Embryo may have unintentionally landed in the science-fiction genre. Or perhaps it was going for a less fantastical angle, choosing instead to be tempered in its speculations about where medical technology was heading back in 1976. The movie even begins with something of a disclaimer by a medical doctor who was the technical consultant for the movie, warning us that there is some fact to this fiction. "It could be a possibility. Tomorrow... or Today." is the ominous transcript from Medical Charles R. Brinkman III. Indeed, Embryo does have a feel of authenticity and plausibility. It's 70s special-effects that features animal and human embryos are less about evoking spectacle and more about exuding a sense of scientific wonderment. Even when it is time to introduce a growth development drug – and keep a straight face – Hudson pulls it off with a static and stoic voice-over. The peak of his excitement for this miracle technology ascends no higher than the line, "I am, for the first time, optimistic."
Dr. Paul Holliston, played by Rock Hudson, is our risqué researcher in Embryo. Having been made in 1976, the producers of Embryo did a little bit of their own genetic engineering when concocting the image of this lead character: Two-parts Marlboro Man and one-part Peter Bergman ("I'm not a Doctor, but I play one on TV") and you get a cool cigarette smoking doctor who takes a few puffs of his cancer stick before flicking it out of his car window. This is all before rushing to the aid of a helpless and pregnant doberman pinscher. It is this noble rescue to save her and her pups that kick off our story. Dr. Paul – yes, I'm calling him Dr. Paul. Dammit, if the 2000s can have a "Dr. Phil" then the 70s can have a "Dr. Paul". Ahem...anyway. Dr. Paul can only rescue one of her pups, and he pulls it off with a drug that accelerates its growth to a self-sustaining embryonic stage. He continues administering the growth drug until the dog becomes, in a matter of weeks, a full grown pup.
The Dog, probably because she's a dog and not a person, is given the unfortunate name "Number 1". It is my theory that this impersonal and statistical name has pissed off Number 1 causing her to become very aggressive later in the film. Especially since having a name like "Number 1" is a daily reminder that there is no Number 2 or even a Number 2.0. Dogs need lovin' Two, you know. Anyway, I say it is loneliness that has made Number 1 into a homicidal maniac. But the writers of Embryo insist that it is from the drugs administered by Dr. Paul. Regardless, Number 1 turns into an evil genius, as exampled in the scene where she bullies a smaller dog, presumably for wearing a ridiculous red t-shirt ( exhibit A ). Roughs him up ( exhibit B ). Makes the fast getaway ( exhibit C ) and then disposes of the body ( exhibit D ). It should also be mentioned that Dr. Paul's "consciousness drugs" has increased the intelligence of Number 1 to such a degree that her name should be changed to "Number Square Root of Negative 1".
Needless to say, everything that applies to Number 1 becomes applicable to Dr. Paul's next experiment when he rapidly develops a human embryo into a gorgeous, genius and perfectly sexable woman named "Victoria". While it seems that all of this is a setup to a movie that could have been the prequel to Mike Myers, "So I Married an Axe Murderer", it doesn't. And that's where Embryo turns out to be a good movie. A damn good one, actually. Victoria does whack off a few people here and there, sure. But the real tragedy is not her victims – but her. Dr. Paul's rapid aging drugs are sending her to an early grave. The consequence is much more poignant then you might expect and the last line shouted by Victoria at her medical maker is heartbreaking.
Unfortunately, the DVD quality of Embryo makes this a difficult one to recommend. The images, especially those in the dark, are difficult to read and the audio is often difficult to hear. Combine that with no subtitle option and you have a damn good flick that is almost unwatchable. But if you must see it, throw it on NetFlix. Just don't throw any money at it by buying it on DVD.
Utilizing an experimental hormone that he developed with his late wife, a scientist (Rock Hudson) rescues one of a few unborn puppies from the womb of a Doberman Pinscher (inadvertently struck by his auto) by accelerating its growth beyond known precedence. Proving exceptionally intelligent and able (though defensive by way of surreptitious murder), the canine's successful maturity inspires its savior to extrapolate his procedure to similarly stimulate the development of a human fetus. … more