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Rated PG
Copyright 2001 Transom Films & Valenti Entertainment
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 16 November 2008

The Characters:  

  • Dr. Paul Armstrong - He studies science, because he is a scientist, and a scientist's whole purpose in life is to advance the field of science, through the study
  • Betty Armstrong - Why don't you hop in the kitchen and cook something to keep yourself busy while your scientist husband is working on science?
  • Kro-Bar - An alien from Malva. His name is particularly splendid, because his character's social ineptitude made me feel like someone was pounding on my central sulcus with a crowbar.
  • Lattis - Kro-Bar's wife. Her sole purpose in this universe is to crank up her husband's stress level just enough so that he dies two years before she does. That's what women do. A race could have an average lifespan that spans millennia, and the wife will still do everything she can to cause her husband to have a heart attack two years before she kicks the bucket.
  • Ranger Brad - This guy kissed too many chipmunks as a child.
  • Dr. Roger Fleming - He looks like the stupid brother from "My Name Is Earl." Acts just as stupid too.
  • Animala - She might look human, but this feral firecracker was created from forest critters. She is also the only character I found endearing, because she constantly says, "Rowr!" and tends to lick people on the nose.
  • The Mutant - What has three eyes, claws, and wears a skirt?
  • The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra - Now that it is found, it is in dire need of a new descriptive title. Suffers the same fate as Humpty Dumpty, if you substitute "cliff" in place of "wall."

Buy It!

The Plot: 

The trouble starts when Paul and Betty take a vacation so that the scientist can look for a meteorite made of atmospherium. Back in those days, married couples took vacations so that the husband could get some work done while the wife made dinner. Being on vacation was not all that different from life at home. The men liked it because they slept in somebody else's bed. The women liked it because they did not have to spend all day cleaning the house (though they usually did anyway).

You need to be warned right now that I detest about eighty percent of this film's dialog. It is all intended to make fun of the ridiculous lines that characters are forever speaking in classic b-movies, but most of the attempts were off target. It is easy to blame the abominable chatter on lazy writing. However, after Paul uses the generic term "science" for the sixth time in less than a minute, you start to wonder if actual malice is behind it all.

"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." I know, I know. I refuse to believe that the screenwriter is actually that stupid. There he is, on the screen (it's Paul, in case you are also looking for someone to blame). He does not look stupid. His shoes are on the correct feet. He never sticks a fork in an electrical outlet. His attire presents a neat and tidy appearance, and nobody taped a sheet of paper to his back with the word "IDIOT" written on it. Paul is not an idiot. No, he did this on hurt me.

Paul and Betty easily locate the atmospherium meteorite, and they take it back to the cabin for further study. There are not any specimen containers available, so Paul keeps the glowing, highly radioactive chunk of exotic matter on one of the dinner plates. Any future meal served off of that plate would likely cause the contaminated person to either die or mutate, but the couple laughs about the situation. When Paul remarked that they would wash the plate after he was done with it, I laughed. It was funny. Do not get too hopeful. Moments like that one are few and far between.

A meteorite made of pure atmospherium is an incredible discovery; there are others who want the meteorite for their own purposes. Kro-Bar and Lattis need the atmospherium because their spaceship was damaged during an emergency landing. Without the miracle element, the two marvans (they are from "Marva") will never be able to return home. Dr. Fleming wants the atmospherium so that he can resurrect the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. Frankly, I do not know why the evil paleoanthropologist wants to give the skeleton more power; the only thing it ever does is to insult him.

The dedicated scientist cannot stop talking about science, and atmospherium...and science. The idle chatter reaches prying ears; ears that are attached to those who need atmospherium. Everybody needs atmospherium, and everybody hears Paul talking about it. The only way to obtain it is to steal the meteorite from the clueless scientist. The little vacation cabin is soon the social center of the backwoods. Kro-Bar and Lattis disguise themselves as nondescript humans. Dr. Fleming is already human, but he steals the aliens' transmorphing gun and creates Animala from a collection of random fauna. Obviously, consorting with a woman who constantly acts like a feral cat is a good way to appear normal.

Animala looks like a Cat-Woman of the Moon, but she is completely terrestrial, and half ferret. The truth about a woman's ancestry can be surprising at times. I still remember when a very Asian girl told me that she was half Irish. She did not look terribly Irish; she had long black hair, almond eyes, and smooth tan skin, but apparently she was half Irish. Oh, and she also told me that she hated potatoes. I have long suspected that little Miss Irish Mystery Meat was pulling my leg.

Watching the aliens' fabricated social flailings as they attempt to convince the humans that they too are human is agonizing. It made me want to claw my eyes out (and my ears immediately thereafter). Luckily, Animala saves the day, and my eyes, by being herself. I like Animala. Her character is actually funny. The aliens mistakenly taking their social cues from her is funny. Three people eating dinner by sticking their heads into their plates is funny. Dr. Fleming's raised eyebrow is funny.

However, once the meal is over and the eyebrows licked clean, it is right back to the pain.

The aliens and Dr. Fleming do eventually join forces to steal the meteorite from Paul. Animala hypnotizes the scientist with her primal dancing. Not one to let a black-coated hussy steal her man, Betty gives chase. The flustered housewife runs smack into the marvans' escaped mutant and faints at the sight of its three-eyed visage. The Mutant happily carries the limp woman around for a while; it finally learns what every human man eventually figures out: women are too darn heavy to carry around everywhere. The marvans learn the hard way that you should never trust a mad scientist. Fleming takes all the atmospherium, and the poor little aliens get none. They would cry all the way home, except that home is six thousand light years away, and they cannot get there without atmospherium.

Betty wakes up wherever it was the alien dropped her and rejoins the plot. The scientific couple and the marvans sort out their differences inside the spaceship (which is fittingly decorated with silver pegboard). However, the alliance accomplishes almost zilch before the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, reanimated by its minions, returns and mentally enslaves the marvans. Kro-Bar means nothing to the flagitious collection of bones, but Lattis is to be the skeleton's unwilling bride.

I did not like this movie, which seems to surprise many people. It took me a little while to figure out why I disliked the film so much. "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" is an attempt to make fun of old science fiction b-movies. They are trying to parody something being cheap and stupid, that everyone already recognizes as being cheap and stupid, by being cheap and stupid. All they did was annoy the heck out of me (believe me, I know; I was there, watching it), and the shame is that they were so close. In fact, the movie had it nailed perfectly in at least two places: Paul insisting they would wash the plate and the scene at the dinner table.

They knew what to parody, but could not quite figure how, so they went overboard. They could have used the same story, but written the script to be completely serious, and I might well have loved it.

I wish...I wish that this had turned out differently. It was like watching my neighbors build a new house in a single day, and they did almost everything right. As the sun set, I took a seat on my front step and regarded the house, and it was good: the foundation was level, the walls were square, and the roof was the perfect pitch. Unfortunately, they built the house out of fish, rather than brick and wood. So, there I sit, looking at the house, and knowing that it is going to stink to high heaven after the sun comes up tomorrow.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Country life is so laid back that folks spend half of their day just standing by the side of the (dirt) road, hoping that some lost city slickers will stop to ask for directions.
  • Squirrels are hilarious.
  • The anthropologist who dies with the most bones, wins.
  • Earning a degree in geology requires the student to spend six months studying human anatomy.
  • Cranberries are universally ubiquitous.
  • The only thing worse than listening to a couple engage in a horribly staged conversation is listening to two couples engage in a horribly staged conversation.
  • Housewives like to play hide-and-go-seek with the mutant every now and then (no, that is not a euphemism).
  • You can smother someone by covering their ears.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 8 mins - ", bicycles, fish on bicycles..."
  • 9 mins - Where is a discarded Ed Wood screenplay when you need one?
  • 14 mins - Three things should happen here: he finds a pile of shaving cream, bubbles fill the air around him, and he suddenly drops dead of an aneurysm. The first two ideas are homages, the third is me being bitter.
  • 17 mins - I don't know how much more of this I can take.
  • 29 mins - Do you see that knothole in the wall? No, not that...yes, that one. That knothole is doing more for the profession of acting than anyone else in this scene.
  • 33 mins - Arrrrgggghhhhh! It is better when you shut up!
  • 36 mins - Heaven help me, but I just laughed.
  • 52 mins - I want to take that rock and kill him with it. "Him" meaning him, the screenwriter, and the director.
  • 73 mins - Are you saying that you have always wanted to marry a homely woman?

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note lostskeleton1.wav Betty: "I hope the owners don't mind their good dishes holding a radioactive meteor."
Paul: "Don't eat the meteor by mistake, whatever you do!"
Both laugh.
Paul: "Seriously, we'll clean the dishes before we go."
Green Music Note lostskeleton2.wav Ranger Brad: "Oh say, you don't believe those old legends about the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, do you?"
Dr. Fleming: "Hahahaha. Ranger Brad, I'm a scientist. I don't believe in anything."
Green Music Note lostskeleton3.wav Lattis: "Maybe the special bars on the mutant cage got bent in the crash."
Kro-Bar: "Oh, this is fine, fine! Now, we must not only repair our ship, we must find our mutant, which we were to return to our planet, Marva."
Lattis: "Or who knows how many untold millions will die by its hand."
Kro-Bar: "If only it did have hands, my woman. If only it did have hands..."
Green Music Note lostskeleton4.wav Dr. Fleming: "Won't you please be seated, my dear?"
Animala: "Rowwwwr."
Dr. Fleming: "May I say, you look lovely this evening."
Animala: "Rowr!"

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Cliplostskeleton1.mpg - 4.8m
This is what happens when you use a hammer to write a script. Remember: use a typewriter for the script; hammers should only be used on nails (or typewriters).

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