Dr Gerald Appleby (Michael Greene) is a scientist at a top secret Californian institute, who one day while immersed in work realises there is an emergency in progress: the nuclear reactor at the laboratory appears to be breaking down. While he escapes on foot through the machinery, equipment and various corridors, he gets the feeling of being followed to add to his alarm, and once he has emerged from the building into the daylight he advances on to the fence bordering the car parking facility only to see his own vehicle driven away at high speed by someone he doesn't catch sight of. On accosting the security guard, he is told it was Appleby himself at the wheel...
One of a plethora of low budget science fiction movies that emerged from the United States to use the desert locations handy for the production companies to exploit, The Clones was neither the worst nor the best of them. In fact, for much of the running time it genuinely was a running time as our lanky hero made good his escape from a couple of hitmen played by Gregory Sierra (probably the most recognisable face here) and Otis Young. Great swathes of the work were given over to watching Greene athletically jog his way through desert regions, or places where there was a degree more foliage if the directors wanted a little more variety for the viewers watching his workout.
You would be tempted to observe that perhaps there wasn't the most substantial of scripts at the filmmakers' disposal in this case in light of just how much running was involved, to the point that you began to wonder if the entire enterprise was not doubling as some form of exercise programme rather than a science fiction thriller. As expected, the men at the helm, Lamar Card and Paul Hunt, could not resist including the odd car chase too, de rigueur for this sort of thing in the nineteen-seventies, so the impression was one of leaving the story second best to the more kinetic sequences, which was just as well since the plotline was not the strongest element, a muddily conceived affair.
What was clear was that Appleby had been cloned at that laboratory he had been slaving away in, and his duplicate was pretending to be him - or was Gerry the duplicate? That was never wholly solved, though we could tell them apart because our hero had a sticking plaster on his forehead (thanks to a minor injuring while, yes, escaping again) and his impostor did not, though aside from that there was little difference between them. It was reminiscent of the Roger Moore cult effort The Man Who Haunted Himself, though The Clones was far less of a fantasy or horror and more of what looked like a television pilot for a series where Greene would be chased around every week while attempting to solve the series' big mysteries. You know, the old template for The Fugitive that served The Incredible Hulk so well.
That was reckoning without the manner in which this wrapped itself up, in a twist that made a sort of sense in the context of the narrative, and indeed with the themes of cloning that the rest of the movie failed to make much of, but otherwise was fairly abrupt and too keen to shock, which would have depended on how invested you were with Appleby's experiences. He had to suffer the indignities of severe confusion as to why he was being pursued by men with guns (and quite happy to use those firearms), why his girlfriend (Susan Hunt) was apparently romanced by his looky-likey, and the occasional injection of hallucinogenic drugs, for no reason apparent other than the directors had a fish-eye lens and they were going to use it, goddammit. There was also a brief psychedelic episode, in case you were in any doubt where we were in the place and time this film had been made. Had this been beefed up to increase the paranoia and weirdness, it might have been more memorable, as it was, The Clones was relegated to vague memories of seeing it on television at some time in the murky past. The music by Allen D. Allen was quite groovesome, however.