In 2001, Larry Blamire created a movie called The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, a parody of science fiction films of the 1950s. The movie never had a wide release, playing only at film festivals until it was subsequently released on DVD in 2004 where it became a cult classic. In fact, my love of this movie has been trumpeted both here and elsewhere. In 2008, Blamire released a sequel, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again. Shout! Factory has just released both The Lost Skeleton Returns Again and another of Blamire’s movies, Dark And Stormy Night on DVD (and was kind enough to send review copies my way).
The Lost Skeleton Returns Again continues the story two years after the original. The government needs to find out about a rock made of the rare and powerful element: jerranium 90. They seek out the man who has extensive knowledge of rocks; Dr. Paul Armstrong. They discover from Dr. Armstrong’s wife Betty that he has disappeared deep into the Amazon jungle. Meanwhile, another group financed by Handscombe Draile has traveled to South America with their own sinister agenda regarding this rock. Meanwhile again, Peter Fleming, twin brother of deceased evil scientist Dr. Roger Fleming, becomes possessed by a skull found in his late brother’s belongings. The skull, all that remains of the titular Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, tells Peter that he must find the sacred Dalp of Anacrabb. Only this mysterious totem can bring the Lost Skeleton back to full power (and full body). Of course the Dalp is to be found somewhere in the Amazon and happens to be made of jerranium 90. This is just an excuse for the plot to send all our characters to South America and into the Valley of the Monsters in this parody of jungle adventure movies like The Lost World and Lost Continent. Along the way we encounter many of the people from the Lost Skeleton’s first adventure, along with new characters like Chinfa, the queen of the Cantaloupe People. It’s all very silly and, if it hits you just right, mind-numbingly funny.
Blamire has a very interesting writing style in his movies. The closest thing to compare it to would be Airplane! and other movies of that ilk, where the actors say completely nonsensical things with a straight face. Yet Blamire deals more in repetition and the putting together of phrases that sound almost but not quite right. Here’s an example:
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As to whether this movie can stand alone without the benefit of the original, I believe it can. Everything is pretty well explained here, with only a couple of callbacks to its predecessor. It’s not only a fun movie to watch on its own, but it’s so great to share it with others and see their reactions. I loved the original, and this one has a lot to recommend it as well. If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or the cheesy movies it lampoons), you’ll probably enjoy this too.
Dark And Stormy Night takes as its inspiration the old dark house movies of the thirties, wherein a group of people witness a will reading in a large spooky house, get trapped inside, and become victims (and suspects) in a string of murders on the premises. All the archetypes are here, from the scheming nephew who wants it all, to the meek young woman who inherits everything (unless something happens to her, of course), to two reporters competing for the big scoop, and even a gorilla! I’m not sure if the producers had more money to spend on this one or if the fact that the vast majority of the movie takes place in this house, but the production design is markedly fancier in this film. And as in other movies of this type, the house almost becomes a character as well, with its secret panels, hidden laboratory and paintings with conveniently removable eyes for peeking through. Here’s a little preview. It doesn’t show you much, but you get a feel for the characters and tone of the film.
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While Dark and Stormy Night often ventures into the delightful silliness of Lost Skeleton Returns Again, I feel like the jokes mesh better with the movie here. There’s a more distinctive plot and characters, and even a whodunit to solve. Lost Skeleton Returns Again has more quotable bits (much like the original Lost Skeleton movie), but I think Dark and Stormy Night is meatier. I’ve watched both films five or six times in the last few weeks, and they haven’t worn thin for me yet. I also like the fact that these movies are clean entertainment. You could watch either of these with your kids around, and not worry about sex, bad language or graphic violence showing up here.
Each DVD comes with a bloopers reel, behind the scenes footage, and a hilarious and informative commentary track. Dark and Stormy Night also includes a ”never before seen colorized version.” One feature I’m surprised Shout! Factory didn’t have on these is subtitles for the hearing impaired. Not only should these people be able to enjoy these films as well, but it would help me make sure I spelled stuff like ”Dalp of Annacrabb” correctly!
As a special bonus, if you order either The Lost Skeleton Returns Again or Dark and Stormy Night (or both) directly from Shout! Factory’s website, you also receive a DVD of Blamire’s acclaimed Tales from the Pub, a parody of Twilight Zone type shorts that are currently available online. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a review copy of this in time, but you can check the shorts out on YouTube. All of these DVDs come highly recommended by me. I envy you getting to discover them for the first time!