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Mondo Macabro presents
Clonus (1979)

"Your ear. It's like mine, I just noticed it."
- Lena (Paulette Breen)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: January 26, 2006

Stars: Tim Donnelly, Paulette Breen
Other Stars: Peter Graves, Keenan Wynn, Dick Sargent
Director: Robert S. Fiveson

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations, graphic violence, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:29m:49s
Release Date: March 29, 2005
UPC: 843276011291
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ AB+B B+

DVD Review

The recent Michael Bay film, The Island, deals with human cloning and its place in society. Amid all of the expensive promotions for Mr. Bay's mega-budget opus was a pursuit of legal action by director Robert Fiveson, whose 1979 film, Clonus (also known as The Clonus Horror), has many of the same themes and even execution that The Island exhibits, made many years later. It's not exactly a new thing for a filmmaker these days to borrow liberally from an older project, but if these accusations are true, at least Bay has taste.

Having never seen this cult classic, I wasn't sure what to expect, but, boy, was I nicely surprised. Fiveson has crafted a thought-provoking and downright scary sci-fi adventure that deserves to be discovered by those who were previously skittish due to the film's reputation. Give Clonus a chance and you'll be scurrying to tell your friends about what they have been missing all these years.

The futuristic story begins in the land of Clonus, a society that seems endlessly happy. That is, until you see the armed guards that surround them. They strive to be happy, so they can reach a certain status that grants them access to America, where the promise of an even happier, more fulfilling life awaits. These citizens are designated by tags on their ears, and when Richard (Tim Donnelly) and Lena (Paulette Breen) meet, they realize that their tags match. Despite the menacing looks they get from the guards, Richard and Lena become close, are soon in love, and begin to try and uncover the secrets behind Clonus.

The secret of what actually happens to people when they reach America is a shocker. Even though this secret is revealed early on, it's the subtle events and main characters' findings leading up to their discovery of the secret that draws us into Clonus and keeps us there for the duration. From Richard's discovery of a beer can floating in the water, to his well-plotted escape from Clonus, Fiveson's tight direction and engrossing storytelling is miles beyond anything Michael Bay has ever done. It's just too bad that it's Bay sitting back and cashing huge paychecks, while Fiveson ponders what could have been.

The actors here aren't exactly putting on a clinic, but they aren't awful either. Donnelly and Breen are very good as the leads, with the former remaining convincing even though he's obviously in a role that requires a much younger actor, and the latter pulling off a naïve, childlike adult, in a performance that teeters on the edge of camp, but manages to maintain enough integrity and believability. The rest of the cast is equally strong, and is basically a "who's who" of obscure 1970s cinema, including Peter Graves, Dick Sargent, and Keenan Wynn. They're very effective, and the film might have actually been worse-off had it featured more familiar faces.

While the super-cheesy aspects of Clonus can be difficult to stomach at times, it's still hard to believe that this was once the punching bag of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang. It deserves some of the ribbing that it takes in that episode, but Clonus is still a solid, low budget sci-fi film that has amazingly stood the test of time.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation features an excellent transfer that looks about as good as the film's original elements will allow. Colors are still rather drab and the picture has an overall dated look, but the main triumph comes in the near complete lack of print flaws. The restoration job in that regard is phenomenal, and will leave longtime fans of the film awestruck.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track sounds much better than Clonus ever has, but is still limited by the age of the source material. The surrounds spring to life a few times, but almost everything stays up front. The main plus is the cohesion between all of the audio aspects, with the crisp dialogue, decent bass, and clear sound effects fitting nicely into their respective places in the overall mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
14 Other Trailer(s) featuring Panic Beats, Satanico Pandemonium, The Killer Must Kill Again, The Mansion of Madness, Alucarda, The Diabolical Dr. Z, Aswang, The Living Corpse, Blood of the Virgins, Seven Women for Satan, Lady Terminator, Crazy Love, Mill of the Stone Women, Dangerous Seductress
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Robert Fiveson
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills Gallery
Extras Review: There aren't many extras, but quality overrules quantity in this case. The best is the audio commentary with director Robert Fiveson, during which he covers a lot of ground. Most of the discussion involves the difficulties he had in actually getting Clonus finished, and his talk about his cast includes some priceless, candid stories.

The new 35-minute documentary, Parts of a Life: Robert S. Fiveson is made up mostly of an interview with the director. This piece begins with Fiveson talking about his own life, but we're then treated to more pretty incredible tidbits about Clonus' production.

There's also the original theatrical trailer, a stills gallery, and a series of trailers for other Mondo Macabro releases.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Mondo Macabro finally allows us to throw away those old bootleg VHS copies of Clonus, as they unleash this excellent DVD edition. The audio and video have been cleaned up better than expected, but the disc really shines in the extras department.


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