The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra- DVD Review
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 3/18/05
The 1950s were the Golden Age of schlock sci fi films- ranging from films so bad they’ve become classics- Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Robot Monster, to some better than expected films like The Brain From Planet Arous, and Them. It’s the first set of films that is taken aim at by the film The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra- replete with actors playing bad actors, who recite intentionally bad dialogue, that’s repeated ad nauseam, as well as bad special effects and a determined ‘humanitarian message’. This spoof of such films was written, directed, and starred in by Larry Blamire.
The best part of this film is that, to enjoy it, one need not be drenched in the films it spoofs- it plays as both a ‘straight’ schlock film, and a satire. Blamire plays Dr. Paul Armstrong, a heroic scientist, in love with science, even as he notes scientists believe in nothing, out to retrieve a meteorite containing ‘atmosphereum’. Fay Masterson is devoted wife, Betty. Susan McConnell and Andrew Parks are aliens named Lattis and Kro-Bar- descendants not only of nineteen-fifties alien stolidity, but the old Saturday Night Live Coneheads couple, in their forced imitations of human customs. Brian Howe and Jennifer Blaire (Blamire’s real life wife) are mad scientist Dr. Roger Fleming and his woman-beast Animala- created using the alien’s ray gun- a direct knock off of Plan 9’s Vampira.
Atmosphereum is a mystical substance that can launch Armstrong’s career, power the alien’s rocketship, and also reanimate the evil Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra, whom Fleming hopes will help him conquer the world. The problem is the Skeleton loathes Fleming, and seems narcoleptic- dozing off at inopportune times, after declaring, ‘I sleep!’. Meanwhile, the aliens’ pet Mutant (Darrin Reed)- terribly costumed, has gone on a killing spree, horribly mutilating locals, a fact which Ranger Brad (Dan Conroy) keeps repeating to the Armstrongs, aliens, Fleming, and Animala, when he visits the cabin all the rest end up at- until the mutant horribly mutilates him! Fortunately, in Beauty and the Beast style, the Mutant has a boner (or its equivalent) for the beautiful Betty. After some doublecrossing of the aliens by Fleming, the aliens are under the spell of the Skeleton, who longs to marry Lattis. A climactic showdown between the Skeleton and Mutant ensues, with both dying- the Skeleton after killing Fleming, and the Mutant as Betty comforts it.
The schmaltziness, choppy editing, black and white, stock 1950s sci fi score, stock nature film footage of the animals Animala’s created from, bad special effects- a miniature rocket ship, bad Geiger counter-like devices, and a cheesy inside to the aliens’ rocketship, plus typically inappropriate Cold War-era morality playing, make the film an unexpected delight. Some critics think that camp can only occur unwittingly- such as in the cases of Ed Wood, or the worst of the Roger Corman films- and they may be right. But, The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra isn’t camp- it’s satire, and there’s a difference- self-awareness. Viewed seriously Plan 9 From Out Of Space may well be ‘the worst movie ever made’- with classic lines as ‘You humans are stupid, stupid, stupid!’ meant to be social commentary. Fortunately, its unintended camp quotient, and myriad laughs, make it far more enjoyable than many sober, and somber films that reek. The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra does not have that problem, for it’s knowingly being bad. While you may not think a scene or line funny, there’s an ‘insider’-type meta-quality to the film that practically insulates it from any criticism. If you loathe ‘good’ bad films along with ‘bad’ bad films you’ll never get this film on any level. If you can discern the difference you cannot help but, at least, love- if not revel in the film. It was even shot in Bronson Canyon, outside Los Angeles, where films like Robot Monster, and many others, were shot.
As for the DVD? The special features include a commentary track by Blamire and others involved in the film- his knowledge of this genre is nonpareil, and his ability to write dialogue that evokes and also needles that from the original films shows he’s someone with talent whom Hollywood should look to revive the moribund Austin Powers franchise, or the like. In the last decade or so only Roman Coppola’s CQ, a spoof of 1960s Eurotrash flicks like Modesty Blaise, seems to ‘get’ what satire is. Blamire and Coppola could work wonders together if they combined to take on genres like slasher films, Oriental monster films, or gangster flicks.
The DVD also has a Q&A session from the film’s premier, as well as a trailer that evokes the look & feel of the 1950s films it sends up- reputedly the trailer cost more than the film. Also included is a blooper reel, a featurette, and an Ub Iwerks Skeleton Frolic cartoon. All in all, this DVD is well worth the five bucks I paid for it used. If only other films were as knowledgeable of themselves & the medium truly bad films, like The Hours or Saving Private Ryan, would go the way of the Skeleton. I sleep!
[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on the 2/05 Hackwriters website.]
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