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Disc Covering: The Lost Skeleton Returns Again in “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again”

Disc Covering: The Lost Skeleton Returns Again in “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again” (photo)

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No! Nobody ever made them like this! I mean the architect had to be a certified genius or an authentic wacko!” — Dr. Ray Stanz, “Ghostbusters”

You’d have to be a certified genius, or maybe an authentic wacko, to make a movie poorly on purpose. But that’s what Larry Blamire did when he made “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” in 2001. He paid homage to the legendarily bad films of Edward D. Wood Jr. by mimicking their style and tone, from the horrific screenplay (“As a scientist I just wish I could appreciate more things like cabins…”) to the equally atrocious acting (“Even when I was a child, I was hated by skeletons!”) to the super low grade special effects. (Know why the alien spaceship looks like it was made out of a toilet paper roll? Because it was made out of a toilet paper roll.)

The general rule of bad movies is they’re only funny when they’re accidentally bad. Yes, “Plan 9″‘s hubcap spaceships and cardboard gravestones are cute. But even with a bigger budget, Ed Wood’s movies would have looked pretty much the same. Money can’t fix a tin ear for dialogue or a tin, uh, eye for camera placement. And that’s why we love Wood’s movies. They weren’t produced by the studio assembly line and test marketed into homogenous pap. They were one weird guy’s personal statement. They’re authentic. They’re sincere.

It should be impossible to authentically replicate authenticity. When lesser filmmakers have attempted to imitate Wood’s style they come off as mean instead of funny — his movies are so bad, they’re too easy a target. Which made Blamire’s accomplishment with “Lost Skeleton” all the more impressive; he didn’t make a parody of a bad movie, he simply made a bad movie. It looked, sounded, and felt like the real deal. If you stumbled on “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” on late night cable and had no idea what it was, you would have to assume it was the genuine article.

And maybe that’s why “The Lost Skeleton” hasn’t become the full-fledged cult object it deserves to be. It’s almost too authentic to be entertaining. But now there is a new film, “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again.” Was Blamire crazy enough (or brilliant enough) to achieve quixotic greatness twice in a row?

The Lost Skeleton Returns Again
Directed by Larry Blamire

08312010_skeleton2.jpgTagline: “So Terrifying You’ll Wish It Were Only a Movie!”

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: Sequel to a film that paid homage to ’50s Z-grade horror by being intentionally bad. Better FX this time; you can’t see most of the strings.

Salable Elements: Not much beyond the fact that it is a sequel to “The Lost Skeleton,” though that’s no guarantee of butts in seats either; the first film grossed only $143,000 in theatrical release according to Box Office Mojo.

Biggest Success: Blamire is a talented guy, but there’s one thing he’s better at than every other writer and director in history: creating silly character names. They’re something of a directorial signature at this point: if a film features “Handscomb Draile” and “Gondreau Slykes” and “Reet Pappin” and “Dr. Ellamy Royne,” it’s a pretty good bet Blamire is involved.

08312010_skeleton3.jpgBiggest Failure: It’s weird to complain that any movie looks too good. But “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again”‘s 2.35:1 aspect ratio, dramatic widescreen vistas, and improved shot composition don’t match its goofy tone or brain-dead characters (the original film was in 1.85:1). On the “Returns Again” commentary track, Blamire says that while the first film was his ode to Ed Wood-style clunker, this time he was trying to recreate “a Saturday matinee thing.” And the plot, which involves the hunt for a rare element through South American jungles filled with horrible monsters, mutants, and Cantaloupe People, does resemble something from an old Republic serial.

I suppose in that context, the visuals do seem a bit less out of place. But if that’s what Blamire really wanted to do, he probably should have scrapped the Skeleton and company and invented a whole new mythos. Bringing back everyone from “The Lost Skeleton” — who all continue to behave as if they’re in a terrible Z-grade horror movie — confuses things. The look is from one kind of movie, and the sound is from another. “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again” is still funny — technically, it has way more jokes than the original, and plenty of them are damn good — but the silliness come with a wink. No one will ever mistake this movie for the genuine article.

Best Moment: My favorite character in both films remains The Lost Skeleton himself, a fiendish, dickish psychic skeleton with mind-control powers. The Lost Skeleton is the villain of both films, but he’s also the most likable character since he’s the only one aware that everyone in the story is a total idiot. Of course, it’s hard to control the minds of the mindless, as when he tries to get Animala (Jennifer Blaire) to pick him up and carry him around and she picks up a stick and a rock and a leaf instead (“Ignorant fool! Animala you are stupid!”). That leaves the Lost Skeleton eternally peeved, voiced with perfect haughty exasperation by Blamire himself.

08312010_skeleton4.jpgSpecial Features: include the aforementioned commentary and a ten minute “making of,” mostly comprised of snarky interviews with the film’s cast.

Worthy of a Theatrical Release? It pains me to say it, but no. “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again” is a decent sequel, but it doesn’t recapture the alchemical magic of the original. The first “Lost Skeleton” was so deadpan it was practically cadaverish (or maybe Cadavra-ish). The second is much more outwardly (and less satisfyingly) silly. Blamire is working with house money here — same terrific cast, same endearingly dopey characters — but at best this is a break-even proposition. No craziness, no genius. Just competence.

For Further Viewing: relive the classic with this compilation of greatest hits from “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” See you next week. I sleep now.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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