• Clonus (Mondo Macabro) DVD Review

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: March 29th, 2005.
    Director: Robert S. Fiveson
    Cast: Tim Donnelly, Paulette Breen, Dick Sargent, Peter Graves, Keenan Wynne
    Year: 1972
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    Clonus – Movie Review:

    Clonus (also known under the more dramatic title of Parts: The Clonus Horror) has probably been most widely seen as an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 where it was lampooned by Mike Nelson and a pair of talking robot friends. While seeing the film with the ‘commentary’ was a blast, Clonus is a strong enough film to stand on its own as a serious, if fairly dated – but more on that later, science fiction/horror hybrid.

    The film begins in a serene land called Clonus where a group of smiley happy people dance and play and live and love under the supervision of some uniformed guards. We soon find out that once these ‘people’ reach a required level, they’re rewarded with the chance to head out to America, where they’re lead to believe that everything will be wonderful and happy and cool. What we find out, that the happy people do not, is that those who are ‘sent to America’ are actually freeze dried and locked in a containment chamber in a sort of suspended animation.

    Soon we meet Richard (Tim Donnelly of the original Toolbox Murders) and Lena (TV actress Paulette Breen), a pair of young people who meet by chance when they discover that they have matching ear tags.

    They begin to hang out with each other despite the fact that the guards don’t seem too impressed with the idea, and soon fall fast in love. When Richard finds a beer can in the stream, he becomes curious as to what it is and where it came from. When he doesn’t get the answers that he’s looking for out of the toll-free question/answer phone or from his trainers, he starts to investigate things on his own with a little bit of help from Lena.

    Richard plans and successfully launches his escape from the Clonus compound and heads out into the real world where he finds out that he is in fact a clone, as is everyone else at the compound aside from the administrative staff.

    Richard tracks down the man he was cloned from, a learned professor, and sets out to figure out who is cloning people and why. What he uncovers is a powerful conspiracy that stretches a lot farther than either Richard or anyone else involved really knows until it’s too late.

    Clonus holds up, and isn’t necessarily deserving of the goofy reputation it has garnered over the years. The subject that the film deals with is probably more relevant today than it was when the film was made (and if you don’t believe me do a search for cloning, or read up on some of the current events taking place regarding stem cell research!) and the storyline handles the subject matter well. In that respect, it hasn’t aged poorly at all. On the other hand, the movie is very obviously a product of the seventies – the fashions, the special effects, and sets, and some of the conspiracy theory tactics just reek of the era of disco. In that regard, it’s aged very poorly to the point where it does provide some unintentional comic relief.

    Aging issues aside, Clonus has got a couple of creepy moments to go along with some of the more, shall we say, awkward spots in the film. The film reaches some pretty suspenseful peaks when Richard is chased through the compound or through the tunnel and when the clones themselves are gassed and then frozen, the movie is even a little on the eerie side.
    Despite the fact that he looks like he’s fast approaching middle age, Donelly does a good job of betraying his bewilderment and child like naiveté, as does Breen – they play their roles as they should and their characters come across as sufficiently childish and immature, as anyone raised in a secluded clone farm probably would.

    An interesting supporting cast made up of Dick Sargent (of Hardcore), Keenen Wyn (The Devil’s Rain), David Hooks (of V) and Peter Graves (of The Five Man Army) add to the paranoid fun.

    Clonus – DVD Review:

    Mondo Macabro gives Clonus a nice 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that does a very nice job of reproducing the film’s color scheme. While the film still looks like a thirty year old low budget sci-fi/horror film, the image is free of any major print damage, showing only the occasional speck and a fine coating of grain over top of the picture. Edge enhancement and mpeg compression artifacts are a non-issue, and aside from usual age related flaws in the source material, this is a fine presentation considering it's an older DVD release.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is on par with the quality of the video presentation – it shows its limitations but does a good job of handling the requirements put on it by the movie. There aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion, bass reproduction is a little light at times but satisfactory for the most part, and the dialogue is balanced well against the background music and sound effects.

    The extra features department is where this disc really shines. First up is a full length running commentary from director Robert Fiveson, who doesn’t have any problems coming up with subjects to discuss. A lot of emphasis in this commentary is put on the problems he ran into trying to get the film finished on time and with such a small budget, but there are also a lot of great stories about some of the effects work used throughout the film as well as some of the performers. It’s a fun track with a lot of information packed into it, and one that is done with a good sense of humor as well, making for an interesting listen.

    The other key supplement comes in the form of a brand new documentary entitled Parts Of A Life. This is a lengthy and comprehensive featurette that focuses on Fiveson’s life and specifically his work on the film. After we’re treated to some brief but quite interesting biographical information on the director, we move on to the bizarre history of Clonus including some oddly amusing stories about the love scene, the budget, and the cast. There is some repetition here between this featurette and the commentary, but it's completely forgivable.

    Rounding out the supplements are a generous stills gallery, the film’s original theatrical trailer, and the standard Mondo Macabro promotional reel.

    Clonus - The Final Word:

    Mondo Macabro provides another in a long line of quality cult film releases with Clonus. Solid sound and picture, great extras, and a fun feature attraction make this disc completely worthwhile!