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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001)

"Why do you not come to life, my skeleton?"
- Dr. Roger Fleming (Brian Howe)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: June 20, 2004

Stars: Larry Blamire, Fay Masterson
Other Stars: Brian Howe, Andrew Parks, Susan McConnell, Jennifer Blaire, Dan Conroy, Robert Deveau, Darren Reed
Director: Larry Blamire

MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language
Run Time: 01h:29m:23s
Release Date: June 22, 2004
UPC: 043396043077
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I don't know if people under, let's say the age of 30, can even relate to growing up with the anticipation of Saturday afternoon monster movies on some tiny UHF station, where in between commercials for a local used car lot, some overgrown creature or rubber-suited alien would eventually face off against the logical reason of science, after disposing of a few random townsfolk along the way. Man, let me tell you, I absolutely lived for those movies, watching them (hell, memorizing them) on a tiny black-and-white television was how I spent weekend afternoons as a kid, watching bulbous-headed aliens, giant leeches, and killer shrews wreak their specialized brand of havoc on neat-and-clean America.

Without a doubt, the advent of cable and VCRs kind of ruined that experience for subsequent generations, and though at risk of making me sound like some toothless octogenarian, I really think something important (ok, maybe not "important", but you get the drift) has been lost. At the very least, I feel sorry for all these modern-day little kids who don't give a crap about watching It Came From Outer Space, The Beast with a Million Eyes or Attack of the Giant Leeches—those are the classics, in my estimation. Maybe they didn't have the greatest production values in the world, and the acting often was on the wooden side, but these films oozed their own kind of magnetic charm.

In The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, writer/director/actor Larry Blamire pokes fun at the whole 1950s sci-fi genre with an intentionally cornball black-and-white homage that constantly needles those classics with pinpoint accuracy. It was even shot in California's famous Bronson Canyon, the location for countless westerns, sci-fi and other B-movies, so that some kind of instantly identifiable and recognizable vibe is there, even if it's on a subconscious level.

Good guy scientist Dr. Paul Armstrong (Blamire) and his tapioca-pudding-cooking wife Betty (Brit Fay Masterson, here adopting an excellent American accent) trek into a remote canyon to search for a meteorite that is suspected to contain "the rarest of all radioactive elements": a glowing glob known as "atmosphereum." Unbeknownst to them, evil scientist Dr. Roger Fleming (Brian Howe) is in the same canyon, but he is busy trying to resurrect the titular character, an intentionally hokey pile of bones who sounds a little like MST3K's Tom Servo. Hellbent on world domination, with the aid of the revived skeleton, Fleming is informed that the only way to bring the bones to life is with, conveniently enough, a dose of atmosphereum. Meanwhile, an alien rocket happens to crash land in the very same canyon, and occupants Krobar (Andrew Parks) and Lattis (Susan McConnell) also need a helping of atmosphereum to fix their ship, as well as locate a murderous mutant who escaped during their crash.

Amidst all the bad miniatures, tacky effects and vintage stock music, the whole thing is played completely deadpan and serious, with Blamire himself doing a solid job as the science-minded Dr. Armstrong, and of all the characters his is the one that most seems it could have been lifted directly from one of those old sci-fi titles. Likewise with Masterson's Betty, who is properly Stepford Wife-ish, full of smiles and titters, offering the support of a homecooked meal, while traipsing around the woods in a dress and high heels. The aliens sometimes fall into Conehead humor territory (referring to dresses as "cloth funnels"), but Andrew Parks puts enough bug-eyed swish into his role that Krobar could easily be related to Dudley Manlove's Eros from Plan 9 From Outer Space.

There's almost enough here for three bad B-movies, but Blamire links all the tenuous plot points together, resulting in some very funny moments, including the introduction of the sultry Animala (Jennifer Blaire), who is "part woman, part four different forest animals"; a terrific dinner scene featuring all of the main characters struggling to keep their various secrets from each other; and, of course, the eventual resurrection of the surly and cranky Skeleton. Blamire does a really fine job balancing the more blatant comedic bits—such as Krobar and Lattis struggling to walk up a set of stairs for the first time—with a keen ear for recreating the choppy flow of the laughably stilted dialogue that was so prevalent in films like The Brain From Planet Arous, and Blamire's film seems to fall somewhere between parody and comedy. It's easy to see bits and pieces of countless 1950s sci-fi in just about every scene

A film like The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra nostalgically and neatly skewers the genre by delivering a goofy mish-mosh that is as funny as it is accurate. If you didn't grow up with those old black-and-white classics, some of the obvious volleys might get lobbed harmlessly over your head, but there are still enough solid laughs here that it shouldn't matter.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: On this release from Columbia TriStar, Blamire's film is presented in a nice-looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Originally shot in color on digital video, and then converted to black and white, the results here look surprisingly as if it was shot on film—at least a good portion of the time. The print does have some nicks and blemishes, and though I didn't pick up a mention on either of the two commentary tracks, I was wondering whether this was intentional or not, in an attempt to make it look more authentic. The presence of the blemishes is noticeable, but within the framework of this particular film it is somehow tolerable. No major compression issues were evident, but some edge enhancement is clearly visible in a few scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in an expected Dolby Digital mono track, one that provides clean dialogue that is actually an improvement over the films it attempts to parody. No hiss or distortion is evident, and even the stock music tracks sound pleasant.

Nothing fancy, but a title like this needs to keep it real, and this track does just that.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
9 Other Trailer(s) featuring Hellboy, Memories, The Tingler, 13 Ghosts, Homicidal, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Mr. Sardonicus, Tokyo Godfathers, Funnier in Color
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Larry Blamire, Mike Schlesinger, F. Miguel Valenti, Bill Russell, Kevin F. Jones, Darren Reed, Fay Masterson, Andrew Parks, Susan McConnell, Jennifer Blaire, Brian Howe, Dan Conroy
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Virtual Skeletables
Extras Review: Columbia has stocked this disc with a rather extensive list of extras, with some being better than others, but all in the same lighthearted vein of the film itself.

There are a pair of full-length commentaries, starting with the crew's track, which is hosted Mike Schlesinger and features writer/director Larry Blamire, producer F. Miguel Valenti, editor Bill Russell, cinematographer Kevin F. Jones, and production manager/mutant Darren Reed. The focus here is on the technical and production aspect, and how "capturing the 1950s" was the underlying intent. Not the most riveting track, and I'll admit to being moderately disappointed in that regard, but the participants cite the various influences, like the homage to Attack of The Crab Monsters opening to describing how the rocket ship landing was done in a dresser drawer filled with parsley and oregano, while Valenti bemoans how the use of the famous Bronson Canyon locale soaked up more than one-tenth of the entire budget.

The cast commentary features the entire cast (with the exception of Robert Deveau), as well as Blamire and Reed. It's a crowded track—which generally means more goofing than talking —with lots of laughing and chuckling, and the expected good-natured mocking of the production, as well as the finished product. The best tidbit I gleaned was that the PG rating (which really befuddled me while watching the film) came for the solitary use of the word "jackass." It was also an interesting curiosity to hear Fay Masterson speak with her native British accent, and Susan McConnell with her Irish lilt.

The Obey the Lost Skeleton featurette (11m:01s) is an EPK, featuring the usual blend of film clips and cast interviews, and the bulk of this is spent reiterating the plot. Generally I'm not a big fan of bloopers, but the Blooper Reel (08m:36s) had Sammie and I rolling, and its best bits centered on some troublesome skeleton effects and Andrew Parks' loose alien belt. The blooper reel is presented in color, and if nothing else, really reinforces how key it was for The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra to be presented in black and white.

Q&A at The American Cinematheque (30m:50s) is a shaky, hand-held video camera recording of cast/crew question-and-answer session at the January, 24 2002 official premiere at The Egyptian Theater. The quality is rather iffy, so there's even a disclaimer at the beginning. Content-wise it is pretty self-effacing, and much of it mirrors the commentary tracks, in that a lot of the same anecdotes are told.

My personal favorite was the Virtual Skeletables, a series of fictitious promotional items, designed by costume/prop maker Cortney Skinner, that might have existed had the film actually been released in the 1950s. As a movie collectible nerd myself, things like a board game, Colorforms, drinking glasses, collector cards, and Halloween costumes had me salivating, even though I knew it was fake stuff. Very clever, and very hip.

Also included is a batch of trailers, as well as an old Ub Iwerks cartoon entitled Skeleton Frolic (07m:12s). The disc is cut into a healthy 32 chapters, and features optional subtitles in English or French.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Comedy is certainly a tenuous thing, and parody is an even more dangerous line to straddle. It's ridiculously subjective, and what makes one howl with laughter might leave another stone-faced. Larry Blamire, the writer/director of this one, admits his film is "silly", but The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra made me laugh out loud quite a bit, and the spot-on spoofing of 1950s sci-fi films was done about as well as I've ever seen it.

For what it's worth, this has become a very quotable film around our house.

Highly recommended.


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