Back in 2001 Larry Blamire and his troupe released The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra. Blamire was obviously a fan of the science fiction films of the 1950’s and decided to take many of those standard elements and pretty much have a blast with the material. The end result was an over-the-top spoof that left you laughing, not because the material was all that funny. You laughed because they sometimes hit those ludicrous devices so perfectly that you have flashbacks to your favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. The film had all of the clichés including special effects that were anything but special. And it was all done on purpose. It was a stroke of genius, really. They did a low-budget film with all of its deficiencies and made them out to be deliberate.
Now, Blamire and his wacky group of players is back at it … again. Shout Factory is releasing two films that the team has recently added to the Cadavra legacy. Both films utilize pretty much the same amateur cast with a few seasoned veterans sprinkled in to keep things interesting. Both films are in black & white, for the most part, to maintain the intended atmosphere.
The Lost Skeleton Returns Again:
“The jungle is everyplace for bitterness. It sows and it reaps it like so much cane sugar. The jungle gets into your blood and builds tiny houses of pain, and you better not be there when the rent’s due… because the anaconda … Funny thing they don’t know how to read the lease, seems they never learned. And, the only thing longer than a croc’s mouth is the time it takes to swallow you whole.”
The first of these releases is a direct follow-up to the original film. It’s a sequel only in the sense that the lost skeleton, or at least the lost skull, makes a bit of an appearance here. It seems that Professor Paul Armstrong (Blamire) has been lost in the Amazon for two years while his wife Betty (Masterson) has waited faithfully for him to return. Now the Army has sent Reet Pappin (Dietz) to Betty so that they can find him. Meanwhile, the Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra’s skull has awaken to command Peter Fleming, the twin brother of Dr. Roger Fleming. The skull knows that an element found only in the Amazon’s Valley Of The Monsters can restore his whole body … eh … skeleton. And so, several people, including our favorite aliens from Manerva are converging on the Valley Of The Monsters to retrieve a little rock that made history. There are plenty of cardboard f/x and cheap monsters to contend with.
The film turns color once inside The Valley Of The Monsters. Of course, a lot of this doesn’t make sense. Even the idea of such a loosely-connected sequel plays right into he hands of the spoof elements of the film. If you liked the first one, expect more of the same … much more.
The Dark And Stormy Night:
“We have the Phantom Of Cavender, The Cavender Strangler, a guy who says he’s returning from the dead, a 300 year-old witch’s curse. And now a fugitive from the loony bin. What am I waiting for? The giant bat of painful ugly blisters or something?”
This time Blamire and his gang take on the old dark-house style of film from the 1930’s. These had their elements as well. All of them can be found in the film: eclectic group of strangers converge on an old mansion for a will reading or by cryptic invitation. The raging thunderstorm that takes out the road/bridge so everyone has to spend the night. There’s always an anniversary of something really bad. There’s the ace reporter trying to get a scoop. The house usually comes equipped with paintings that have cut-out eyes for spying, secret passages, a bookcase trap door, and endless mazes of hallways for all kinds of mayhem to occur. This film hits every single one of those devices and even adds a few for good measure. The cast is nearly identical to the Lost Skeleton films, with a few rather notable additions. Comic character actor Marvin Kaplan has a cameo as the disembodied head of the spirit Gunny. From All In The Family (Irene) and Laverne And Shirley (Edna) is Betty Garrett as a little old lady who kind of just pops up from time to time. Jim Beaver, Bobby from Supernatural. James Karen has been a guest star on almost every television show made since the 1960’s. Finally, Bob Burns, who is known to fans as the guy in the gorilla suit reprises that role here. I’ve hung out with Bob and his wife a few times. No one knows more about King Kong than Bob.
The film is actually available in both black & white and a “newly colorized” version. I watched it in black & white for the atmosphere. And the fact I didn’t know the color version was there until the bonus features. Now you know. The atmosphere is often dead on. The film is stolen by Daniel Roebuck as the ace reporter and Dan Conroy as the cab driver and comic relief for the movie. The style never strays far from the Lost Skeleton conventions and style, even if the genre isn’t quite the same. You still get he deliberate, I hope, bad acting and over-the-top antics. The skull itself even makes a non-speaking cameo, if you keep your eyes open for it.
Both films are presented in its original aspect ratios. The prints look fine for what they are. Remember that they are trying to spoof a particular look and budget level, so image presentation isn’t really the issue here. Both films are in black & white, with a color midsection for Skeleton and an alternate color version of Dark.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is not really anything to write home about. You can hear everything and the dialog works just fine.
There is an Audio Commentary with the cast and crew that is as silly as the film itself. Entertaining, to be sure.
Each film comes with a gag reel and behind the scenes feature which is mostly Blamire with antics from the rest of the cast and crew.
This is all in good fun and the type of thing you might expect to see Bruce Campbell attached to. In fact it would be pretty cool to see him with these oddball characters. Everyone is having loads of fun. The films really do work as good spoofs of the particular genres. You have to consider this candy and just enjoy it. “Keep in mind that you can eat pretty much anything you find here, so, go have fun.”