Monday, April 24, 2017

The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler (1971)

          While it’s difficult to understand why this picture earned a theatrical release, seeing as how its small-scale approach to sci-fi/conspiracy thrills resembles that of some routine telefilm, The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler is mildly interesting for deliberate and unintended reasons. On the plus side, the loopy plot involves mad doctors and scheming government officials, with an intrepid reporter endeavoring to discover the truth. On the minus side, the script is way too talky, and it’s always difficult to take Leslie Neilson seriously upon discovering one of his pre-Airplane! dramatic performances. One is especially challenged to stay with The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler during the climax, when Nielsen shares the screen with a blue-faced automaton that stumbles around like some monster in an old Universal Studios shocker. Anyway, the story begins with iconoclastic TV journalist Harry Walsh (Nielsen) rushing to the scene of a car accident. Discovering that one of the victims is Senator Clayton Zachary Wheeler (Bradford Dillman), Walsh follows Wheeler’s ambulance to a nearby hospital. Unbeknownst to Walsh, creepy scientists abscond with the unconscious senator, then instigate a cover-up. Told that Wheeler was never admitted, Walsh endeavors to prove he saw what he saw.
          Meanwhile, Wheeler awakes in a remote facility operated by Dr. Redding (James Daly) and his associate, Dr. Johnson (Angie Dickinson). Redding explains that he performed experimental surgery by making a clone of Wheeler, then harvesting the clone for organs. What ensues is the usual potboiler stuff, with Walsh following clues while Wheeler appeals to Johnson’s humanity for help in escaping the madhouse. Executed with more zing, the story could have made for an entertaining lark, but the pacing is terrible, the production values are cheap, and the endless chitty-chat is interminable. So while The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler isn’t a complete dud, it’s a wimpy version of something that could and should have been provocative. Later films with similar themes, including Coma (1978) and Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979), are much more enjoyable.

The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler: FUNKY

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