May 10, 2017

Embryo (1976).

Review #933: Embryo.

Rock Hudson (Dr. Paul Holliston), Barbara Carrera (Victoria Spencer), Diane Ladd (Martha Douglas), Roddy McDowall (Frank Riley), Anne Schedeen (Helen Holliston), John Elerick (Gordon Holliston), Vincent Baggetta (Collier), Jack Colvin (Dr. Jim Winston), and Joyce Brothers (Herself) Directed by Ralph Nelson.

I had wanted to do this film a while back during the fall season, but I had forgotten about the movie (which is amusing, given all the reviews that occurred anyway) until now. Strangely, the movie begins with a statement from a Dr. Charles Brinkman III, stating: "The film you are about to see is not all science fiction. It is based upon medical technology which currently exists for fetal growth outside the womb. It could be a possibility tomorrow...Or today." I guess with words like that, one could have hope for this strange film, released by Cine Artists Pictures (who went bankrupt before being able to renew the copyright on the movie). And how is it? Well, it certainly is something you wouldn't expect (nor expect to find). The movie revolves around trying to make life (or more specifically, keeping life alive). Naturally, he starts with a dog before deciding upon doing so for a fetus with some sort of experimental thing called "placental lactogen". This goes about as well you'd expect (complete with voice-over by Hudson during the latter experiment), with all of it meant to be taken seriously. Yes, even with the fact that the decision to proceed with a human is only a few days after having "success" with a doberman. When the movie turns from a half-baked Frankenstein into an equally half-baked version of My Fair Lady (or Pygmalion) is likely when the movie lends itself rope to seal its fate. It is evident that the makers of the movie wanted to do something with horror and drama (with not-science fiction, if one goes by the opening) that would have an effect of audiences, but that never seems to succeed. At least it isn't too long (104 minutes), but that can't help in making it seem somewhat dull.

McDowell makes a "cameo" as a chess player who competes against Carrera's character, complete with an outburst after the match ends, which is somewhat amusing. Hudson is the best actor in the movie by merely having a presence that comes closest to being convincing, even with somewhat dry monologues (recorded on tape) throughout the film. Carrera doesn't really spring much personality into the role; she is watchable when trying to interact with colleagues or when trying to search for a cure to her biological problem, but that doesn't excuse a somewhat listless performance. Even when she makes a villainous turn (gasp if you aren't surprised), it doesn't help in making the movie entertaining. Ladd doesn't fare too well either, nor does Schedeen, in part because they don't have any sort of screen time to make anything significantly worth investing in. When the movie gets to its climax, there is no investment in any of these characters, and when you can't care about the stakes the film tries to set, one question is posed: Who cares? Naturally, it ends with a car chase (no joke), complete with aging makeup and a reveal that would be shocking if not merely serving to end a ridiculous movie. On the whole, this is a ridiculous movie that doesn't have as much entertainment value as it should while also not having as much credibility as it wants to strive for, failing on numerous levels for everyone.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

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