible. The mono track is okay, but it's really quiet, and I had to crank the audio up more than I like. Not as bad as Blood Beat, but in that area.
Sound Bite: "You stole my face, my car, my wallet, my clohtes, and now my girl?? Well, I got two of 'em back! I'll be back for the other three!" Appleby has his priorities straight, at least.
Body Count: Y'know, I went into this thinking, "Well, it's a scifi movie, so there won't be a high body count this time out!" And for 85% of the movie, that was true. But then we rocket into that final act in the Fun Zone, and you know what happened? The Clones walks away with a higher body count than some of the legit horror movies we've looked at.
1 - The poor government guy who was friends with Gerald gets his plane shot down off camera.
2 - The Geralds kill four cloned scientsits deep into the end of the movie.
3 through 6 - One of Swafford's goons gets killed and tumbled around the amusement park's funhouse.
7 - Another gets shot off some scaffolding
8 - Yet another is shot near a ferris wheel.
9 - One more goon gets killed off a ride.
10 - But not before he also kills Apple-B
11 - Sawyer dies while protecting Penny from an angry Nemo.
12 - Penny finally gets killed by Nemo
13 - And Nemo is killed in revenge by Appleby.
14 - Swafford finally gets killed by Gerald.
15 - But then Gerald is killed...by the Swafford clone!!
Best Corpse: There's this one random guy who gets killed in one of those spinning sideways circular tunnels you see in funhouses, right? And they keep cutting back to his body rolling around as it spins, and that's hilarious.
Blood Type - F: I honestly don't remember even a drop of blood.
Sex Appeal: Less boobs than blood, even.
Drink Up! Every time there's running. You saw this coming.
Video Nasties: I'm doing another rare two-fer this month, because I really couldn't decide. First up, I am going to let someone in the movie try and explain the movie, because this is a doozy, and y'all deserve to hear this without my yelling at it.
Secondly, and you can probably guess what gem of a moment I want to share, is the roller coaster chase. This needs to be preserved for future generations to witness, even if the rest of this movie is swept under the rug by the government once more.
Movie Review: Okay, first up, this movie is padded with a lot of running, and that roller coaster scene is a lot of whooshing around with zero dialogue. The movie is *very* dialogue light, but that's not a bad thing, per se. But it can make for a long time where you're reaching for that fast forward button. Besides that, the plot, as bizarre as it is, starts out pretty well. The acting is pretty decent, for this sort of film, and probably above average even. But it feels like the easy way out for a clone movie to take, to have the guy discover he's a clone, and then run around for 90 minutes. The whole clone thing is barely a real notion in the movie, and it feels like there were more ideas than they could get around to doing. Still, it's a competent enough movie, with a (mostly) okay idea, and a nicely dark ending. Three out of five Applebys.
Entertainment Review: While yes, the pace is slow, and running does not quite mean action packed, there's something about this movie I liked. At least, until that final WTF reveal of the full evil plot. I take this movie for what it is, a 1973 attempt at an actiony scifi movie, that pulls off some fun bits, with a limited budget. For what it did, at the time, it's very watchable, and has that nice charm of older movies. Heck, the movie has more going for it than other movies from the time I also enjoyed, like Gargoyles. It's not great, or badly great, but it's very watchable with a few scattered moments of "What?!" and the roller coaster. Seriously, if you watch nothing else in the movie, the last 30 minutes or so makes up for the slowness of the first hour. Three out of five Apple-Bs.