To those without any vision, Dr. Paul Holliston is just another in a long line of delusional Frankensteins playing God with human life with the expected disastrous results. Ethics and rules are there for a reason, you egomaniac! Who are you to decide to bring life into this world without the consent of the biological parents! What makes you think you can conduct these grotesque experiments without professional oversight, lecture the smug status quo drones!
If I’m Dr. Holliston, I’d send them a message letting them know that I’m too busy watching special guest star Roddy McDowall being put in his place at a party during a game of chess against my experiment named Victoria. And my nights are just too damn busy teaching her how babies are normally made since my secret sauce made her grow from a grody little embryo to a perfect 10 in like a month! Did I mention that if you keep giving me lip, I’ll sic my super intelligent Doberman on you? Last time I saw that little bugger he was helping Victoria dispose of a dead hooker!
Holliston is a scientist who was working on drug to allow fetuses to survive miscarriages with his wife until he kills her in a car accident. Understandably, he hates himself that she died and he didn’t. We know the depth of his self-loathing because not only does he choose to live in the same house as he did with his wife, but also with her bitter battle axe of a sister who hates him as much as he hates himself! Can you really blame him for firing up the incubation chambers and muttering about polypeptides?
First he experiments on a dog he runs over. If technojargon and endless scenes of fiddling with wires, injections and tubes while gawking at little models of dog embryos is your idea of entertainment, you should be on some type of watch list, but you’ll also be very happy with the first half of the movie.
The normal folks watching at home though will find all this breathless lab work and Holliston recording all his findings and observations to be increasingly slow going, especially the dread you feel as you realize that once we sit through him doing this with his dog, we’re going to have to repeat it all immediately thereafter when decides to go next level crazy and put an order for a first trimester fetus in with his hospital administrator friend. (Next time one of your so-called friends whines about doing you a favor like giving you a ride or helping you move, remind them of what Dr. Holliston’s friend was willing to do for him!)
Once Victoria is a full grown woman, the film begins sputtering to life. With her accelerated growth, she’s also a genius for some reason. Except for one minor area – a sense of right or wrong. She’s not so good at that. Do you know what she is good at? Besides sex and chess I mean. Killing!
With the help of Holliston’s other successful experiment (the dog she’s formed a mysterious bond with), she puts her evil plan into action! There’s a side effect to how she was created in the lab. She is again rapidly aging and will die of old age in short order unless she can figure out the antidote. With the help of a friend’s supercomputer she determines all she needs is some magic juice from a healthy 6 month old fetus! And guess who’s six month’s pregnant? Dr. Holliston’s daughter-in-law!
Though this is such a coincidence of farcical proportions it’s really hard to call it writing so much as simply filling in blanks in a script, against all expectations, Embryo throws off all the restrained pseudo-scientific posturing and finally becomes the grotesque medical exploitation film we were always hoping it would be. People are stabbed with syringes, a fetus get dumped on the floor like a spilled Thanksgiving turkey, there’s a car chase and explosion followed by an attempted drowning and finally the not so shocking ending that leaves the awesome Rock Hudson screaming.
Barbara Carrera as Victoria has an exotic beauty that combined with her strange, halting accent conveys that there’s something a bit different going on with her. You can’t really blame Victoria that she almost immediately becomes an raging immoral maniac when confronted by her own mortality since her creator slacked off on that part of her education.
Hudson, in his ragged mid 1970s phase shortly before his illness visibly ravaged him in later projects such as The Vegas Strip War, is of course the anchor to all this madness, . Even this late in his career, he still has a presence about him that’s frankly better than a film like Embryo deserves. As a character, Holliston is one dimensional, barely worrying about whether any of this is a good idea once he sees how hot Victoria is and having no qualms about screwing her when she’s really barely a few months old chronologically and has no real life experience.
It hard to take any of Embryo seriously though with its tale of one guy in his home lab growing dogs and people in his little plexiglass cases, ending up with a really smart pet and gorgeous girlfriend he can show off at parties before everyone inexplicably loses their mind all at once when they have their first setback. It’s more like a male fantasy with a cautionary ending tacked on than any sort of examination of the dangers and questions raised by the extreme frontiers of medical science.
The most impressive part of the movie was how well the dog was trained to do any variety of tricks. He took a goldfish off a table and threw it in the garbage for crying out loud! I can’t even get my kids to take out the trash!
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