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The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

  The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
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© 2001, Sony
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Parody is such a fragile genre. With a keen wit, eye, or at the very least, an ounce of self-perception, parodies can delight, such as "Airplane!" or the "Austin Powers" series. But coat it in a repulsive self-congratulatory, wink-wink, nudge-nudge glow, and you have a creation along the lines of last year's worst film, the Doris Day/Rock Hudson tribute, "Down With Love." "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" (IMDb listing) is the latest no-budgeted feature (shot in B&W, and with a digital camera) to try its hand at a little satire, and, almost predictably, it's about as pleasurable to sit through as a good, old-fashioned Boston back alley beating.

The target for "Skeleton" is 1950s science fiction epics. You know, the films shown today on television in the wee hours of the morning; filled with rubber-suited monsters and "scientists" who must try to save the world from alien invasions. "Skeleton" runs through the list of iconic elements to the genre, but does so in a reprehensible "GET IT?!?" way that shows disrespect to the audience and the genre it's sending up. We have Paul, the "scientist" (Larry Blamire, who also "wrote" and directed), his faithful and traditionally subservient housewife Betty (Fay Masterson), the evil "scientist" Roger (Brian Howe), who is hunting for a meteor that will give the notorious Lost Skeleton of Cadavra life to rule the world. Also on the hunt for the meteor are two aliens (Andrew Parks and Susan McConnell), who have lost a giant flesh eating mutant, and are desperate to return home. While these elements are spot-on with what the films of the era contained, Blamire is no skilled craftsman, and his 30-second joke is turned into a soul-flattening, sensory depravation chamber of a film experience, from which there is no escape.

"Skeleton" pounds each and every one of its jokes so hard into the audiences' forehead, that there is little room to breathe. The aliens' ray guns are clearly pointed out as cheesy, modified caulking instruments, and their spaceship door is opened and closed poorly by butterfingered stage hands. Blamire takes time to emphasize that the skeleton is being controlled by visible wires, and the centerpiece of the film, the big scary mutant, is clearly a man in a suit, complete with visible feet. And then there's Joel, who remarks to a supporting character that she better not "do one of those silly hypnotic dances" before the character actually does one of those silly hypnotic dances. Yeesh. Had Blamire found a lighter, less underlining, self-referential touch, "Skeleton" could've been great harmless fun. What it is now is a monstrosity and an endurance test, not quite understanding that the filmmakers of the era made crappy movies due to lack of resources, not out of a desire to get laughs. A more interesting "Skeleton" might have been found if the filmmakers played it absolutely straight, and let that creation find chemistry with today's audiences.

Most importantly, why was the 50s sci-fi genre such important ground for Blamire to cover? Any self-respecting filmmaker could see that Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" and the continually brilliant (and deeply missed) television show, "Mystery Science Theater 3000" were the final nails in the genre coffin. Who wants to spend comedy time with rubber monsters and bad acting if Joel, Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo aren't around?

Filmfodder Grade: F

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