It’s no secret that I, like many sci-fi and horror fans, have a special place in my heart for the old, ultra-cheesy, often uber-chintzy “B-Movies” of the 1950s and 1960s. With so many fans of this genre out there, odds are good that at least a few are movie directors, right? And possibly among those few directors, it’s even possible that a couple of them actually make movies that don’t suck, yeah? And of those select individuals, is it feasible that one of them may actually have excellent writing and acting skills as well so that he could fully utilize these skills in tandem with his love of B-Movies to create a brilliant and loving homage to the genre?
While The Rolling Stones often remind us that “you can’t always get what you want,” fortunately sometimes you can: writer-director-actor Larry Blamire struck gold with his 2001 release of ‘The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra,’ an amazingly-detailed and lovingly-satiric take on the old B-Movie. I proudly own a copy and have seen the movie many times over; I’m excited to now bring the film to ScienceFiction.com for our Throwback Thursday action!
‘Lost Skeleton’ blends so many “fantastical” elements soften utilized in the cheesy heyday of the ‘50s and ‘60s that sometimes it’s a wonder that it works so well as a movie itself. The story follows Dr. Paul Armstrong and his wife Betty as they cheerily head to a remote cabin in the woods so Paul can track a recently-landed meteorite that he believes contains the ultra-rare element Atmospherium. Paul, however, isn’t the only one interested in the space rock: not only are two crash-landed aliens hoping to use the Atmospherium to power their ship, Dr. Roger Fleming needs the element to help reanimate the fabled Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, an evil pile of bones with a still-attached consciousness residing in a nearby cave and has aspirations of ruling the world. Toss in an optimistically-hapless park ranger, an animal-woman created by the aliens’ Transmutator gun, and an extraterrestrial mutant on the loose, and you’ve got yourself the mother of all B-Movies!
Let’s dive even deeper into the “miracle of Skeletorama” (the “amazing new technique” the movie was filmed in). The film is filled with enough intentionally bad acting and eye-rolling one-liners to make you think that Ed Wood himself was sitting in the director’s chair. But with the knowledge that this is all done on purpose, as a tribute to those classic films that tried so very, very hard… well, it just plain makes ‘Lost Skeleton’ practically irresistible. In the vein of typical B-Movie style, the film gives us all we’ve come to know and love: the camera holds on to the actors just a little too long after they finish their dialogue; everybody over-emotes like it’s going out of style; and the “special effects” are anything but, with garishly-costumed mutants, ridiculous looking representations of spaceships and mobile skeletons, and even automatically-opening alien doors that stop and start so badly, you could swear you see the man on the other side manually operating them.
Where things get really intriguing is the “realism” factor of the film. Should we base our opinions off of the fact that actors in the original B-Movies were never very realistic to begin with, so this aping of those films is not realistic by default? Or do we allow for a higher plane of enlightenment, due the spot-on interpretation and re-creation of what these old films presented as? I’m going to go with the latter, while shaving just a few points off for the fact that nobody truly ever sounded like these characters do, now or then.
I’m amazed that Blamire and company were able to weave so many old-school plot elements into this tale and have the finished product still present so well. There are a few moments where belief must be suspended and things don’t always make perfect sense, but these small moments are absolutely forgivable, given the overall motif the movie is working to achieve. Adeptly combining elements of old-school science fiction and horror with a heck of a lot of comedy gold – I laughed long and hard during many scenes – it’s not a stretch at all to say that ‘Lost Skeleton’ is truly a one-of-a-kind tale.
Truth time: “Skeletorama” really doesn’t exist, unless you count it as shooting the movie in color and back-editing things into black and white. But the film looks great in monochrome, and I’ve got to think it was a no-brainer for the creative team to release the film without color. The attention to detail in the film’s appearance encompasses the other elements previously discussed that help the movie pay tribute to those that came before it. Important to note is that the attention to detail isn’t just confined to the film itself: the film’s marketing goes the distance as well, with a very retro-style trailer and multiple classic-looking posters, including the one on the front of my DVD that is a direct send-up of 1953’s ‘Invaders from Mars.’ Incredibly impressive aspects.
In my opinion, this film is, quite frankly, must-see territory for anyone who considers themselves a movie buff or a fan of the B-Movie era. Blamire and company have since released a sequel, ‘The Lost Skeleton Returns Again’ in 2008, although plans to complete the trilogy with a final film titled ‘The Lost Skeleton Walks Among Us’ seem to have stalled since the 2012 announcement of the project. Perhaps, much like titular bag-o-bones itself, the third film can be resurrected somehow; if Blamire can work his magic, remaining along the path he has started with the first two films and continuing to combine his eye for detail with the ability to simply have fun with a production, then it’s very feasible that he could still catch lightning in a bottle three times!