The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
2002, PG, 94 min. Directed by Larry Blamire. Starring Larry Blamire, Fay Masterson, Brian Howe, Andrew Parks, Susan McConnell, Jennifer Blaire.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 20, 2004
A knowing and affectionate parody of 1950s sci-fi movies, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra works just fine for the first half hour or so, but quickly devolves into a case of too much affection and not enough affliction. It’s all well and good to send up the shambling black-and-white mutants of films like Roger Corman’s Day the World Ended and Edward L. Cahn’s The She-Creature – and that’s exactly the kind of drive-in fodder that Blamire is aiming at – but after the introduction of the main characters The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra slowly, painfully becomes repetitious and borderline boring, a fate it shares, ironically enough, with so many of the films it’s taking potshots at. There’s Blamire himself as scientist Paul Armstrong, a "scientist who uses science" to uncover the mystery of an Earth-bound meteor containing the powerful element atmospherium. Perky blond wife Betty (Masterson) is by his side throughout, but the introduction of a pair of Plan 9 From Outer Space-style aliens, – Kro-Bar and Lattis (Parks, McConnell) – and the rival science guy Dr. Fleming (Howe) complicate matters when it turns out all three are searching for the element for their own nefarious ends. The lost skeleton of the title cracks wise in a cave while awaiting Fleming’s return, hopefully to reanimate his old bones via the atmospherium. There’s also a renegade mutant on the loose, but even monster-maker Paul Blaisdell on his worst days never came up with such a pitifully cheeseball monster (which appears to have a vacuum cleaner, or possibly a mop, on its head and rivals Corman’s ping-pong-ball-eyed Creature From the Haunted Sea for sheer dumb ludicrousness). As somewhat of a rabid fan of early Corman and AIP quickie monster movies, it’s obvious that Blamire is a fan as well and has his heart in the right place. The problem, however, is that there are only so many jabs you can take at B-movie genre tropes before you run out of gags. Having the scientist overexplain his actions (i.e. "via the scientific method, a type of science used by scientists") worked just fine for Leo G. Carroll in Tarantula, chiefly because it was done only once, and not in jest. With The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra the joke wears thin almost immediately and then continues well past its sell-by date. On the plus side, the crisp black-and-white photography (courtesy of Kevin Jones) flawlessly matches that of its Fifties-era real-life counterparts, and production design is joyously (and appropriately) crappy throughout. For a much shorter version of the same idea done by another, better-known sci-fi fan, check out the DVD of Joe Dante’s lovingly hokey tribute to William Castle and kidhood Saturday afternoon moviegoing, Matinee. The film-within-the-film Mant! ("Half man! Half ant! All terror!") is a spot-on, tongue-in-cheek recreation in the same vein as The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, but far less tedious. Plus, the wraparound film features Corman alum Dick Miller and indie godhead John Sayles, a bargain at twice the price.