Parts -- The Clonus Horror (1979)

R | 90 mins | Horror, Science fiction | 9 November 1979

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HISTORY

       Articles in the 13 Oct 1978 DV and the 21 Jan 1979 LAT described the development and financing of the project. Director-producer Robert S. Fiveson had been interested in writer Bob Sullivan’s story since reading it in the early 1970s, when he and Sullivan were film students at the University of Southern California (USC). In 1975, Fiveson submitted the screenplay to studios, but science fiction was a difficult sell at that time, especially for Fiveson, an unknown director of commercials and documentaries. The turning point occurred when Fiveson’s agent, Ray Dryden, introduced him to Myrl A. Schreibman, who worked in television accounting. Schreibman was instrumental in cutting the budget from $750,000 to $250,000. A variety of investors contributed, but the majority of funding came from the Polyglycoat Corporation, a company that manufactured car sealants. The filmmakers also received complimentary props and wardrobe through product placement arrangements with Adidas, Bell Helmets and Dr. Pepper, among others.
       Principal photography began in Sep 1978, according to a 18 Sep 1978 HR advertisement, and the production was scheduled for twenty-one days. Approximately twenty locations in and around Los Angeles, CA, were used, including residences in the San Fernando Valley, Queen of Angels Hospital and Moorpark College where the filmmakers arranged internships on set for students in exchange for a reduction in location fees.
       As reported in a 22 Jul 1980 HR brief, Clonus received an award for “Best Motion Picture for Under a Million Dollars” on 26 Jul 1980 from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.
       The cable television show, ...

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       Articles in the 13 Oct 1978 DV and the 21 Jan 1979 LAT described the development and financing of the project. Director-producer Robert S. Fiveson had been interested in writer Bob Sullivan’s story since reading it in the early 1970s, when he and Sullivan were film students at the University of Southern California (USC). In 1975, Fiveson submitted the screenplay to studios, but science fiction was a difficult sell at that time, especially for Fiveson, an unknown director of commercials and documentaries. The turning point occurred when Fiveson’s agent, Ray Dryden, introduced him to Myrl A. Schreibman, who worked in television accounting. Schreibman was instrumental in cutting the budget from $750,000 to $250,000. A variety of investors contributed, but the majority of funding came from the Polyglycoat Corporation, a company that manufactured car sealants. The filmmakers also received complimentary props and wardrobe through product placement arrangements with Adidas, Bell Helmets and Dr. Pepper, among others.
       Principal photography began in Sep 1978, according to a 18 Sep 1978 HR advertisement, and the production was scheduled for twenty-one days. Approximately twenty locations in and around Los Angeles, CA, were used, including residences in the San Fernando Valley, Queen of Angels Hospital and Moorpark College where the filmmakers arranged internships on set for students in exchange for a reduction in location fees.
       As reported in a 22 Jul 1980 HR brief, Clonus received an award for “Best Motion Picture for Under a Million Dollars” on 26 Jul 1980 from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.
       The cable television show, Mystery Science Theater 3000, featured the film on a 1997 episode, boosting the film’s status as a cult favorite, as noted in a 10 Aug 2005 DV article.
       The same article reported that Fiveson and Schreibman filed a federal lawsuit on 8 Aug 2005 against DreamWorks Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, claiming that the feature, The Island (2005, see entry), copied directly from Clonus. Several reviews and articles about The Island, such as a 22 Apr 2005 NYT article, noted the similarities between the two films and some critics even considered it a “scene-for-scene remake,” according to the DV article. Besides seeking earnings from The Island and an undisclosed amount in damages, the producers requested that the film be removed from theatres. The lawsuit also contended that one of DreamWorks founders, Jeffrey Katzenberg, had screened Clonus before its release while he was an executive at Paramount Pictures Corp. Although DreamWorks and Warner Bros. declared that The Island was “independently created” and argued for dismissal, a U.S. District Court judge ordered a jury trial for 22 Feb 2007, as stated in a 23 Oct 2006 DV article. No further update was available in AMPAS library files.
       As mentioned in the 10 Nov 1979 LAT review, Clonus was the debut theatrically-released feature film for Fiveson.
      The end credits include the following written statement: “The producers wish to acknowledge the following for their assistance in the making of this film: Addidas [sic], Bell Helmets, Huffy Bicycles, Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co., Lotus Automobiles, Dr. Pepper, Munsingwear, Professor John Davie, Polyglycoat Corporation, Moorpark College, California, Lutheran College, Professor Clement L. Market, Yale University, George Vuke, Indiana University, F&/B CECO.”

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
13 Oct 1978
p. 14, 28
Daily Variety
3 Jul 1979
---
Daily Variety
10 Aug 2005
p. 1, 11
Daily Variety
23 Oct 2006
p. 7, 46
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 1979
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 1980
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Jan 1979
Section L, p. 21
Los Angeles Times
10 Nov 1979
Section C, p. 9
New York Times
22 Apr 2005
Section E, p. 29, 34
Variety
14 Nov 1979
p. 22
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
a Myrl A. Schreibman production
a Robert S. Fiveson film
a schreibman/fiveson film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Supv exec prod
Assoc prod
Co-prod
WRITERS
Scr
Based on a story by
Scr adpt by
Scr adpt by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d unit photog
Still man
Stunt gaffer
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Dolly grip
Grip
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Asst ward
MUSIC
Mus rec
Mus rec courtesy of
Wilshire Methodist Church
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup
Spec makeup by
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Secy to prods
Loc mgr/Asst to prods
Scr supv
Visual consultant
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Auditor
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Clonus
The Clonus Horror
Release Date:
9 November 1979
Premiere Information:
Pittsburgh screening: 7 Sep 1979; Los Angeles opening: 9 Nov 1979
Production Date:
began Sep 1978
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by DeLuxe®
Duration(in mins):
90
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Two weeks before election day, California senator and presidential candidate Jeff Knight speaks at a campaign rally. Meanwhile, inside a storage room at Walker Industries Research, a secret breeding facility, bodies of human clones are frozen and sealed in plastic. Elsewhere in the complex, living clones, unaware of their true identity and purpose, engage in physical activities, such as running and bicycling, to achieve ultimate fitness, while they are guarded by “guides,” dressed as athletic coaches. The clones are monitored on surveillance cameras throughout the facility. When the clone George dominates a wrestling competition, the lead research scientists, Dr. Jameson and Dr. Nelson, designate him fit to advance. In the laboratory, Jameson and Nelson give the unknowing George a glass of liquid to drink, describing it as the next step in preparing for the utopian destination, “America.” Within seconds, George is unconscious and the doctors ready him for storage by injecting a solution into his veins and vacuum-sealing his body in plastic. Later, during a lesson for the clones, Jameson shows an indoctrination film, which explains “America” as “a land of beauty where all your dreams come true.” When Jameson invites questions, Richard, who unlike other clones is suspicious of his surroundings, shows an Old Milwaukee Beer can that he found in the river, believing it is an artifact from “America.” However, Jameson insists the can is simply a product of the river and is not from “America.” Out of earshot, Jameson orders a guide to find out how the can got through the water valves. One day, Richard secretly passes a note to a beautiful female clone ...

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Two weeks before election day, California senator and presidential candidate Jeff Knight speaks at a campaign rally. Meanwhile, inside a storage room at Walker Industries Research, a secret breeding facility, bodies of human clones are frozen and sealed in plastic. Elsewhere in the complex, living clones, unaware of their true identity and purpose, engage in physical activities, such as running and bicycling, to achieve ultimate fitness, while they are guarded by “guides,” dressed as athletic coaches. The clones are monitored on surveillance cameras throughout the facility. When the clone George dominates a wrestling competition, the lead research scientists, Dr. Jameson and Dr. Nelson, designate him fit to advance. In the laboratory, Jameson and Nelson give the unknowing George a glass of liquid to drink, describing it as the next step in preparing for the utopian destination, “America.” Within seconds, George is unconscious and the doctors ready him for storage by injecting a solution into his veins and vacuum-sealing his body in plastic. Later, during a lesson for the clones, Jameson shows an indoctrination film, which explains “America” as “a land of beauty where all your dreams come true.” When Jameson invites questions, Richard, who unlike other clones is suspicious of his surroundings, shows an Old Milwaukee Beer can that he found in the river, believing it is an artifact from “America.” However, Jameson insists the can is simply a product of the river and is not from “America.” Out of earshot, Jameson orders a guide to find out how the can got through the water valves. One day, Richard secretly passes a note to a beautiful female clone named Lena. During a romantic evening by an outdoor campfire, Richard and Lena get to know each other and make love, not knowing that the scientists in the control room are monitoring their interaction. Jameson and Nelson explain to a visitor that Lena and Richard are members of a clone control group possessing normal intelligence, unlike the majority of clones who are programmed to be mentally impaired. According to Nelson, their relationship and any schemes Lena and Richard devise will be closely watched so they pose no harm to the project. The next morning, Richard tells Lena that he wants real answers to his questions. Alone in his room one evening, Richard pretends to have chest pains, and guides show up immediately, confirming Richard’s hunch that he is being watched. Meeting inside an old barn, Richard informs Lena that he will try and sneak into “America” that night by accessing the building where the qualified ones are taken. In the control room, their conversation cannot be heard because the surveillance sound has malfunctioned. After the guides patrol at bedtime, Richard leaves his room and finds a way to enter the main research building. Inside a restricted office, he locates a map of the facility; a file and photograph of his original human “part” named Professor Richard Knight; and a videotape about the project known as Clonus. Watching the tape, Richard learns that most clones are made docile through a lobotomy. He takes the materials with him and searches for a way out of the building as scientists and guides issue an alert for his capture. Avoiding detection, Richard stumbles upon the storage basement filled with frozen bodies. Seeing George, he realizes in horror that this room is “America.” Through a tunnel, Richard escapes the Clonus facility, but is shot in the arm as he runs toward the perimeter. Arriving in a city, Richard staggers through the streets confused by the unfamiliar sights, until a Clonus agent on a motorcycle spots him. Grabbing a nearby bicycle, Richard dodges his pursuer, then crashes outside the home of Jake and Anna Noble, a friendly elderly couple. They bring him inside and dress his wound. As a retired journalist, Jake is curious about Richard’s odd story and agrees to help locate his “other part,” Professor Richard Knight. At home, Professor Knight, the brother of candidate Jeff Knight, works on a lecture while his son, Ricky, a campaign writer for the senator, relaxes by the pool. When Jake arrives and introduces Richard, the professor is shocked to see a carbon copy of his younger self. After watching the videotape about Clonus and confirming a birthmark, the professor realizes that the cloning project is real. Jake hides the incriminating videotape, while the professor contacts his brother who might have some knowledge of Clonus. Meanwhile, back at the facility, Jameson is told by George Walker, the powerful head of Clonus, that there will be serious consequences if the videotape is made public. Elsewhere, the Knight brothers meet, and the senator is unable to hide the fact that he not only knows about Clonus, but believes it is the answer to longevity. The senator explains that the project preserves clones at the peak of fitness to provide healthy organs for elite clientele, but the professor is appalled. Then, the senator reveals that his heart transplant was made possible through his adult clone and refers to the project as a “chance for immortality,” which causes the professor to reconsider the idea. Meanwhile, Richard feels increasingly uneasy in the real America, and when he overhears an argument between the professor and Ricky about whether clones are human, he runs out of the house. Ricky, who is more sympathetic to Richard’s humanity, follows him and agrees to help by driving him back to the Clonus facility so that he can be with Lena. That evening, the senator and two of Walker’s men interrogate the professor and torture Ricky, hoping to discover the location of the videotape. The professor resists their intimidation and ends up stabbing his brother in the chest with a fireplace poker. Walker’s thugs then kill the professor and Ricky. In an effort to destroy the videotape, Walker arranges an explosion, murdering Jake and Anna. Arriving back at Clonus, Richard sees Lena smiling from a window and rushes to her, but discovers that she has been subjected to a lobotomy, erasing her personality, and the guides and scientists take Richard away to prepare him for storage. Sometime later, at a press conference during the presidential convention, Walker introduces Senator Knight, who survived the stabbing after receiving a replacement heart from Richard. As the senator takes questions, a reporter in the back withdraws the videotape from an envelope and asks about Clonus.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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