PARTS: THE CLONUS HORROR
Parts: The Clonus Horror works as one of the best of these because of the ingenuity of its set-up where the central mystery about where we are, who the clones are, why they are being lied to and then taken to be cut up is fascinating as you try to work out why things are happening. We see things thrown awry as Timothy Donnelly finds a can in the river, only to see this rejected as nothing by controller Dick Sargent and then Donnelly asking what Milwaukee is during the phone booth confessional to be told that it is a nonsense word and then that it is a rare metal. By this point, ones intrigue is decidedly piqued. The eventual revelation of the scenario is one of the great conceptual surprise twists in science-fiction.
The greatest footnote that Parts: The Clonus Horror has in history is that it was the film that inspired Michael Bays The Island (2005). Bay blew the idea up into an action movie on an A-budget, called the mythical destination The Island instead of America but otherwise the two are essentially the same plot. The creators of Parts: The Clonus Horror thought so too and sued Bay and co, eventually reaching an out-of-court settlement. Certainly, the basic premise makes much more sense as a low-key 1970s production where the hermetic world they are raised in consists of people wearing terrycloth, jogging shorts and Adidas sneakers. Stripped of Bays action overkill, this is a much more intelligent working out of the basic premise. Certainly, Parts: The Clonus Horror preserves the mystery and twist far better than The Islands publicity campaign did and, if one can watch it without foreknowledge, it works far better as a film. Both films still have some problems like the logical question of why the facility would bother raising the clones to intelligence and educating them when their only purpose is essentially as spare body parts.
The film also has the conceptual problem of not quite knowing what to do with the story once the surprise is out of the bag (about the two-thirds point). Michael Bay solved it by turning everything into a big, loud chase film. Parts does eventually turn it all into a paranoid conspiracy film. This was the era of Watergate and government conspiracy and so it is no surprise that the film ends with a downbeat ending with the conspiracy eliminating almost everybody who has public knowledge.
The cast are generally okay, even if hero Timothy Donnelly is bland. The film does have a minor cameo from a handsomely assured and well-tanned Peter Graves as The President.
Parts: The Clonus Horror did not receive a high-profile release. In fact, it has gained more of a profile through its screening on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-99) than it did in its original release, something that has served to give it an undeserved reputation as a bad movie. Director Robert Fiveson has never made another film, with the exception of several tv documentaries in the 2000s.