"The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" is an easy film to admire for anyone who loves the junky nature of truly bad 50's B-movies. It's really obvious that actorwriterdirector Larry Blamire loves them too - and his silly and sometimes on-the-mark film is perfect proof.
However, it's a lot easier to actually appreciate Blamire's sterling attempt and his passion for the project than it is to groove on the finished product. The actual movie itself is a hit-and-miss affair that occasionally riffs and zings with the most intentionally-hilarious movie language dribble this side of an Ed Wood flick or "Robot Monster". Other times, the film itself is less a parody than a sluggish effort of good intentions but lousy pacing.
All in all, Blamire made HIS low budget work on behalf of the faux-film's. Shot on digital video, the movie actually looks like it was one of those $1.98 cheapie affairs from the early 50s, too. The framing is a little pedestrian (as it should be), and the cheapjack sets and blah costumes are fairly respective of budgeting decisions of the era. The special effects are funny, but as with everything in this film, they seem almost restrained somewhat. The titular Skeleton - in particular - had the comedic potential to be a wisecracking, quotable character; we've built up to his appearance. Instead, he's an ALMOST quotable character, dialed back though still pretty silly with "animated" arms and legs dangling in every direction as he attempts to purvey his evil.
Maybe it's a directorial decision, or a financial one, but the film seems torn between doing all of this with a straight face or making a send-up. Particular performances are very broad, while others are comically held back. There are points in the film where the cast and script could have easily spun out into ironic condescension or Mel Brooks parody of the subject matter, but don't - and so I admit respect is due to Blamire for sticking to his conviction to actually MAKE a bad movie with some low-watt laughs sprinkled throughout and not seceding to an easy yuk. This is not necessarily a "parody" of those sub-run sci-fi flicks that used to run at the neighborhood Bijou, but it's not an out-and-out love letter to them, either - like Joe Dante's "Matinee" was.
But the film's real success is it's near-reverence for its source material. The film's trailer - which got me to see the picture in the theatres in the first place during it's initial run - is about as hysterical a mini-movie as you're ever likely to see... and it's less than two minutes long. The film's opening titles and movie poster design are truly wonderful pieces of ersatz art, and the idea of sticking Ub Iwerks' "Skeleton Frolic" cartoon short in front of the picture is inspired programming and a knowing nod to the film geeks in the audience. The 'scary' music score actually sounds as it should, and the film's running time is brief enough that it doesn't wear out it's welcome or stretch it's one-joke premise too far or too thin.
Budding filmmakers who catch this movie on DVD are encouraged to take some time and watch the film AGAIN with the director's commentary option. Blamire and his crew give a pretty interesting back story to the making of this quaint little no-budgeter that is both informative and inspirational.
"Lost Skeleton" is a gentle, smile-inducing tribute to a by-gone era of movie-making that has it's heart in the right place. If anything, this film is a great jumping-off point for the uninitiated viewer to dip into some of the real so-bad-it's-good cinema of the 1950s, 1960s and even early 1970s that's rolling out onto the DVD format (is everything on DVD now?). Though not entirely successful or able to deliver on it's broad canvas of opportunities, it's a film that's easy to recommend and enjoy for some cheeky, geeky laughs.
Review by britishdominion from the Internet Movie Database.