Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra

The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra [2001]

Directed by Larry Blamire

A film unlike anything I've ever seen before, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is one of the funniest, most well-written and under-appreciated movies of the '00s.

To start, this is not the kind of movie most people will be able to appreciate. Taking all of the silliness and redundancies of the films it targets, The Lost Skeleton doesn't laugh at the movies it lampoons as much as it laughs with them. It may acknowledge the ridiculous dialogue, cheesy effects, and convoluted story-lines, but the cracks it makes at these films never comes across as spiteful or lazy. As much as Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" is a loving tribute to a director of infamous B-movies, The Lost Skeleton is a tribute to the films themselves. Usually, when a movie parodies or pays homage to films of the past, it all comes across in a very obvious, cheesy kind of way. Take, for example, the hideous Friedberg/Seltzer "Movie" movies: the jokes are obvious, and the references are merely references which are not even slightly clever. In The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra, writer/director/star Larry Blamire takes a dated sub-genre ('50s B-movie sci/fi) and manages to recreate it in his own comic way with incredible results.

Shot in black & white and done in the style of a '50s sci/fi film, the story follows Dr. Paul Armstrong (played by Blamire) and his wife Betty, have rented a cabin near the site where Paul believes a meteor made up of a rare material - the aptly named "atmosphereum" - has just landed. Also seeking the shiny rock is Dr. Roger Fleming, who upon discovering the extremely poorly-hidden and infamous "Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra" near the entrance of Cadavra Cave, has been commanded by his new, bony master to retrieve the atmosphereum in order to give him the power to rule the world (or something to that effect). A third party who requires the atmosphereum is introduced in the forms of Kro-Bar and Lattis, space aliens from the planet "Marva", who carry in tow a now-escaped, and extremely dangerous mutant, who need the precious meteor in order to use its ambiguous powers to repair their ship and return home.

The cast of this film is simply incredible: Larry Blamire's Dr. Paul Armstrong (who makes very sure that everyone understands his character is, in fact, a scientist) is extremely deadpan, all the while delivering some of the silliest and most intentionally redundant dialogue in the film. Fay Masterson, who portrays his wife, Betty, plays up the scatter-brained housewife incredibly, complementing Blamire's very serious delivery to perfection. Brian Howe as the sinister (yet completely idiotic) semi-main villain Dr. Roger Fleming very much serves as the evil version of our hero, giving probably the hammiest performance by a non-mutant/skeleton in the film. Andrew Parks and Susan McConnell (who portray Kro-Bar and Lattis, respectively) may be the most self-aware members of the entire cast, adding just the right amount of ridiculously silly interactions and fish-out-of-water jokes to never become too embarrassing to watch -- as they easily could have wound up being.

And this brings us to the small, but crucial supporting cast: Jennifer Blaire plays Animala, a leotard-clad woman created by the aliens' transformation device by combining 4 different animals and melding them into one human body. Her performance largely consists of bizarre dialogue and animalistic behavior -- with the occasional dancing. Also, we have Ranger Brad, played very chipperly by Dan Conroy, who delivers possibly the best line in the entire film: "...when folks are horribly mutilated, I feel it's my job to tell others. We take our horrible mutilations seriously up in these parts." These two aren't as heavily-featured in the film as the rest of the cast, but the movie as a whole wouldn't be what it was without them, as they play their parts exceptionally and provide ample entertainment.

Though a majority of the most quotable dialogue occurs during the first half, the laughs never stop in this movie. There isn't a single unnecessary character, and every member of the cast plays their part just as well as they possibly could have. The jokes are both incredibly obvious, yet subtle enough to be missed by many, making the few who understand what the film was trying to do love it all the more. All of these elements come together wonderfully, making this one of those rare movies that seems almost destined to become a massive cult hit: an honor it would most certainly deserve.

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