Monday, June 09, 2008

Organ-supplying clones - an idea that just won't die

Almost 54 years ago a Boston doctor, Joseph Murray, transplanted a kidney from 24-year-old Ronald Herrick to his identical twin brother Richard Herrick, who was dying of chronic kidney disease. Because the twins had developed from a single fertilized egg, they were genetically identical, which meant that Richard did not suffer from the immunological rejection problems that had caused earlier experimental transplants in animals to fail. Now, of course, people who receive transplants can take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ. But wouldn't it be easier - or at least make a better story - if we all had an identical twin (or two) to provide us replacements for failing organs?

While we can't retrospectively create a same-aged twin, reproductive cloning could be used (at least in theory) to generate a younger genetic duplicate. That is the idea behind the 2005 movie The Island, where clones are raised in an isolated colony, until (they are told) they win the lotter, which allows them to move to an unspoiled tropical island. I don't think it's too much of a SPOILER to reveal that there is no island. Instead the lottery "winners" are sent to a medical facility to have their organs harvested for their "sponsors". A couple of the clones escape, and, of course, havoc ensues.

The movie isn't particularly original, however. The Wikipedia page for The Island suggests that it might have been inspired by Michael Marshall Smith's 1996 novel Spares. The closest similarity, however, was to the 1979 horror movie Parts: The Clonus Horror. The makers of The Clonus Horror was similar enough that its makers actually filed suit against DreamWorks (producers of The Island) for copyright infringement, and as the case was preparing for trial, a "seven-figure settlement" was reached.

So which movie to put in your Netflix queue? Annalee Newitz at io9 says The Clonus Horror is definitely the better of the two.
It is indeed almost exactly the same movie as The Island, except in two respects. One, it is actually creepy and interesting; and two, the place the clones are told they're going is "America," not "the island." Which makes the whole movie way more of a political thriller and enlivens the plot.
Head over to io9 to watch a creepy clip.

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  1. Anonymous5:36 PM

    What's really funny is that, upon seeing the first preview for "The Island," I thought it was a remake of Logans' Run.

  2. The advertising definitely had that look - beautiful young people "escaping" and all.


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