Sunday, August 14, 2011


When they were young, British boys Bill and Robin were both taken with American girl Lena, though in their swashbuckling games, Robin always won the girl. As young adults, Lena goes back to the States and the boys go to Cambridge where they become scientists who, years later, develop a powerful machine which is variously called the Duplicator or the Replicator or the Reproducer. Lena returns to their village of Haldeen in time to see the machine at work in their laboratory in a barn; they take a gold watch belonging to Bill's guardian and mentor Dr. Harvey, put it under a clear plastic dome, get a lot of electrical doodads going, and an exact copy of the watch appears under another dome across the room. While Robin goes off to London to get their duplication machine company going, Bill begins experimenting with living creatures. He is tampering in God's domain with an ulterior motive: making a clone of Lena, who still loves Robin, so he can have his own Lena. The duplicating is successful, and for a time Bill is happy with Lena II (whom he calls Helen), but while they're on a romantic vacation, he finds out that Helen not only has all of Lena’s memories, she’s also in love with Robin. Can further godless tampering, involving electrically wiping out all of Helen's memories, make him happy?

If you’ve seen or read any version of the Frankenstein story, you know the answer to that. This version must be one of the first SF films to approach the idea of cloning (though they never call it that), and there is great potential here, but it's squandered as the movie hews closer to romantic melodrama than to speculative fiction. Despite all the interesting philosophical ideas that could be raised here (not just the ethics of reproducing people but reproducing medicines, nuclear materials, and even money), virtually no voices of concern are raised except for some mild tut-tutting by Harvey, who actually uses a phrase very much like "God's domain" at one point, saying "You're not God, Bill!" Special effects are minimal, though the raging fire that ends the film is well done, and acting is adequate, no more, with Barbara Peyton (pictured) fine as the two Lenas and James Hayter faring the best as Dr. Harvey. Worth seeing as a historical footnote to modern-day cloning films. [DVD]

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