That bossy flying skull is back in “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again,” Larry Blamire’s sequel to 2004’s “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.” Where the original cannily spoofed low-end sci-fi and horror films of the 1950s and early ’60s, this one focuses more on sending up Poverty Row jungle adventures. Attention paid to retro grade-Z aesthetics, genre cliches and banal dialogue pushed to surreal extremes remains, however, making “Returns Again” enjoyable (the titular redundancy typical of its humor) despite a higher percentage of misfired laugh lines. Like “Cadavra,” this could eke out a small theatrical career before DVD release.
Geologist Dr. Armstrong (Blamire) disappeared two years ago up the Amazon, though e’er-chipper wife Betty (Fay Masterson) refused to fuss because she doesn’t want to “interfere with his work.” But the U.S. government now needs his expertise in finding an ultra-rare mineral crucial to Cold War security. So a party of good guys — including Betty and guide Jungle Brad (Dan Conroy) — is dispatched to find the wayward scientist, then drag his stereotypically alcoholic and embittered self onto the safari trail.
Meanwhile, a less patriotically motivated group of explorers seeks the same goal. Attempting to hinder their progress are returning friendly space aliens Kro-Bar (Andrew Parks) and Lattice (Susan McConnell). Acting strictly on its own behalf is that skull, which now possesses the identical twin brother (Brian Howe) of the first film’s villain, Dr. Fleming. A convenient population explosion of identical-twin siblings explains the return of several previously slain cast members.
Blamire & Co. retain a firm hold on retro psychotronic-cinema sensibilities, parodying the already campy with deadpan in-joke assurance. But an indulgence has snuck into “Returns Again,” which sometimes lets performers riff too long on dialogue and gags that quickly wear out their welcome. Things really get worn by the time principals reach the Land of the Cantaloupe People, ruled by one very self-consciously hammy queen (Alison Martin). Such uninspired silliness overextends “Skeleton’s” welcome.
Still, there are enough wonderfully daft non sequiturs, faux-naive performance moments and faithful stylistic tropes (like incorporation of poorly matched old nature footage) to render this sequel irresistible for its predecessor’s fans.