There are good movies and there are bad movies. There are movies that are intended to be good but turn out bad, and movies that are so bad that they end up being good. Somewhere in the middle lies The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, the 2001 film shot in the style of those “so bad they’re good” sci-fi classics from the classic drive-in era.
At first glance the movie appears to originate from that era. Originally shot in in MiniDV format, the film has been digitally converted to black and white and manipulated to look older than it really is. The plot harkens back to the midnight budget films from that era as well. A series of coincidences has led three separate couples to the same location, searching for the ultra-rare radioactive element “atmosphereum”. Scientist Paul Armstrong and his wife Betty are searching for a meteor filled with atmosphereum, which has crashed in a field. Kro-Bar and his wife Lattis, two aliens from the planet Marva who have crash landed on Earth and need atmosphereum to repair their rocket. And then there’s Dr. Roger Fleming, the mad scientist who needs atmosphereum to bring the titular Lost Skeleton of Cadavra back to life. Thrown into the mix later are Animala, the “half woman/half four other forest animals” dancing queen, and “The Mutant”, a horrible-looking creature whose costume gives Sigmund the Sea Monster a run for his money.
With dialogue like “I’m a scientist. I don’t believe in anything,” and “All Skeltons are against me! Even when I was a child I was hated by skeletons,” director/writer/actor Larry Blamire has created an homage to bad sci-fi movies of the past. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra had a limited release in theaters in 2001, but where the film truly comes to life is in its final destination, DVD.
With more buttons than a Marvanian spaceship, the special features portion of the DVD is packed full of options and extras. All the standard options are included — the film’s trailer, previews of other films, and even a short musical skeleton-related cartoon entitled Skeleton Frolic. Also included is a blooper reel, which includes dozens of line flubs and out-of-character crack ups. There’s also a clip titled “Obey the Lost Skeleton” that is behind the scenes featurette, which unfortunately covers a lot of the same ground as the commentary tracks.
Fans of commentary tracks will find not one but two movie-length commentaries. The first is the “Director and Crew Commentary”, where all the technical aspects of making a new-old movie are covered. This track contains valuable information for anyone who’s into DIY filmmaking. The second commentary reunites the cast and allows them to share their experiences, memories and stories about being involved in the film. In addition to these, there’s also a lengthy Q&A included from the American Cinematheque which the cast and crew participated in.
Disc quality varies from feature to feature. Anyone looking for actual technical glitches will find many (too much video compression?), but the film is so goofy that it’s hard to take anything (including the digital quality) too seriously.
The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is fun in that bad sort of way if you don’t mind the fact that it was made bad on purpose. It seems to me there are so many bad movies out there already that we don’t need to be making new ones. The extras are interesting if you’re interested in making your own b-movie or want to know what inspires good actors to act poorly. I can’t imagine watching the film itself too many times, but it would be a nice one to have on the shelf in case someone ever wants to bet you that they have a worse movie than you do.