The Lost Skeleton of
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,
Betty: "Scenery is lovely to look
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
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.
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.
PG-13 - Parents
Some material may be
children under 13.