The Human Duplicators (1965) -**
This is the part of the review where I usually like to say something about how a movie fits into some broader context, be it its genre, the history of the studio that produced it, its director’s career, or even just my life as a fan. I’ve been wracking my brains for close to two weeks for a way to pull that trick off for The Human Duplicators, and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it cannot be done. It’s a movie. It’s cheap. It sucks. And Richard Kiel is very, very large. Beyond that, there isn’t a lot of analysis to be performed.
Yeah, Richard Kiel is in this, alright. I’ve never had the stomach to force myself to watch any of the James Bond movies in which he plays the villain, but if his performance here is any indication, he was much better suited to movies like Eegah! than to anything most normal people might actually watch. Kiel plays an alien named Kolos (a seven-foot guy named Kolos— how imaginative), who comes to Earth in a spaceship that is virtually indistinguishable from a contemporary Christmas tree ornament on a mission of colonization for his masters, the Galaxy Beings. Kolos drops in at the palatial home of a distinguished cyberneticist named Dornheimer (George MacReady, from Soul of a Monster and The Alligator People), talks his way past Thor the butler (John Indrisano), and convinces the scientist’s pretty, blind daughter, Lisa (Dolores Faith, of The Phantom Planet and Mutiny in Outer Space), to show him to her father’s basement lab. There, Kolos announces that he is joining Dornheimer’s research team whether he likes it or not. “Your theories are correct, but your techniques are faulty,” Kolos bluntly informs his host. Kolos’s techniques, on the other hand, are apparently so advanced that under his direction, Dornheimer will be able to accomplish his seemingly far-off goals in a matter of days. And if such enticements aren’t persuasive enough, Kolos has an answer to that, too. “I am your master now,” he intones as he makes some kind of goofy hand gesture in the direction of Dornheimer and his two assistants.
Cut then to what we are supposed to believe is a high security laboratory complex. Really, I’m pretty sure it’s just a Motel 6 on the outskirts of Los Angeles. One of the scientists who works there drives up to the guardpost at the front gate, presents his ID, and then drives up to one of the lab buildings. The scientist steps inside some kind of storage room, and proceeds to ransack it. When a security guard catches him, the scientist overpowers the guard, smashes through the “armored” door leading back out to the parking lot, hops in his car, and speeds away with some very valuable— and highly sensitive, from a national security perspective— gear. The strangest thing of all, though, is that the scientist took a number of bullets in the back while making his escape, and didn’t seem to be bothered by them one bit.
Enter the federales. In this case, that means FBI guy Glenn Martin (George Nader, from House of a Thousand Dolls and Robot Monster), his boss Austin Welles (Hugh Beaumont, of The Mole People and The Lost Continent), and Welles’s detective-wannabe secretary, Gale Wilson (The Power’s Barbara Nichols). Evidently, the bulletproof guy who stole whatever it was from the Motel 6 wasn’t the only trusted scientist working in a seriously touchy field to go bad lately. Welles has compiled a series of files on all of the renegade scientists— who turn out to have been colleagues on some top-secret project or other— plus a few more whom Welles considers security risks in light of what’s been happening lately. After being briefed by Welles, Martin decides to begin his investigation by paying a visit first to the lab complex, and then to Dr. Dornheimer, who was something of a mentor to all of the scientists whose recent activities merit his present attention.
Martin’s trip to the lab turns up something very strange indeed. The neighborhood cops have found the body of the larcenous scientist, but if the medical examiner is to be believed, the man has been dead for at least twelve hours— long enough, in other words, that he was already dead when he raided the lab. This, combined with the thinly veiled blow-off Martin gets from Dr. Dornheimer (to say nothing of the odd way in which Lisa Dornheimer keeps acting like she’s got something really important to tell Martin, but she’s afraid to say it in front of her father), gets Martin— and Grace even more so— thinking. Dornheimer, after all, is the world’s foremost cyberneticist, and many of his articles in the scholarly journals deal with the subject of androids as the ultimate development of modern computer science. What if Dornheimer really has perfected android technology, and the scientists who have been stealing secret equipment from their labs are really just robot duplicates?
Well, considering that this movie is called The Human Duplicators, it seems pretty obvious that this is indeed what’s going on. And if you’ve made the connection that Kolos is ultimately behind the whole nefarious scheme, give yourself a gold star for the day. Martin goes back to Dornheimer’s place, where he contrives to get Lisa alone for a few minutes, and she confirms that there’s a robot factory down in her father’s basement. In fact, the man Martin spoke to the day before wasn’t Dr. Dornheimer at all, but rather another one of Kolos’s androids. But before Martin can make any use of this information, Kolos catches him, and sends him down to the basement to be duplicated himself. The activities of the android Martin will later draw Grace and Welles to the Dornheimer estate, but none of the G-men will prove nearly as efficacious in foiling the alien plot (the details of which, in case you were wondering, never do come out in any meaningful way) as Lisa, for whom Kolos (actually an android himself) inexplicably develops a soft spot. When the Galaxy Beings send word that Lisa is to be duplicated and the original destroyed, Kolos can’t bring himself to comply, leading to a struggle among the androids for control of the mission that leads ultimately to its total failure.
Like I said, I can’t really think of a whole lot to say about The Human Duplicators. It’s just amusing enough in its ineptitude to keep me from wanting to turn it off, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to a level that would make me much want to watch it again. If you catch it as a “Mystery Science Theater 3000” rerun, you might have a bit more fun than you would from watching it straight, but in the end, it’s still kind of colorless and dull.