The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
review by Elias Savada, 27 February 2003

No doubt someone of the wrong mindset or age who stumbles into The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra will fume with dismay at the cheesy sets, hammy acting, dreadfully low-tech "special effects," black-and-white photography, glorious monophonic sound, and atrocious script. Hopefully, most of you should get the joke, like I did. We're the ones guffawing at this deadpan send-up of the 1950s low-budget, B-movie science fiction/horror films that we watched at drive-ins as kids, caught in a film history class, Tivoed off the Sci-Fi Network, or discovered in a public domain DVD megapack offering more creature features for a price approaching the cost of a matinee ticket.

If you don't get it from the wink-wink hint "Filmed in the miracle of Skeletorama" qualification as the film starts, there's that dupey two-color (i.e., black and white) look of an old 15-chapter serial, and the inane, tongue-deeply-in-cheek dialogue.

Betty: "Scenery is lovely to look at."

Paul: "If you like scenery."

Oops, let me introduce our key players, portraying Betty and Paul Armstrong. Where are my manners! Lost Skeleton's director-writer (also a playwright and artist) Larry Blamire is Dr. Paul Armstrong ("I'm a scientist."). He's such a dedicated scientist that he belittles himself for his inability to appreciate life's simpler things, like cabins, or bicycles. His June Cleaver wife is portrayed by Faye Masterson as a prim, caring woman, sexy in a 1950s way, although the "action" is set in 1961. (Well there's a hint of sensuality, but this is a perfectly prudish PG rated title.) Betty happily tags along with her husband in search of a fallen meteor. Out in the woods, the ever-smiling pair, who barely revel in their poised ineptitude, are the kind of couple who gladly would have displayed the modern conveniences of the Popeil Veg-O-Matic, that late night, 1960s multi-purpose food cutter. (As Seen on TV!) Blamire's dedication to the skewering he does to the genre is so proper that not a speak of dirt dishevels Betty's polka-dot dress and cardigan sweater, an outfit she wears day after day as she accompanies her husband in his peculiar scientific quest. Because that's what a scientist and his wife do. Not a hair on her well-sprayed head moves out of place when she's absconded by the dreaded three-eyed mutant (are those pants and shoes that actor Darrin Reed is wearing?). And not a pearl is torn off her lovely necklace. Don't forget those unscuffed high heels.

Who else is out camping in the countryside in search of the outer space chunk and the atmosphereum it contains? What the heck is atmosphereum? It's rare and everyone—in the film—needs it. (Accept it or I'll sick a mutant on you.) Dr. Roger Fleming (Brian Howe), the self-important "mad scientist" character seeking the eponymous creation and falling under the evil spell of that bony frame, an ominous voice-over who needs atmosphereum to regain his exterior and overpower the world. There's also Kro-Bar (Andrew Parks) and Lattis (Susan McConnell), two human-looking aliens aboard a marooned spacecraft, which looks like a painted paper towel tube because it probably is. That mutant roaming about is an escaped pet of the extra-terrestrials. Jennifer Blaire (Blamire's real-life wife) fills the paws of Animala, an amalgam of four morphed forest animals (courtesy of a spackle, er. space gun, er transmutatron) whose lack of table manners is made up with the sensual look of an Apache dancer. Finally, we have Ranger "I don't believe in anything" Brad (Dan Conroy), a lonely forest ranger who suffers a (thankfully off screen) fate worse than a horrible mutilation.

As for the meteor, which bears a close relationship to upside-down cake? Don't worry. Paul finds a safe place for it.

The joke, which you'd think might wear out, is sustained fairly well by Blamire and his exuberantly stoic cast, only flattening out in the middle of the film, but returning for a crazed finale. With enough room left for tapioca!

No effort was spared to hide the cheesiness of the effects and set design. And don't those strings attached to the skeleton look amazingly real! The budget, somewhere in the thousands of dollars (the skeleton was picked up off ebay for $100), shows every penny on the screen. Look, there's one in front of Betty right now! Obviously if you haven't gotten this schlock shock parody by now, you won't…until you've become a victim of the lost skeleton. Coming next, The Trail of the Screaming Forehead. Honest. Maybe.

Columbia Pictures' TriStar unit, which has the good fortune to champion the film's release, added a lovely 7-minute Technicolor short subject, Skeleton Frolic, before the feature. This 1937 release is a perfect complement created by Ub Iwerks, a master animator who worked on the early Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies cartoons. Columbia repertory executive Michael Schlesinger (a devoted film fan who also directed, uncredited. that studio's English language adaptation of Godzilla 2000) was the real driving force behind the film's expanding release. Columbia: Give Mike a promotion. Everyone else: Go see The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.

Written and
Directed by:

Larry Blamire

Fay Masterson
Brian Howe
Larry Blamire
Jennifer Blaire
Susan McConnell

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may be
inappropriate for
children under 13.






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