A scientist doing experiments on a human fetus discovers a method to accelerate the fetus into a mature adult in just a few days. However, the "adult" fetus turns into a homicidal psycho ...
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A scientist doing experiments on a human fetus discovers a method to accelerate the fetus into a mature adult in just a few days. However, the "adult" fetus turns into a homicidal psycho and looks for a new formula to prevent her from aging further.Written by
Ralph Nelson made some good movies particularly in the 1960s, mostly middle-of-the-road dramas addressing pressing social issues. But he didn't appear to have a fantastical bone in his body, and was clearly the wrong choice to direct this sci-fi variation on the Frankenstein story.
Rock Hudson plays a scientist whose personal guilt over his wife's death drives him to experiments in his private lab that attempt to save the lives of fetuses trapped in the bodies of dying females. He succeeds in saving one such being from a suicidal young woman. His methods lead the fetus to develop rapidly into an adult (Barbara Carrera) who is beautiful and brilliant but, because she has skipped past all the standard character-forming years of human growth, lacks any sense of morality--when she eventually feels threatened, she doesn't hesitate at resorting to homicide. But that doesn't happen until the last 15 minutes or so in a movie without any prior "action" (a little partial nudity aside), and Nelson doesn't even seem interested in the violence when it does arrive, keeping it mostly off-screen.
Hudson gives an earnest performance--he's not just walking through it, as he sometimes did with mediocre material--and Carrera, one of those actresses who seldom got to stretch much because she was typecast as cheesecake, is as good as the film allows. The supporting cast is strong enough, excepting Roddy McDowell, who throws off the straightfacedf tone somewhat with an overly hammy "guest star" turn as a snippy chess master infuriated when Carrera's "Victoria" beats him.
But the script isn't quite intelligent or credible to be taken seriously. Nor is Nelson's direction stylish, suspenseful, or lurid enough to make "Embryo" any kind of guilty pleasure--it's watchable enough, but once you realize there really won't be much payoff, the entire experience becomes somewhat deflating. While the 70s was full of variable big-studio sci-fi films that in one way or another emphasized their futurism, "Embryo" has no sci-fi trappings at all beyond a premise whose ideas aren't very boldly worked out. It wasn't a success at the time, and one has to admit there isn't much reason to pronounce it under-rated now. It's a competently crafted misfire.
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