Apr 18, 2018
Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979) (part 3 of 7)
We cut to a phone booth. Oops, I guess this is supposed to be the “Confessional”. I don’t know what comes to most people’s minds when they hear the word “confessional”, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a clear glass box out on the side of the road. Regardless, there’s a long line for the Confessional, and Richard is up next.
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He runs into the booth and puts on a pair of headphones. He hits a button marked “confessional” and a computer starts up. (By the way, the shot of Richard hitting the “confessional” button has quite obviously been filmed somewhere else.) Richard spells out the word “Milwaukee” and asks to know what it means. The computer (which, naturally, can talk) replies that it “appears to be some sort of nonsense spelling”. Richard insists that Dr. Jameson said it came from the river. After a brief pause, the computer replies that there is a “rare kind of mineral, called Mill-Wah-Kee” that can only be found in certain parts of the river.
When Richard asks if “Mill-Wah-Kee” can be found in America, the computer replies no. Actually, I think most Americans, when asked, would deny the existence of Milwaukee. Richard, dejected, takes off the headphones and walks out of the phone booth, er, I mean, Confessional.
2005 Comments: Well, I hate to kill the joke, but the shot of the “Confessional” button being pushed is obviously supposed to be in one of the Clonus control rooms. When I looked closely at the image on the DVD, I saw other buttons on the panel labeled “game field” and “rooms”. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t make fun of how it’s a poorly-disguised soundboard, or how abruptly it’s edited into the footage of Richard in the phone booth—er, Confessional. And this shot brings up other questions. Like, what did pushing the button accomplish? Did it make the Confessional change its answer? If so, that’s odd, because the shot of the button occurs way before the Confessional even gives its first answer.
We cut to Lena who, once again, is riding her bike with a big group. Oddly, Lena is the only one in the pack not wearing a helmet (This could actually explain a lot of things about her). Richard is up in a tree [?] watching them pass.
Just as Lena cruises past, Richard secretly drops a note into the basket on the front of her bike. And that sound you hear, by the way, is George Orwell spinning in his grave fast enough to burrow a hole to the center of the earth. (It’s also hard not to notice that, conveniently, she’s the only one with a basket on the front of her bike.) Lena looks up and sees Richard, but pretends not to notice as she rides off.
Later, Lena and her group are all sitting in a clearing. Apparently, they’ve decided their Adidas outfits don’t quite look stupid enough, and they’ve all put on hats like the kind Bob Denver used to wear on Gilligan’s Island. Lena is reading Richard’s note when a guide comes along and blows a whistle. Lena is startled and shoves the note down the front of her shorts [!]. Memo to the costume designer: Pockets. Add pockets.
It turns out that Richard’s note was a request for the two of them to meet. We know this because in the next scene, Richard and Lena are meeting at a farm [?]. They’re holding hands (Hey, why waste time?) as they walk into a nearby barn.
Lena wants to know why Richard brought her here, and he explains that there’s something “different” about her. “Your eyes,” Richard says. “They’re so alive!” This is not the description that immediately comes to my mind. Nevertheless, she replies that she noticed the same thing about him, too. Richard says that he even asked the Confessional about all of this, and the Confessional told him it was all part of “The Plan.” And then it asked him to deposit fifteen cents for the next five minutes.
Richard asks Lena when she’s going to America. She responds, “No one knows. We go when it’s time.” Richard says, “Yeah. That’s what they tell us. Constantly.” So why did you ask her in the first place, you moron?
Lena then mentions that she likes to write down her “thoughts” and “ideas”, and that this barn was her “special place for writing”. She suddenly gets sad because they’re not supposed to be talking like this. Richard wonders why, and in response she tells a long, pointless story about one of her ex-boyfriends, a guy named Alan.
Apparently, Alan was “beautiful” because “his hair was like the sun and his eyes were green”. I guess she was serious when she said she was a writer. Richard says, “I never heard anybody talk like that before!” Well, I certainly have, but illicit drugs were usually involved.
Lena continues her story. “Well, [Alan] was a friend, and we were in love”, and when it was time to go America, she asked if Alan could stay. The Powers That Be said no, so she asked if she could go to America with him. That idea got nixed too. Finally, they said Alan didn’t have to go to America after all. If you’re not following any of this, don’t worry. This exchange of dialogue will never be referenced again.
Long story short, Alan disappeared, and no one knows where he is. According to Lena, “not even his roommate”. Well, say no more. No, I mean it: say no more. Stop talking!
Richard chooses to pay no attention to me, and says, “What must be, must be.” Lena snaps that she’s sick of hearing that, even though this is the first and only time we’ll hear it said in the movie. This surprises Richard, and he’s amazed that someone’s questioning the rules. He, too, is not so sure about the whole “what must be, must be” concept, but before he ruminates too long on the subject, Lena quickly puts a kibosh on the whole conversation. She reminds Richard that they’re not supposed to be talking about this kind of stuff.
Richard points out it doesn’t matter, because they’re all alone. She says, “You know, you’re right!” This immediately lets us know that he’s completely wrong. Richard says he loves it when she laughs (this is the first time he’s heard her laugh, by the way). Naturally, this instantly leads to them making out, and soon there’s a slow fade to them doing some naked groping by the campfire.
2005 Comments: Of all the scenes in the film, it appears this was the most difficult for director Fiveson. Not for any technical reasons, but because right before the shoot, the two actors refused to come out of their trailers. Donnelly’s reasons aren’t explained on the DVD, but it seems Paulette Breen (who was Miss Illinois USA in 1971, by the way) was concerned that the producers would cut frames from her nude scene and sell them to a skin mag overseas! Eventually, Fiveson got them to cooperate, but I’m sure that’s why this ended up as one of the tamest sex scenes in any “horror” film ever released. I mean, episodes of NYPD Blue are more explicit than this. And in my web searching, I just happened to come across this page that shows us a comic book public service announcement from a 1964 issue of Jimmy Olsen, featuring none other than a youthful Ms. Breen herself. It seems her reluctance to film a nude scene makes a lot more sense when put into the proper perspective.
After a few seconds, we cut to the afterglow. Richard starts babbling in a way that, in general, only women feel obliged to do after sex. (C’mon, ladies, you know it’s true.) “See those stars up there?” he asks. Lena, however, does not look up. He continues nevertheless, saying that he used to feel like he was “a million miles out in space” before he met Lena. We cut to a TV monitor in the control room, which is showing Richard and Lena from exactly the same angle as we were just watching them. And this is way too much like that part in Spaceballs where they find a copy of the movie they’re in.
We hear Richard on the monitor insisting he no longer feels isolated. “You know why?” We don’t find out the answer, because Bald Scientist Guy, apparently as bored with this tableau as those of us in the audience, pushes a button and shuts off the sound.
Jameson and Bald Scientist Guy just happen to have a visitor in their control room. Yep, it’s just about time for a big load of exposition. Jameson is explaining the inner workings of their colony, which is called, you guessed it, “Clonus”. Hmm, let’s see. You’ve got a secret commune of clones being raised for the sole purpose of organ harvesting. What do you call this top secret area? Ah, yes, “Clonus”. Good thing these jokers aren’t in charge of Area 51. It might well be called “Uncle Sam’s Home for Wayward Extraterrestrials” by now.
Jameson tells the visitor that “nothing happens at Clonus by accident.” Unless it’s a can of Old Milwaukee falling into the river, or two “controls” bumping into each other. But other than that, no accidents. According to Jameson, every step of the clones’ development is “planned and programmed”. We then learn that Richard and Lena are “controls” because they have “normal and above-normal intelligence”. I’ll just leave it to the reader to ponder the frightening implications of that statement.
The others are not as smart, according to Jameson, because a “virus is dropped into the original clone cell at the time of its inception [sic], which causes its mental abilities to be impaired while it’s cultured, and which causes the slow eye movement [?].” That’s all well and good, but I’m left wondering what causes the “slow plot movement”.
2005 Comments: Here’s another moment that makes a lot more sense once you’ve seen the DVD extras. Apparently, Fiveson instructed all the actors playing clones to do a special “clone blink”. Instead of blinking normally, they were supposed to hold their eyes closed for a full second before opening them again, to give the impression of being bred to be mentally deficient. I never noticed the “clone blink” in all of my previous viewings of this movie, but once I knew about it, it’s pretty obvious and hard to miss. In fact, there’s a scene much later where the “clone blink” kind of adds an amusing layer to the proceedings. Anyway, this is what Jameson was referring to when he talked about “the slow eye movement”.
Jameson then goes on to explain that controls are kept isolated, because if they met they “could feasibly present difficulty”. However, Bald Scientist Guy chimes in that having Richard and Lena meet is “harmless”, because Richard is scheduled to go to “America” in two weeks. Look, this whole “America” thing is laughable even when they’re telling it to the clones. Is it really necessary to keep up the pretense with a visitor?
Eventually, we learn that the mysterious visitor is (brace yourselves) a U.S. senator. The senator is heavily abusing some kind of illegal substance, or at least that’s what I assume, because he actually asks to hear more of what Richard and Lena are talking about. Bald Scientist Guy punches some buttons, but can’t eavesdrop, because there’s a Plot Contrivance in the system. Jameson leads the senator out, but pokes his head back into the room to yell at Bald Scientist Guy to “get that fixed!” By the way, here’s where we finally find out Bald Scientist Guy’s name: Nelson. I can now sleep at night.
It’s daylight and Richard and Lena are still holding each other near the campfire remnants. Richard tells her about the can of Old Milwaukee and how the Confessional said it was a “plant from the ocean”. Um, actually, it said it was a mineral from the river, but who’s keeping track?
Richard doesn’t buy this, however. “Something’s not right. Unanswered questions, Lena, have to be answered!” Unless, of course, you happen to be writing a screenplay titled Parts: the Clonus Horror. Lena is scared, but Richard reassures her that everything will be okay.