The Lost Skeleton Returns Again – Double Bill DVD Review, Part 1

The creator of THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA returns with a one-two double bill of genre movie spoofs: THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN and DARK AND STORMY NIGHT.

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Larry Blamire created a minor cult sensation in 2001 with THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA, a genuinely amusing spoof of no-budget 1950s sci-fi films such as BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER. In addition to writing and directing, Blamire also limned the character of Dr. Paul Armstrong, a scientist dedicated to the pursuit of Science, and provided the voice of the title character: a superior alien intelligence embedded in a skeleton, able to hypnotize others to do his bidding, who spends most of his screen time complaining in a condescending manner about how stupid the humans he manipulates are.
Blamire showed a real knowledge of genre precedents, and clearly knew how to make this material work. Rather than resorting to eye-rolling, mugging, or winking at the audience, Blamire’s cast played things relatively straight, with classic bad-acting coming from the fatuous dialogue and the no-resource aesthetic. Particularly appealing were Blamire’s wife Jennifer Blaire as Animalia, a human conjured up by an alien ray out of a housecat and given to weird dancing, slinky black leotards, and sultry looks, as well as the aliens who created her: Kro-Bar (Andrew Parks) and Lattis (Susan McConnel), who struggle to understand the strange Earth people they encounter with their odd language, rituals, and rites.
Blamire followed CADAVRA with the amusing but still unavailable on video TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD. Now Shout! Factory has released his two latest efforts, a sequel to CADAVRA called THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN and a parody of ‘30s Old Dark House movies called DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, bringing his repertory cast of actors along with him.
THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN in many ways is a parody both of sequels (characters killed off in the original are brought back as their twin brothers) and of lost civilization films (such as THE LOST CONTINENT). This time, Blamire shoots the film in a digital widescreen format (2.35 aspect ratio) with the first half in traditional black & white and then switching to color halfway through once the main characters reach the Valley of the Monsters.
Government agent Reet Pappin (Frank Dietz) has been sent to the Amazon Jungle to uncover a supply of Jerranium 90 (a “little rock” that made all the papers). Teaming up with Betty Armstrong (Fay Masterson), whose husband Dr. Paul Armstrong (Jerranium’s actual discoverer) has been missing for two years, Pappin searches for the missing doctor and for this valuable geological material. Armstrong (Blamire again) is now a bitter and boozy alcoholic, disappointed that his discovery’s name was granted to a usurper who named it after himself. “The jungle gets into your blood and builds tiny little houses of pain, and you’d better not be there when the rent’s due, ’cause 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,” Paul intones gravely. Clueless Betty just thinks her hubby has a case of the “grumpys.”
Dr. Peter Fleming (Brian Howe), now under the mental control of the constantly complaining Lost Skeleton (actually, nothing much is left of the lost skeleton except its skull) is urged to find the Dalp of Anacrabb and joins the trio along with his dependable guide Jungle Brad (Dan Conroy). Meanwhile, a competing troop of searchers is led by Ellamy Royne (Trish Geiger), who is accompanied by our old friends Kro-Bar and Lattis as well as a newly resurrected Animalia. They gamely resurrect their shtick, which mostly works except for a silly you haven’t “touched your food” joke stolen from YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. They mouth dialogue such as Lattis’s, “We waste time explaining things we already know.’’ To which Kro-bar responds, “We waste time acknowledging that we already know these things.’’
Once the group reaches the colorful Valley of the Monsters, they encounter Chinfa (Alison Martin), Queen of the Cantalope People (apparently so named because they wear enormous cantaloupes on their heads, and in the case of Chinfa, a cantaloupe brassiere as well). Unfortunately, here is where the film starts to stumble with some long, pointless dialogue scenes and one of the worst “native dance” sequences ever filmed. Nevertheless, the climax is enlivened by some deliberately crummy-looking critters created by the Chiodo Brothers (KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE), including a giant Venus-flytrap monster and the cyclopean turd monster Gralmanopidon who has a brief but memorable climactic battle with the Lost Skeleton skull. (The Chiodo Brothers’ hanging miniatures, including the mountains leading to the Valley of the Monsters and the pyramid of the Cantalope people, are by contrast quite accomplished).
The Shout! Factory DVD also includes a brief making of short, commentary from many members of the cast and crew, and a brief (though not terribly amusing) gag reel of blown takes. While not as amusing as the original LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA, THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN does have some memorable moments of mirth performed by people with a clear love for this kind of genre material.

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