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Featured DVD Review: Larry Blamire Double-Shot: The Lost Skeleton Returns Again and Dark and Stormy Night

August 12th, 2010

Larry Blamire Double-Shot - Buy from Amazon: The Lost Skeleton Returns Again and Dark and Stormy Night

In 2001, Larry Blamire wrote and directed a film called The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, which was a ultra-low-budget parody of low-budget Sci-fi films from the 1950s and 60s. It earned a small theatrical release, but became a bit of a cult hit on the home market. Now a direct-to-DVD sequel, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again, is coming out. Also being released this week is a semi-related film, Dark and Stormy Night, which is also written and directed by Larry Blamire and features mostly the same cast. So will these films please fans of the original? Will the two films be able to expand this fanbase?

The Lost Skeleton Returns Again

First a recap on the first movie. A scientist and his wife, Dr. Paul Armstrong and Betty, go camping in the woods. This it is a business vacation and the Armstong is primarily there to find a meteorite made of Atmosphereum. If studied, the meteorite would produce great benefits for science. Meanwhile, two aliens, Kro-Bar and Lattis, crash landed on Earth and need the Atmosphereum to repair their ship and get home. Finally, and evil scientist named Dr. Roger Fleming, wants the meteorite because Atmosphereum can be used to raise the dead, specifically, the Skeleton of Cadavra. To facilitate his procurement of the meteorite, Dr. Flemming creates Animala from the animals of the forest. Plus there's a mutant.

If you are a fan of the low-budget Sci-fi films that this one mimics, then there's a chance you will really like this one as well. It really understands its source material, with cheap special effects, stilted dialogue, repetition, etc. However, if you hate those movies, this one won't change your mind. Also, there's a chance that that even if you do love those movies, you will feel the film tries too hard to be campy and loses the charm those movies normally have.

The Lost Skeleton Returns Again starts off where the first film ends. Dr. Paul Armstrong has gone into a bit if a depression, as someone else took credit for his discovery. He's now in the jungles of the Amazon looking for Geranium-90. Also in the Amazon is government agent Reet Pappin, who was sent there to look for Dr. Armstrong, with Armstongs's wife, Betty. Handscomb Draile hires Carl Traeger to go to the Amazon for an errand. ... He sounds really menacing in the way he says it. Finally, Peter Fleming, Dr. Roger Fleming's good twin and TV repair man, inherited all of his evil twin's possessions, including the skull of the skeleton of Cadavra. Now the skull needs an obscure relic called the Dolp of Anacram, from a place called Menalusia. Any guesses what large South American river Menalusia is near? Meanwhile in space, Kro-Bar and Lattis rush to planet Earth because their danger detector indicated Paul and Betty were in danger.

And don't worry, Animala returns. Rowr.

If you are a fan of MST3K and its progeny, then this should be a real treat. Blamire is able to parody a lot of the same types of films that would appear on MST3K week after week after week. He understands his source material enough to touch on the essence of the film, while paying a loving homage to these movies. I never once got the impression this was a mean-spirited film.

On the other hand, some of the jokes do go on and on and on... and on. The "Slowly" scene early, on, is a prime example of a joke the runs out of steam, but they just keep pushing it. A counter-example to that, is the warning given by the High Priest of the Cantaloupe People... don't ask, cause I can't explain it. He gives this warning speech that lasts a long time, but it's just the end of a line of dozens of warning speeches. It lasts a long time, but the I think it works.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with half-a-dozen members of the cast / crew. Highly entertaining. There is also a 12-minute long making of featurette that goes into quite a bit of detail on the monster and effects. Finally, there are 3-minutes of outtakes. It's not a huge amount of extras, but it is better than a lot of direct-to-DVD I've reviewed.

The Verdict

If you liked The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra enough to buy it, then you will want to pick up The Lost Skeleton Returns Again. If you haven't seen either, but are a fan of MST3K, then give these two films a rental, but start with the original first.

Dark and Stormy Night

Larry Blamire and his gang team up for another parody, this time based on the murder mystery movies that were so popular in the 1930s. If you don't know the basic plot...

It's a dark and stormy night and in a large and old mansion a group of people gather, usually for the reading of a will. The next of kin of the dead guy keep ending up dead themselves. They are isolated from the outside world because of the storm, so they have to figure out who the killer is before it's too late.

In Dark and Stormy Night, the dead guy is named Sinas Cavinder. His lawyer has gathered all the people named in the will and they've all assembled for the reading. Along for the ride are two ace reporters, a Mr. Farraday and a Miss Billy Tuesday, as well as a cabbie Mr. Farraday stiffed (He just wants his 35 cents). Also in attendance, are about a dozen random people who just happened to be driving by, had car trouble and need a place to stay for the night. After the reading of the will, we learn Mr. Cavinder gave the vast majority of his money to his ward, a Miss Sabasha Fanmoore, unless she dies, in which case it will go to Burling Famish, Jr. But in a twist, the lawyer announces that at the last minute the will was changed and the entire estate is to be given ... it is at this point the lights go off and when they come back on, the lawyer is dead.

It's a great scoop for the two reporters, and a horrible tragedy, for the potential victims. Can these two reporters solve the many mysteries of Cavinder mansion, which include a 30-year old vow to return from the dead for revenge, a 300-year old witches curse for revenge and a strangler of indeterminate age? Or will they become the next victims? Or worse, fall in love?

And will that poor cabbie ever get his 35 cents?

I don't think I've ever seen a 1930s murder mystery movie like this, at least not a serious one. Normally, being unfamiliar with the source material would be a serious impediment for this type of spoof. That said, I've seen the genre spoofed so many times before in places like Looney Tunes cartoons, The Three Stooges, and more, that I felt intimately familiar with the formula. A lot of the jokes relied on rapid fire delivery of dialogue that feels equal parts His Girl Friday and Abbott & Costello, which is not only instantly recognizable, but also prime for parodying.

That's probably a little too high on the praise, and it does stumble over the occasional joke, usually by dragging it out too long. But it is clear that these people are having a blast, and that feeling is infectious.

The Extras

Larry Blamire is joined by half-a-dozen members of the cast for another very energetic audio commentary track. There's plenty of information presented, but it leans to the entertainment end of the spectrum. There is also 20-minute making of featurette and an 8-minute gag reel. Finally, you can watch the movie in the "original" Black & White or the Colorized version.

The Verdict

This is the third Larry Blamire parody I've seen, having previously purchased The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra when it first hit DVD. It's just as strong as the other two and fans of his work will likely want to pick it up. And if you haven't seen any of his films, give them a rental.

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