The Daily Grindhouse: The Clones (dir. by Lamar Card and Paul Hunt)

How, you may be asking, did I come to see The Clones, an extremely obscure and low-budget science fiction thriller from 1973?

It all started when I first saw the trailer for the film on 42nd Street Forever, a compilation of old school grindhouse trailers.  For whatever reasons, the trailer for The Clones fascinated me.  Whether it was the extremely dry narration or the fact that the trailer actually ended with a quote from a then-member of the U.S. Senate, I felt that The Clones was a film that I, as a student of film and history, simply had to see.

How obscure is this film?  It’s so obscure that The Clones has never even been released on DVD.  In order to see the film, I had to go on Amazon and order a used VHS copy from a some guy in Indiana.  When it arrived in the mail, the first thing I noticed was the big “Property of the St. Augusta Public Library” that was stamped on the back of the worn video box.

The fact that my copy of The Clones had obviously seen better days actually added a lot to the viewing experience.  Much as true grindhouse fans treasure every scratch and auditory pop whenever they watch a film like Fight For Your Life or Last House on Dead End Street, I found myself oddly proud that my copy of The Clones had obviously survived so much just so that it could eventually end up as a part of my video library.

As for the film itself, The Clones is one of those wonderful low-budget films that deserve to be rediscovered.  Dr. Gerald Appleby (well-played by an actor named Michael Greene) is a nuclear scientist who discovers that he’s been cloned and that the clone has essentially been out living his life whenever the original Appleby has been at work.  Though it’s hinted that he’s being set up by foreign spies, the reason for Appleby’s cloning remains obscure throughout the entire film.  Whether this narrative obscurity is intentional or not, it actually serves the film well as it helps to transform Appleby into almost a Kafkaesque figure.

When Appleby attempts to reveal to the proper authorities that he’s been cloned, he finds himself accused of being an imposter and is forced to literally run for his life.  The majority of the film deals with Appleby being chased across the California desert by not only the mad scientist who cloned him (a wonderfully demented Stanley Adams) but also by two ruthless federal agents.  The two federal agents are played by Otis Young and Gregory Sierra, two character actors who appeared in several films during the 70s.  Sierra and Young are a lot of fun to watch in this film and it’s hard not to like them, even if they technically are villains.  They both just seem to be having so much fun trying to kill our hero.

From what little information that I’ve been able to gather about this film’s production, it appears that The Clones was one of the first motion pictures to attempt to take advantage of the paranoia that most people feel over the prospect of humans being cloned.  When seen today, the film’s story is a bit predictable because, to be honest, there’s really only so much when you can do with cloning as a plot device.  However, The Clones remains an oddly effective film.  The low budget (and lack of special effects) actually contributes to the film’s success.  Without the crutch of spectacle, The Clones is forced to pay attention to things like characterization.  How’s that for a concept?

The film eventually climaxes with a genuinely exciting shoot out in a deserted amusement park and then it all ends, in typical 70s fashion, in a climax that manages to be both fun and depressing at the same time.

The Clones is not necessarily an easy film to see but it’s well worth the effort.


VGM Entry 44: Final Fantasy IV

VGM Entry 44: Final Fantasy IV
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

Supposedly the sound team at Square was so overburdened when it came to scoring Final Fantasy IV that they occasionally camped out in sleeping bags at the office. Or so claim Nobuo’s rather zanny liner notes for the game’s official soundtrack, dated “April 13, 1991, 1:30 a.m. (in the office, naturally)”. Whatever the veracity of this, the end result was probably the best game soundtrack composed up to that time.

Nobuo Uematsu must have been waiting a long time for this. “Prelude” received its main melody to finally become the song we think of today. “Prologue” (Main Theme) got an epic introduction to overtake the recently revamped Dragon Quest theme. Hell, something approaching real orchestration was possible!

The process of adjusting to the Super Nintendo took a lot of time and energy, and it didn’t get any easier. Nobuo Uematsu has stated that Final Fantasy VI was his most challenging score, and one can imagine a perfectionist’s realization that Super Nintendo sound, though vastly superior to the Nintendo, was still sufficiently limited for the possibility of excruciatingly sampling every option. Perhaps that’s why Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI especially turned out so great; lacking the sense of unrestrained freedom of true orchestration, attention to detail was taken to painstaking extremes. Perhaps. I don’t know.

The track list for the sample above is:

“Prologue” (0:55)
“Red Wings” (1:35)
“Main Theme” (Overworld) (2:16)
“Into the Darkness” (3:00)
“Fight 1” (3:32)
“Mystic Mysidia” (4:31)
“The Airship” (5:20)
“The Big Whale” (5:50)
“Theme of Love” (6:27)
“Palom & Porom” (7:11)
“Chocobo-Chocobo” (7:38)
“Land of Dwarves” (8:12)
“Epilogue” (8:37)
“Fanfare” (9:24)

It’s something of a testament to how amazing Final Fantasy IV really is that garudoh’s ten minute sampler does not even include the vast majority of my personal favorites. And since I am at liberty to write these articles however the hell I want to, I present you with my top five Final Fantasy IV tracks, roughly in order:

#5: Fabul

The music of Fabul could not possibly be better suited for its role in the game. Here you’ve got an isolated, well fortified castle guarded by monks, which are pretty much ninjas and way cooler than Edge anyway. And there’s nothing friendly about this town. It’s been a long, long time, but I recall never exactly feeling welcome there, and I certainly shouldn’t after all the trouble. “Fabul” isn’t just appropriately oriental, it’s also pretty grim. There’s a sense of foreboding about it which perfectly captures the events your arrival foretells.

#4: The Lunarians

“The Lunarians” was my favorite Final Fantasy IV track as a kid. I remember pounding away at it for hours on my mother’s piano, which must have been especially grating since I’ve never taken a piano lesson in my life. This isn’t some ‘light in the darkness’ track. The pretty melody is completely haunting, and that forcefully struck deep note is entirely complimentary to it. No, there’s no sort of contrast here. This song captures a beautiful and dangerous mystery.

#3: The boss battles

Yes I know I’m cheating. Final Fantasy IV is packed full of outstanding fight music. The final battle, featured above, is the most dramatic of the lot–as well it should be–but only barely. “The Fierce Battle” also does wonders for capturing a heightened sense of danger and urgency. Really, though the whole multiple tiers of combat music thing was probably done before, Final Fantasy IV has to be one of the first games to make effective use of it. “Fight 2“, the standard boss tune, emerges out of the same brief introduction as the basic combat theme (see garudoh’s mix) and steps the action up a notch with faster drumming, more pronounced bass, brass accents, and a more central role for the strings. “The Fierce Battle” goes farther still, allowing the brass to share center stage with the strings, except unlike in “Fight 1“, the brass melody lines here actually feel like the real deal. The track comes off as very orchestral to me, and intense in a way that just wasn’t possible prior to the SNES. “The Final Battle” mixes the best of each world and contributes a rock beat to top off the job.

#2: Troian Beauty

This appropriately titled song might just be a simple waltz helped along by harp arpeggios, but that’s precisely why it works. It’s just a beautiful song–a real stroke of genius from an artist of whom we expect such feats. It’s one of the most frequently covered Final Fantasy songs you’ll find (I even stumbled across a banjo rendition), as it translates well into nearly any arrangement. It’s one of my personal favorite songs to cover, using Kabukibear’s version. If you’re not familiar with his arrangements, this is a great place to start.

My favorite Final Fantasy IV song of all might be a little anticlimactic, as it’s featured in the garudoh compilation, but I hope you’ll give it some consideration before writing it off as a relatively generic song in relation to the tracks accompanying it.

#1: Red Wings

If I was ever to form a video game cover band, and I’ve been kicking around the idea since I was old enough to pick up a guitar, “Red Wings” would definitely be my top priority. Just imagine the possibilities for subtle intensification in this song. Sure, Uematsu’s version might only be a minute long, but I could see this building up into a ten minute marathon, starting out with that martial snare and climaxing with an Atsuo-intense drumset massacre, with room for all kinds of instrumental variation in between. Ok, maybe that’s my vision for the song and not the song itself, but I think Uematsu lays out a prototype for something truly epic here.

Trailer: Resident Evil 6 “No Hope Left” Cinematic Live-Action

I haven’t been as big a fan of Capcom’s Resident Evilsurvival horror game franchise (weird considering that zombie fiction and entertainment is like catnip to me), but the upcoming and latest entry in the series has me excited. Resident Evil 6 looks to return the series to its zombie roots after spending the last two titles veering away from it.

While the gameplay still looks to be just something upgraded and tweaked from games past the story itself looks like something that I would find interesting as it moves the danger from being localized to something more global in scope. I’m really hoping that this title brings me back to the franchise which was great in the beginning then began to lose steam and ideas in it’s latest offerings.

This latest trailer takes a page out of the Halofranchise’s marketing book by making it live-action. It might be only 90 seconds but getting a glimpse of how a world reacts to the onset of a zombie apocalypse makes for a nice, brief piece of entertainment.

Resident Evil 6 is set for an October 6 release for the Xbox 360, PS3 and Windows PC.