Title: The Lost Skeleton Returns Again
Starring: Larry Blamire, Fay Masterson, Brian Howe, Dan Conroy, Jennifer Blaire
Written by: Larry Blamire
Directed by: Larry Blamire
Genre: Comedy, Science Fiction, Adventure
Rating: 7 out of 10 / B
Reviewed by: Johnny M
WARNING! CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH LOST SKELETON MOVIES! YOU’LL WISH THEY WERE ONLY MILD!
Two years after the events of The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, geologist Paul Armstrong (Larry Blamire) has vanished during an expedition into the Amazon jungle while searching for a rare new element. His loyal, chipper wife Betty (Fay Masterson), along with a government agent, goes looking for him, joining up with guide Jungle Brad (Dan Conroy) and mild-mannered Peter Fleming (Brian Howe)…who is secretly being controlled by the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra itself! Paul and Betty’s group must race against time to find the element before a team hired by a nefarious industrialist does, all the while dodging horrible monsters, the strange Cantaloupe People, the return of old acquaintances and the sinister plans of a floating, grinning Lost Skeleton. Well, okay, it’s just a Lost Skull at the moment, but soon…soon! MUAH HA HA HA!!!
The entire cast of the first film returns for another trip to the Ed Wood wing of the B-Movie Drive-In, even the three actors whose characters died. Brian Howe and Dan Conroy, who played evil scientist Roger Fleming and stalwart Ranger Brad respectively, return as the twin brothers of their former characters. Meanwhile, Robert Deveau, who played the ill-fated farmer in the first film, here plays the villainous Handscomb Draile. Jennifer Blaire returns as Animala—this time made from four jungle creatures instead of forest creatures—and Marvan aliens Kro-Bar and Lattis are back as petulant and ill-informed as ever. Prior knowledge of the first film isn’t necessary, however, since the characters do their best to explain everything in purposefully clunky exposition, delivered with all the appropriate drama.
What does help, though, is a knowledge of horribly-made genre films from the 1950s. Returns seeks to mimic the cheaply-made “B-reel” films, the throwaway features that played after the main attraction during double features. The budget and production values have increased exponentially since the first film, but it’s still filled with cheap foam monsters, obvious pull-string effects and painfully stilted dialogue. All of it on purpose, of course. The film is much more of an obvious satire than the first film, which was largely a stone-faced recreation of a Z-grade monster film. The laughs are as plentiful, but they tend to come in waves and bursts rather than a steady stream of ridiculousness.
The cast is just as sure and deft at acting horribly as they were in the first film. In fact, most of the cast seems to be more comfortable in their roles. Fay Masterson makes the biggest leap, giving Betty an interesting new depth an a very idiosyncratic kind of housewifely logic. Andy Parks and Susan McConnell get the most mileage out of their screen time, with almost each scene with Kro-Bar and Lattis guaranteeing a laugh. Jennifer Blaire also lights up the screen as Animala. The new members of the cast are integrated well into the rest, and there is a very distinctive synergy that makes the scenes flow effortlessly even when they (intentionally) sputter and stutter. On a personal note, this reviewer thinks Dan Conroy is adorable in his safari khakis.
Not everything is bliss in the Amazon jungle, however. Some of the scenes tend to go on too long, with some of the jokes stretched just a beat or two beyond their welcome. A subplot where evil scientist Ellamy Royne teaches the Queen of the Cantaloupe People the “power of the double negative” takes up far too much screen time. Those who loved the play-it-straight feel of the first film may be put off the by the constant winking at the camera in this film. The fourth wall in this film is rather permeable, which may or may not be your cup of tea. The Skeleton, in particular, often seems like he’s channeling Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
Returns feels much more like a “real” film than the first one did. Writer/director/star Larry Blamire has a great feel for his source material and a definite love for those horrible sci-fi films of yesteryear. With a bigger budget, a bigger cast and a more outrageous storyline, which never makes sense and is never supposed to, there couldn’t be a better way for the Lost Skeleton to return…AGAIN!
P.S. In honor of the return of the Lost Skeleton, let’s give away three The Lost Skeleton Returns Again DVDs to the first three fans who post their favorite Lost Skeleton quotes in the comments section below.