The International Writers Magazine: Sc-Fi Review
Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra- DVD Review
1950s were the Golden Age of schlock sci fi films- ranging from
films so bad theyve become classics- Plan 9 From Outer
Space, and Robot Monster, to some better than expected films like
The Brain From Planet Arous, and Them. Its 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, thats 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
(Blamires real life wife) are mad scientist Dr. Roger Fleming
and his woman-beast Animala- created using the aliens ray gun-
a direct knock off of Plan 9s Vampira.
Atmosphereum is a mystical substance that can launch Armstrongs
career, power the aliens 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
The schmaltziness, choppy editing, black and white, stock 1950s sci-
fi score, stock nature film footage of the animals Animalas 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
isnt camp- its satire, and theres 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 its knowingly being
bad. While you may not think a scene or line funny, theres 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 youll 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 hes 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 Coppolas 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 films 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 and the medium
truly bad films, like The Hours or Saving Private Ryan,
would go the way of the Skeleton. I sleep!
© Dan Schneider Feb 2005
all rights reserved