Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Embryo (1976)

When movies with recognisable casts turn up in these boxed sets, it usually means the production company failed to maintain copyright, or sold the rights very cheaply due to financial troubles.  If wikipedia is to be believed, this is one of the former cases.

The film stars Rock Hudson (admittedly past the prime of his career, but fresh off a series of successful telemovies), and Barbara Carrera (whose fame was still ahead of her).  Hudson plays a scientist who finds an injured, pregnant dog and manages to save one of the premature puppies with an experimental serum that rapidly speeds the developmental process.  The pup soon grows to full size, allowing him to pass it off as the now-dead mother, but reverts to normal aging when he stops administering the drug.

The scientist then decides to try the drug on a human subject.  Not out of scientific hubris, as is normally the case in such films, but because he hopes to help save children that would otherwise die due to miscarriage or premature birth.  His deceased wife experienced several unsuccessful pregnancies, and he wants to prevent that from happening to other couples in the future.  He arranges to acquire a fetus that was born too premature to survive, and administers the drug to it.

Unfortunately, he should perhaps have paid more attention to his dog's behaviour before he tried this on a human.  While he has noticed that the animal seems unusually intelligent, he's not realised how smart it is, nor that it's got a heightened sense of aggression.  We, the audience see it kill a smaller dog in a scene that is unintentionally comical because it's so clearly not a real animal being savaged.

In any case, due to differences in the human and canine reproductive systems, the scientists finds that his test is too successful, and the fetus develops to young adulthood in the space of a few weeks.  However, he finally manages to halt the process with the application of a dangerous drug.

Of course, the echoes of Frankenstein are pretty obvious, and - pure as his motives may be - he's "tampering in god's domain".  So everything is eventually going to go horribly, horribly wrong.  Which is sadly where the movie falls apart.  It can't seem to decide if it wants Victoria (the scientist's creation - I did say the Framkenstein echoes were obvious) to be sinister or sympathetic, tries to have it both ways, and fails to really achieve either.

A bit of a squandered opportunity, I'm sad to say - the opening forty minutes or so (fake dog giggles aside) was pretty good, but it lost its way after that.  I did like the supporting performance by the mom from Alf, though.  She was fun.

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