Mystery Science Theater 3000 was the best show to ever come on television. Did that come out a little strong? Well, for me, it’s true. One of the bonding experiences my father and I had when I was growing up was watching MST3k with him every Saturday we were together. It was a wonderful time because the show had what must be the perfect premise: take one funny guy and two funny robots, force them to watch horrible movies, and watch them make fun of it the entire way through. So simple, yet so complex. They mined the world’s darkest and dingiest corners and found some of the worst movies ever made, braving the seven seas of crap to find just the right film to heckle and jeer. Episodes featuring movies like The Screaming Skull, The Creeping Terror, and The Beast of Yucca Flats all showcased something to me that became a real love of mine, and that is the wooden, super-cheesy B-movies from the 50s. The stiff acting, the horrible special effects, and the scripts written in crayon, all mixed in glorious black and white made for some great goofy fun to laugh at in the wee hours of the night. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra not only combines all these aspects and magnifies them to AMAZING comedic effect, but it does so with a completely straight face.
The movie is all about the search for atmosphereum, some bogus element that came from a meteor that fell to Earth. Two very different people are looking for it in the woods. One is a clueless scientist named Dr. Paul Armstrong, who, with the aid of his equally clueless wife Betty, suspect that the meteor could be used to better mankind. They are looking for the atmosphereum for science. Another is the evil Dr. Roger Fleming, a psychopath who wants to revive the ancient lost skeleton in Cadavra Cave (!!!). He is looking for the atmosphereum for evil. Unbeknownst to both of them, however, aliens (!!) named Kro-Bar (!!!) and Lattice (!!!!) have landed on Earth. They are out of fuel for their rocket, and need, conveniently, the atmosphereum to propel them back into the stars (unfortunately, their pet mutant has escaped due to the crash and is killing a large number of people. Paul reaches the meteor first, and drives off with it to his cabin in the woods. At the same time, however, the evil Roger Fleming finds the Lost Skeleton, and it commands him to find the atmosphereum, which is the only way to fully revive him. So both the aliens and Roger Fleming are on their way to Dr. Paul Armstrong’s cabin, and they both have plans to trick the Armstrongs out of the meteor. Will the aliens make it home and stop their pet mutant with the power of atmosphereum? Will Dr. Paul Armstrong do science with the atmosphereum? Or will Dr. Roger Fleming destroy the world with the awesome power of the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra?!?!?!?
The premise alone is worth checking this movie out. A hilarious send-up of classic B-movies was something that had never been done to much success on film, but this one hits the mark in a big way. I mean, if this had not been done on purpose, it would have BEEN a B-movie! The script is golden! The actors are bad in a very good way! And the entire film exudes a very dry, very smirking humor that really draws me in with its irresistible charm. It is really one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. On my first viewing of this on DVD, I pissed my pants a little bit at my friend’s house! I had to run to the bathroom like a five year old to hide my shame, but it was totally worth it!
Larry Blamire, the director and writer, should have received an Academy Award for this amazing script. It is quotable on from end to end, and if you like to give a wink to your friends with a movie line, watch this with a group of your buddies. You’ll be saying things like “Tip tip tip tip tip” and ” Do the rock dance!” with more exuberance than you give to the “I do” at your own wedding! It both celebrates and lampoons the spirit of the sci-fi film of yesteryear in a very joyful and jovial way. There is no malice behind these lines, and it is obviously intended as a loving tribute to B-movies, the plucky genre whose pioneers made up for in ambition what they lacked in talent and money. It’s all in good fun, and that’s where a good comedy becomes a great comedy.
Blamire also knows how to write amazing characters. The Lost Skeleton himself is one of the greatest characters I have seen in a comedy. Yes, there is actually a skeleton, and he actually has quite a few lines! And he is quite the smart-ass! Dr. Roger Fleming becomes his man-servant, and his suffering at the hands of the skeleton is simply genius (“Even when I was a child, I was hated by skeletons!”). Everyone else in the movie is phenomenal, and it would be unfair to point anyone out, but I’ll just say that you will find something to laugh about in every single character here.
If you love absurdist humor like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, cheesy 50s sci-fi, or the palpable greatness of the greatest show in the world, MST3k, you might die of terminal laughter when you see this movie. It is definitely a movie to share with friends, and you might find yourself to be that “guy with good movie taste” in a circle of pals for recommending it on a slow Thursday night. You’ll have a great time, and, if you have a good sense of humor, perhaps a new favorite comedy. I give The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra 9 rock dances out of 10!
Tomorrow is my 100th movie! I’ll try to make it a good one! Until then, feel free to shower me with praise at my glowing accomplishment!