Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, The

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 02/25/05 02:39:40

"Bow before the Lost Skeleton!!"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

“The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” is not a movie for everybody, but boy howdy, is it the movie for me. A pitch-perfect parody of the grade-Z drive-in cheapies of the 1950s, the film works overtime to faithfully recreate the essence of such a crapper, to the point that it hopes to be mistaken by the untrained eye for the real deal.

“You don’t believe those old legends about the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, do you?”
“I’m a scientist. I don’t believe in anything.”

Recreating genre styles is something of a recent trend in movies these days; “Far From Heaven” used the look of Douglas Sirk’s 50s Technicolor soapers to comment on the era’s unspoken sexuality, while the interesting failure “Down With Love” hoped to rework the Doris Day-Rock Hudson romantic comedies of the 60s, failing because it winked at us too much. Both projects were aimed at a fairly mainstream audience, unlike “Cadavra,” which hopes to thrill just one type of moviegoer: the hopeless loser who loves Bad Movies. Like me.

It should be mentioned that “Cadavra” is not about mocking those old flops. Indeed, it shows a great deal of love for them. Timeless messes of yesteryear are treated fondly, understanding that just because we Bad Movie fans laugh at those clunkers doesn’t mean we don’t like them. For whatever strange reason, God help us all, we like them.

“Sorry, sometimes my wife forgets that she is not an alien from outer space.”

Fortunately for us, the movie’s writer/director/star, Larry Blamire, is a serious aficionado of horrible 50s sci-fi, and a lifetime of watching these flicks has made him something of an expert in Bad Movie dialogue. It’s tough to be this intentionally bad while still being funny and not condescending and while maintaining a tone that never oversells the idea in a wink-wink nudge-nudge way. Blamire gets it right. Realizing that the finest moment in the history of movie writing came when Ed Wood scripted the line “future events such as these will affects us all in the future,” Blamire pours on the silly redundancies, idiotic sincerities, and glorious faux science. Consider just a few of these wonderful exchanges: “You know what this meteor could mean to science... It could mean actual advances in the field of science!” “Let us ready our preparations!” “They’re aliens... from outer space!” And, of course, “Together you and I will rule the world together!”

There is also a long comedy bit regarding the phrase “horrible mutilations” that runs on far too long to quote here, although I probably shouldn’t anyway, lest I ruin the humor. Just know that it’s the movie’s funniest bit, a work of crisp comedy writing that had me laughing louder and longer than anything else in quite some time.

“We take our horrible mutilations seriously around these parts.”

When the dialogue does not have you howling (and if it doesn’t have you howling, then screw you, buddy!), the bizarre plot will earn at best guffaws and at least knowing grins. Dr. Paul Armstrong (Blamire), a man who “does science,” has come to the woods with his overly domestic wife (Fay Masterson) to find a meteor containing Atmospherium, “that rarest of radioactive elements.” Meanwhile, the conniving Dr. Roger Fleming (Brian Howe) is also looking for the element, as it will help return to life the titular psychic skeleton and therefore allow him to rule the world, or something. And meanwhile still, aliens (from outer space!) Kro-Bar (Andrew Parks) and Lattis (Susan McConnell) have crashed their rocket nearby and need the element to help return home. Oh, and their pet mutant monster has broken free, causing, well, horrible mutilations up and down the countryside.

Did I mention Animala (the stunning Jennifer Blaire), the sexy dancer created from four forest creatures? No? Well, that, my friend, you must see for yourself. Rawr.

It’s all filmed in Skeletorama - “The New Miracle Wonder of the Screen!” - and comes complete with wall-to-wall tacky library music, the same background tracks any would-be filmmaker could tack onto their movie way back when. And while some folks (read: non-Bad Movie freaks) may find this to be just a one-joke film, it’s a brilliant one joke, one that manages to hold on for a full 89 minutes. It even gets better as the story rolls ahead, something a gimmick film rarely does; this film doesn’t lose steam, it gains it, and how. This is a cast and crew that knows how to make intentionally bad look unintentionally funny. No, “Cadavra” isn’t for everyone, but what a great gift to fans of drive-in flicks the world over.

“From now on, I'll stick to science, and leave the hunting alien mutants to the experts!”

The film ends with the grand announcement of Blamire’s next parody project, “The Trail of the Screaming Forehead.” Count me in as one fan who can’t wait.

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