Feb 15, 2018
Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979) (part 4 of 7)
We hear a gunshot. Unfortunately, instead of coming from a rifle aimed at both Richard and Lena, this turns out to be a starter pistol. It’s later that day, and there’s a foot race out at the track. Richard is in the race, but he soon falls behind the other competitors and just walks off.
A guide comes up to find out if he’s okay. Richard says he just “slowed down,” and that he “didn’t feel like winning.” The guide is aghast. He says he’ll have to report this behavior. “To who?” Richard asks. The guide ominously turns to him and says, “I’ll have to report that, too.” [!!] Richard asks to go back to his room. Oddly, the guide doesn’t threaten to report that too, too.
Back in his room, Richard is leafing through a book. Suddenly, he grabs his chest and falls to the ground, gasping for air. A voice comes over a loudspeaker announcing a “medical emergency in 807” and two guides rush into Richard’s room.
Soon, Richard is in the Clonus doctor’s office. Jameson, apparently not too busy with that whole “running a top secret illegal facility” thing, is also hanging out here. The doctor points to Richard’s x-ray and says he doesn’t see anything wrong. Richard replies that he felt a “burning feeling in [his] chest”. The doctor concludes it’s just a case of the nerves, since he’s going to America soon. This turns out to be news to Richard, and how he could have “a case of the nerves” over something he never knew about in the first place is left unexplained.
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Jameson confirms that Richard will be going to America in two days. Richard’s been progressing well, so he gets to go early. After he walks out, Jameson and the doctor talk, and Jameson is convinced that Richard is lying about the chest pain incident.
Back at the barn, Richard is sitting outside and Lena comes running up. Richard tells her that they’re being watched. As it turns out, that little medical emergency in his room was just a test to see if anyone was watching him. Wow, so Jameson was right. Maybe Richard really does have “normal or above-normal” intelligence! (I’m putting my money on the former, though.)
Richard says there’s something strange going on and Lena agrees. She tells Richard to appeal to the Confessional, but he’s sure he’ll only get answers by going to America. He plans to go there tonight, by sneaking into the Round Building. Meanwhile, in the control room, Nelson is frantically trying to listen in on their conversation, but all he’s getting is static. Those pesky Plot Contrivances, eh? As with most plot contrivances of this nature, no explanation will ever be given. It exists for the sole purpose of preventing Nelson from overhearing Richard’s daring plan.
That night, a guide is peeking into Richard’s room. “807, secure,” he whispers. After the guide leaves, Richard jumps out of bed and sneaks outside into an awful day-for-night shot. He sees the Round Building (which, coincidentally, is about ten feet away from where he lives) and makes a run for it.
Richard tries the door, but it’s locked. However, a guide is conveniently walking out at that exact moment, so Richard stands directly behind a clear glass door and somehow avoids being noticed by the guide as he slips inside.
Inside the Round Building, a guide is standing in an office full of papers and file cabinets. Through some awkward dialogue on his radio, we learn that he’s being called away from his post to do something on the other side of the complex. Meanwhile, Richard is stealthily making his way through the Round Building. And when I say “stealthily”, I mean he’s blatantly running down the middle of blazingly well-lit corridors. Nice tight security, guys.
The guide leaves his office, and we see a rather unimpressive looking sign on the door reading “Authorized Personnel Only”. I’m guessing that Clonus buys all its signage from the local True Value. In spite of this designation, however, the guide leaves the door not just unlocked, but widely ajar [!!]. Naturally, Richard comes along and sneaks right in. Again, nice security, guys.
Inside the office, Richard starts randomly going through cabinets, and just happens to come across a folded map of the United States. Scanning across it, he locates the city of Milwaukee in all of two seconds. Look, I’ve even been there before, and there’s no way I could find Milwaukee on a map that easily. Nevertheless, this is heralded as a major discovery on Richard’s part, as he pounds his fist on the map.
He stalks around the room some more until he opens up a file cabinet and discovers a folder labeled “Security”. This is a very thin folder, which explains a lot, actually. It contains just one piece of paper, which just happens to be a photocopied map of Clonus. He tucks it into his back pocket just as he discovers a book on top of the file cabinet.
Conveniently, this book appears to be a record of the lives of each and every one of the clones at Clonus. Even more conveniently, he happens to open it up to the exact page that talks about him.
At the top of the page, written in very dainty cursive is “Professor Richard Knight, PhD.”, accompanied by a picture of an old man. Halfway down the page, there’s a picture of Richard, labeled “Richard Knight”, and underneath is a lot of his history (he was cloned in 1948, etc.). So let me get this straight, they gave each clone the same name as the original person who was cloned? In what universe does that make any sense?
Either way, Richard tears out the page and stuffs it in his back pocket. Opening yet another cabinet, he comes across a videotape, which he slides it into a VCR that just happens to be nearby. (Nostalgia moment for movie geeks: this VCR is an old, old silver and wood grain model that loads from the top.) After Richard pounds on the VCR like a retarded chimp for a couple of seconds, it starts playing. An attached TV set comes on by itself, even though I don’t think VCRs worked like that back then.
The screen shows a blue title reading “Clonus/Cloning – Orientation Film 77980-D”. Yep, here we go again. It’s time for yet another educational film and another big truckload of exposition. Over a barrage of stock footage of embryos, a bland narrator goes into tedious (and nonsensical) detail about the process of cloning:
Narrator: Each cell in the human body contains two sets of chromosomes. It is these chromosomes, one set from each parent, that determine who and how we are. They are our genetic roadmaps. The process of reproduction finds a sperm cell and an egg cell, each containing a single strand of chromosomal material, joining and reproducing. The cell is complete, resulting in a separate organism that shares the traits of its parents. In 1931 [!!], we successfully removed the nucleus of a female egg cell and replaced it with the nucleus of another. The replacement nucleus, which contained two sets of chromosomes from the original donor, was then stimulated to divide, resulting in a second organism exact in every respect to the first. This process has come to be called “cloning”. Armed with this technology, and unlimited funding [???], we established Clonus. Isolated and secure, Clonus is a breeding facility for clones, each a unique duplicate of a counterpart, either domestic or international. [So, I guess it’s safe to say there’s no Clonus Tokyo or EuroClonus.] One of the most serious problems encountered was the suppression of individuality. This problem proved temporary, as medical technicians learned that through simple lobotomies, these clones could be made benign and cooperative.
Lobotomies? Huh? So why did Jameson tell the senator all that nonsense about a “virus dropped into the original clone cell”? By the way, we helpfully see a clip of a clone immediately after this procedure, smiling like an idiot.
Richard hears a sound and sneaks out of the office, consulting his map to find an elevator. As soon as he gets in the elevator, who should he hear coming up the corridor but Jameson himself? Small colony, huh? Before he’s spotted, Richard immediately climbs up through a hatch in the roof of the elevator.
Right behind Jameson is Nelson, and the two make some idle chatter. Here we get the closest thing to an interesting shot in the whole movie: The camera is fixed to the roof of the elevator and pointed upwards as Richard rides the elevator down. This brief flirtation with competence acheived, Jameson and Nelson go into some “ironic” small talk about how it should be a quiet day. As soon as they exit the elevator, Richard hops back down and jumps out.
Meanwhile, a guide comes across the mess in the office. He immediately cries out that they’ve been “busted into!” We cut back to Richard running as the “red alert” sound effect from Star Trek plays in the background.
2005 Comments: I was being serious there. It really is the “red alert” sound used in the various Star Trek series. However, I don’t think Fiveson knew that at the time, and was just using a generic stock sound effect which has appeared in countless other movies and TV shows.
Back in Richard’s room, the guides discover he’s missing. One guide even looks under Richard’s pillow [!] for him. Hey, you can’t say these guys are inconsistent in their uselessness, at least.
In the control room, Jameson is doing what he does best, namely, randomly flipping switches and twisting dials while yelling at some lackeys on the phone to “get that tape!” This leads to lots of shots of sneakers as guides scramble aimlessly.
Richard has a guide hot on his heels, but quickly recalls the magical method he used earlier to disappear from peripheral vision. He hides in an open doorway, and even though he’s in plain view, the guide just runs right past him.
He comes across a mechanical laundry chute, similar to one you might find in an old college dorm. Funny that there should be one of these in such a high-tech facility. He hops in the chute and shuts the door. The chute immediately starts to descend, even though the controls are quite clearly on the outside of the thing. Perhaps this laundry chute was designed to have some sort of artificial intelligence. I mean, they did have “unlimited funding”.
Richard reaches the basement and finds a ladder leading down, finally making the “shock” discovery of all the frozen clones down there in big Ziploc bags (We know they’re frozen because they’re surrounded by big clouds of dry ice fog.) For no reason, some of the frozen clones have war paint on their faces [?].
Richard wanders around horrified for a while, and guess who he bumps into? Yep, his old pal George, now keeping safe from freezer burn. Richard contorts his face mightily, yelling, “America?!?! George?!?!” Believe me, I’m sure the actual script has just as much punctuation. Richard then hilariously takes out his anger on a nearby ladder. (What’s even funnier is that the ladder is so flimsy, he almost succeeds in ripping it apart.)
Running away, Richard pulls out his handy map and immediately knows how to get out of the building. Along the way, he has a rather lame fistfight with a guide who’s quickly knocked unconscious.
2005 Comments: A guide who, as we learn on the commentary track, is director Robert Fiveson himself. This cameo wasn’t motivated out of vanity, however; The only reason Fiveson appears in the film at all is that they didn’t have anyone on hand to do the stunt.
As Richard continues running, a “heartbeat” sound is heard on the soundtrack along with a howling wind. After stumbling though a tunnel, Richard finally ends up outside, standing on dry, desert terrain.
Richard’s devious plan to escape is very nearly foiled by a rusty waist-high barbwire fence. But, he hops over it. Whew. A guide on a jeep drives into the shot, but screeches to a halt when he gets to the incredibly daunting 3-foot-high barbwire fence. He picks up a huge rifle and starts firing at Richard.
We immediately cut to Richard rolling down a hill that’s magically appeared out of nowhere. I assume the tiny red dot on his shoulder is to let us know that he was just shot with a high-powered rifle. Grimacing slightly, Richard gets up and starts running again.
Back in the control room, two bright lines on a computer grid come together and eventually intersect, and Nelson says this means they’ve found Richard. Um, wouldn’t the guide coming across Richard and shooting at him give them a pretty good indication of where Richard is? Oh well, I guess this way was just so much more “high-tech”.
Richard is wading through a stream when the guide in the jeep drives up again and takes another shot. We see Richard fall, but he keeps going. This guide appears to be quite the marksman, having shot at Richard twice and hit him both times. How he ended up working for this outfit, we’ll never know. The guide reports back that Richard is “heading for the outer perimeter.” Why the guide doesn’t just drive up to Richard and shoot him at a closer range is never explained.
When Richard reaches the “outer perimeter”, we see it consists of a terrifying, unstoppable… chain-link fence. Richard jumps over it and continues running. (Wow! How does he do it?) As he runs out of the shot, a sign on the fence informs us that this place is the property of “Walker Industries Research”.
Back in the control room, Nelson is frustrated because Richard made it over the intimidating chain-link fence. The whole control room (all three guys, anyway) are scrambling around. Jameson picks up the phone to tell “Mr. Walker” that a clone has escaped. Yes, that’s the Mr. Walker of Walker Industries Research, in case you’re still awake enough by this point to care.
Next, we see Richard climbing some rocks. He eventually gets to the top and finds himself overlooking a city. Okay, so let me make sure I got this straight. These guys decide to build a top-secret cloning facility to harvest clones for spare organs, and where do they put it? Ah, yes. Within walking distance of the nearest city. Did they also put up big billboards at the time touting this area as “The Future Home of Clonus”?