Review: ‘The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra’

A deft parody of 1950s Z-grade sci-fi and horror pics, "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" will delight psychotronic film fans -- though that won't likely get vid-shot B&W feature beyond limited fest slots or specialized ancillary sales. Still, affectionate spoof merits appreciation as a not-so-dumb salute to another era's ultra-dumb genre conventions.

A deft parody of 1950s Z-grade sci-fi and horror pics, “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” will delight psychotronic film fans — though that won’t likely get vid-shot B&W feature beyond limited fest slots, specialized ancillary sales and whatever’s left of the midnight movie circuit. Still, affectionate spoof merits appreciation as a not-so-dumb salute to another era’s ultra-dumb genre conventions.

Giving a nod to everything from 1953’s “Robot Monster” through 1964’s “Creeping Terror,” writer-director-star Larry Blamire’s scenario finds silver-haired Dr. Paul Armstrong (played by the helmer) and addle-brained blonde wife Betty (Fay Masterson) heading to a remote SoCal cottage. Meteor specialist Paul hopes to find astral-rock fragments chockful o’ radioactive element “atmospherium” nearby.

Trouble is, crazed rival scientist Dr. Fleming (Brian Howe) seeks the same, with which he’ll revive an evil-skull cave entity and rule the world. Meanwhile, interplanetary travelers Kro-Bar (Andrew Parks) and Lattis (Susan McConnell) from Planet Marva require atmospherium, too, to repair their disabled spaceship.

Using the aliens’ stolen “transmutaron” device, Fleming contrives a “date” from sundry forest creatures — interpretive-dancing, black-tights-clad beatnik siren Animala (Jennifer Blaire) — to crash the surprised couple’s already hidden agenda-laden rural cocktail get-together. There’s also a hideous mutant (which disappointingly looks like a goggle-eyed Mr. Giant Toad when finally seen) on the loose, escaped from the Marvans’ rocket.

“Lost Skeleton” really knows its material. It takes true trash cinema devotion to satirize the clunky visuals, banal dialogue, logic gaps and pseudoscientific silliness of a bygone era’s schlockiest obscurities quite so accurately, complete with one-beat-tardy editorial rhythms. Still, at times this homage replicates its predecessors’ amateur longeurs all too well — midsection pacing could be amped up a bit.

Yet there’s no denying the parodic bull’s-eye scored overall, with first-time feature helmer Blamire particularly inspired as the most pseudo-clueless among variably poker-faced thesp contribs, Masterson following close behind. Lensing and production design likewise astutely mimic now-campy drive-in norms; f/x are requisitely cheesy, melodramatic score duly pastiched from archaic music library sources.

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

Production

A Fragmighty Entertainment production. Produced by F. Miguel Valenti. Executive producer, Lars Perkins. Directed, written by Larry Blamire.

Crew

Camera (B&W, video), Kevin Jones; editor, Bill Bryn Russell; music, Valentino Production Music; set designers, Cortney Skinner, Joey Saccadonuts; costumes, Skinner, Emily Rapley; sound, Frederick Critchlow; assistant director, Julian Forbes. Reviewed on videocassette , San Francisco, Oct. 8, 2001. (In Mill Valley Film Festival.) Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Larry Blamire, Fay Masterson, Brian Howe, Jennifer Blaire, Susan McConnell, Andrew Parks, Dan Conroy, Robert Deveau.
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