The film opens with senator Jeff Knight (Peter Graves, TV's MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE) campaigning to a rabid public in his bid to become US president. This is being watched by the mysterious (off-screen) Mr Walker on a TV screen. Walker comments, "That's our boy" ...

The action swiftly cuts to a group of fit teens jogging, wrestling and generally working out on a beatiful afternoon. Their surroundings appear to be some kind of campus and everyone seems extremely happy. However, a closer inspection reveals that the teens are overseen by tracksuit-wearing 'guides', who whisper into microphones, reporting to the doctors secretly monitoring the oblivious adolescents via hidden cameras.

The teens all dream of one day earning their place in "America" - a Utopia sold to them by the doctors, who talk of this wonderful place where everyone is blissfully contented ... forever.

George (Frank Ashmore, AIRPLANE!) is advised that he is 'ready' to go to America and, after a celebratory party held with his envious friends, is escorted to the doctors' building to prepare for his trip.

Unfortunately, the inanely grinning George did not envisage being drugged, or having his blood replaced by anti-freeze. And being sealed in a body bag is presumably the last straw, judging by the blonde jock's screams.

Meanwhile, his fellow teens continue to exercise, smile incessantly and question nothing - unaware of their eventual, inevitable fates.

Richard (Tim Donnelly, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS) bumps into Lena (Paulette Breen) and the two strike up an immediate friendship - one which is frowned upon by the spying doctors (incuding Dick Sargent of TV's BEWITCHED).

Unbeknownst to Richard or Lena, they are human clones who have been allowed to grow with normal intelligence (their friends are 'dumbed down' to prevent them from ever querying their odd, controlled lifestyles). But Richard and Lena quickly realise that too much happens that is never questioned and, after a fire-lit fuck, determine to look deeper into a few reservations they have regarding the promised land that is America ...

Richard's fears are confirmed when he fakes chest pains and discovers that he and Lena are being watched by the doctors. He tells Lena that night that he intends to break into the dotors' offices and find out more about America.

Discovering the truth about the contained world he has been raised in - a campus called Clonus - Richard vows to escape ...

CLONUS benefits from many interesting factors: the script (by Ron Smith and Bob Sullivan) is intelligent, involving and surprisingly human. The idea is frighteningly as timely now as it ever was, and it seems amazing to consider that the concept of human clones being farmed secretly for future donor usage was probably preposterous back when the film was released, in 1979.

The subtexts are intriguing too - there's definitely a homoerotic thing going on, as well as political suspicion and the notion of America as a facist state.

The acting is reliable throughout, with quirky performances from both the gullible clones and the patronising doctors. Odd is the word, but in a good way.

Robert S Fiveson directs well, offering taut pacing, believable action sequences and a well-conceived sense of growing paranoia. It's testament to Fiveson too that the film never reveals it's 257,000 budget - it looks great.

While hardly a classic, the film does ride well with an interesting idea. It rises above any temptation to fall into schlock territory, but does find it in itself to provide a few horrific moments here and there.

Mondo Macabro's disc is a really nice one.

The film looks very good, having been struck direct from the original negative and given a 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer. The film can be accessed via 12 chapters.

The English stereo soundtrack is just as dependable. Clear, consistent, problem-free.

The extras kick off with a generous onscreen interview with Fiveson. This clocks in at 36 minutes, and sees the filmmaker cover everything from his hard upbringing and his relationship with a lesbian activist, to the making of CLONUS and the countless screenplays he's tried (and failed) to get off the ground since. Apparently Fiveson makes a lot of documentaries for the History channel these days.

A feature-length audio commentary by Fiveson is moderated by Mondo Macabro mastermind Pete Tombs. Tombs' questions are intelligent and thorough, tapping into every aspect of the movie's production and the whereabouts of cast/crew members today. Fiveson's memory is good, so he answers all questions satisfyingly. This is how commentaries should be - very informative, interesting and mostly fluent.

The theatrical trailer is 2-and-a-half minutes long, and does a good job of making the film look as tense and atmospheric as it often is. It's in good condition too.

Two galleries offer 19 production stills and 8 samples of international release artwork.

Last but not least, there's the familiar Mondo Macabro promo reel - with salacious clips from the likes of SATANICO PANDEMONIUM, ALUCARDA, THE DIABOLICAL DR Z and THE GIRL SLAVES OF MORGANA LA FEY.

Another solid release from Mondo Macabro, and a genuinely interesting oddity from America's most paranoid era. Recommended.

Review by Stu Willis

For ordering info visit the Mondo Macabro website by clicking here.

Released by Mondo Macabro
Not Rated - Region All (NTSC)
Extras :
see main review