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Originally published Friday, July 22, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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"Clonus" director says he's seen this clone story before

Here's an irony alert — and a lawsuit alert: a new movie about clones appears to be an uncredited clone of another movie. Director Michael Bay's new...

Seattle Times DVD writer

Here's an irony alert — and a lawsuit alert: a new movie about clones appears to be an uncredited clone of another movie.

Director Michael Bay's new science-fiction blockbuster has drawn comparisons to the '70s classics "Logan's Run" and "Coma." But "The Island" looks so much like 1979's "Clonus," aka "Parts: The Clonus Horror" (available on DVD from Mondo Macabro, $19.95) that its director says he may seek a federal injunction to stop "The Island's" distribution.

"Clonus" is an obscure cheapie with a fascinating premise, best known now because of the ridiculing it took in a "Mystery Science Theater 3000" episode. Viewing one after the other will make you do a double take.

In Bay's movie, the closely monitored, mod-clothed, naive residents of a futuristic colony win a lottery to go away to a promised land called "The Island."

In "Clonus," the closely monitored, mod-clothed, naive residents of a futuristic colony are chosen to go to a promised land called "America."

In both movies, a male resident goes on the run when he discovers that the promised land is a lie, and that he's part of a colony of clones being grown to harvest their organs when the rich human originals ail. Both feature an evil scientist keeping his project a secret from the public at all costs by sending assassins after the runner.

Reached at his home in Ashburn, Va., "Clonus" director Robert S. Fiveson said Wednesday that he'd sneaked into a preview screening of "The Island" the previous night. "I went in hoping and praying that it was enough different than 'Clonus' so that I could just put my mind at rest and move on, but I can't. Because astonishingly enough, it not only seems to rest on the very skeleton of the film, ... there were enough (similarities) in the movie in the first third that I thought this cannot be happenstance or casual."

Fiveson said he'd known about the numerous Web sites and message boards that have been pointing out the similarities — even of some specific shots: "Subplots, characterizations, even down to the butterfly getting through the filter! And the chase scenes were almost in the same order and same locale."

What went through Fiveson's head as Bay's movie unfolded?

"I was thinking 'Jeez, this looks so much better than my movie. I wish I had the money.' "

"Clonus" cost $257,000. "The Island's" budget was $120 million.

Press materials for "The Island" tout its "original screenplay," which an enthusiastic Steven Spielberg sent to Bay. The story is credited to Caspian Tredwell-Owen, who co-wrote the screenplay with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. There's no mention of Bob Sullivan, who wrote the "Clonus" story and co-wrote the screenplay with Ron Smith, with an "adaptation" credit going to Fiveson and Myrl A. Schreibman.

Although he's been talking with lawyers, Fiveson said he doesn't know what he wants from "The Island" filmmakers or its studio, DreamWorks. "I'm not in this to make money, frankly." However, he said, "I wouldn't mind if this thing went to a jury trial at all."

Mark Rahner: mrahner@seattletimes.com

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