After quite a bit of Internet buzz, and a limited theatrical release, Larry Blamire's valentine to Grade Z science fiction movies of the 50s and early 60s has at last come to home video.
Strait-laced (and rather dense) scientist Paul Armstrong (writer-director Blamire himself) takes his wife Betty to a cabin in the woods so they can search Bronson Canyon for a meteorite which Armstrong is fairly certain is composed of the rare element "atmosphereum". Also in the canyon is evil scientist Roger Fleming, who seeks to revive the totally evil - and extremely cranky - title character, a process which of course requires atmosphereum. Meanwhile, two aliens crash land nearby, and the only thing which can repair their craft is... atmosphereum. And their pet mutant has escaped, a workboot-wearing bad suit horror with a tendency toward "horrible mutilation". Not to mention that Fleming, to better fit in with these couples (and steal the all-important atmosphereum), creates "Animala", a hissing, monosyllabic woman, from four different "woodland creatures"....
Lost Skeleton manages to hit all the tropes of B-movies without actually parodying any specific one - there are flubbed lines, horrendous Ed Wood grammar, set dressing that thriftily moves from location to location, cheap "high tech" trappings, characters that never change clothes... it's a lengthy list, and anyone reading this review at this site is going to enjoy a steady stream of knowing chuckles, at the very least.
I don't think the movie-going public at large, though, is going to be able to appreciate more than a few minutes of this movie; once the "what the-?" feeling has faded, they'll be seeking more common fare. Satirizing bad movies is a common practice, and most attempts can barely achieve ten minutes without becoming tiresome - Blamire, however, circumvents that shortcoming by not parodying, but actually making a vintage B-movie, and it's a miracle that it remains entertaining for almost all of its 90 minutes. It may not be for all markets, but for its intended audience, it is indeed a gem.
From the breathlessly cluttered cover, which accurately recalls the pulpy one-sheets for movies of this sort, to the quality of the transfer, this is one well-done disc.
It can be hard to judge the video transfer itself, as Cadavra was shot on video, then run through a number of filters to achieve it's filmic look. Grain is very apparent in many scenes, and wondering how much if it was intentional can be quite distracting...
It's not often that a "Special Edition" actually lives up to that name. This one, however, is fairly loaded with extra features.
The standard making-of featurette, Obey the Lost Skeleton!, is composed of interviews with cast and crew. There are two commentaries, one for "Director and Crew" and one for "Cast", with quite a bit of overlap between the two. The same information is frequently covered, but they're such a lively group - and obviously such good friends - that the tracks are a joy to experience (and how often, during a commentary track, are you likely to hear the phrase, "Thank you, Attack of the Crab Monsters!"?).
There is a blooper reel (untreated video - in color!), and a video of the cast and crew Q&A at the American Cinematheque showing of the movie, which snagged Lost Skeleton its distribution deal with Columbia Tristar.
Probably the peach of the extras is Virtual Skelectables. Cortney Skinner, who created most of the costumes and low-budget props for the movie, created a series of commercial tie-ins for a "hit movie" that never existed. All look beautifully vintage, from the lunch box to bubblegum cards to the "Aureola Plastics Company Mutant Model Monster Kit", which the young Freex doubtless would have built, had there been such a thing.
Also included is Ub Iwerks' cartoon Skeleton Frolic, which accompanied Lost Skeleton on its theatrical rounds (and where, he wondered with typical petulance, is my box set of Iwerks' animated shorts?)
A series of trailers rounds out the package, and on the surface they're an eclectic lot; the gloriously retro preview for Lost Skeleton itself, the upcoming release of Hellboy, two anime features, Memories and Tokyo Godfathers, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and four William Castle movies, 13 Ghosts, Homicidal, Mr. Sardonicus and The Tingler. Of course, considering that they are all movies I either own or will own, they aren't so eclectic after all. Well, except for the last trailer, which is for the colorized Three Stooges shorts. The colorization is the best I've ever seen, but I like my Stooges in black and white.
Really, there is only one thing that could have made this disc perfect - if some savvy executive had thought to provide an option showing some of the previews, then Skeleton Frolic, then Lost Skeleton, to create that perfect Saturday Afternoon Matinee vibe... that, and the smell of popcorn wafting from the kitchen would have produced a wonderfully sweet, nostalgic experience.
Dr. Freex, 6/30/2004