Wednesday, November 24, 2010



I was really looking forward to seeing Skyline, based almost entirely on the two minute and twenty second trailer that appeared online just two weeks prior to the film’s release. I am very selective about what films I see at the theater and I always do some research online before seeing them. The only solid reason that I had to hope that Skyline might be a first-rate sf film was that I had enjoyed the co-directors previous film Alien vs. Predators: Requiem. That and of course the previously mentioned awesome trailer.


Skyline plain and simple is an alien invasion movie. The difference between this film and almost every other sf film alien invasion movie is that it all takes place from the point of view of one small group of characters; all of whom have no professional background in science or any other field that would help them – and hence… the audience – understand what is happening outside of the apartment building that they have found themselves trapped in. The film is broken up into three acts: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

Day 1 of Skyline deals with a small group of friends, who awake early in the morning in an alcoholic post-party haze, when they see streams of bright light beaming down from the sky. This gazing out of the windows of the penthouse apartment goes on for some time, until with the help of a telescope, they see that actual human bodies are being drawn up by the light and taken into some type of alien space craft. The beams of light begin to penetrate the windows of the apartment and they seem to have a mesmerizing effect on the person that it shims on. After one of the group is taken, the rest cover the windows with blankets in an attempt to hide.

Day 2 begins with smaller ships, which look more like flying squids, attacking the apartment and trying to pull the people out of the building. Their numbers dwindling, the group forms an escape plan. They take two vehicles from the garage – a sports car and an SUV – and the smaller car upon exiting is immediately stepped on by some sort of alien bi-peddle tank like creature. With only three of the group remaining, they retreat to the penthouse apartment, feeling entrapped and hopeless.

Day 3 finds the trio of survivors awoken by the thundering of jet planes. They peek out through the draped windows to find the sky full of air force jets of all types, dog-fighting with the smaller alien craft and firing air-to-air missiles at the larger ships. As the battle continues, it becomes apparent that the human forces are losing the immediate battle. In one desperate move, a stealth fighter fires a small nuclear device at one of the larger ships and it hits. The ship explodes in a burst of fire and begins falling from the sky. This gives hope to the remaining survivors, but the hope is short lived.

I have intentionally avoided describing any of the characters in the film, because none of them are fully realized. Even the male and female leads, who are the viewpoint characters, and who I assume we are supposed to sympathize with, aren’t given more than the briefest of backstory. The actors playing these characters are fine, so I don’t blame them that I didn’t find them particularly likable or sympathetic. This is a real weakness for Skyline, because the entire film takes place from their point of view. Telling the story this way was a risky move on the part of the filmmakers, because it places all of the emotional gravitas on just two characters. The second problem this causes is that all the crucial plot information comes from characters who are completely unaware (unlike the sci-fi fans in the audience) of what is happening to them. It seems to take them far too much time for them to understand the tremendous scale of the danger that they are in. I can understand their initial shock, but you would think by the end of the first day, they would be at least be trying to find a means of escape.

Even with these faults, there are still moments of Skyline that were interesting and exciting. Unfortunately, most of these moments take place on Day 3 and in sporadic fashion at that. If you are patient, this segment of Skyline does reward you with some genuinely scary and exciting action that finally affects the two lead characters. I think the film would have been better served if the first two acts were combined into one and reduced by half. The problem with this is that the film would run to about 60 minutes, instead of its already short 92 minute running time. This brings me to the final problem with Skyline: It ends on a cliffhanger! I don’t want to ruin the film for those brave enough to watch Skyline despite all the negative reviews (of which this one would most likely qualify), by revealing what happens in the last ten minutes of the film. You’ll just have to take my word for it that Skyline would have had to have been a 3 hour film to complete the new plot line that is begun in those last 10 minutes! I left the theater at the end of Skyline feeling like I had watched the first half of an above –average TV mini-series. I do hope that despite the poor reviews and the lackluster first weekend grosses that the makers of Skyline will be able to finish the story that they began with this film.

I also hope that that Colin and Greg Strause (the directors) are able to finish the story that they began in Skyline with a sequel, because it may enable them to correct some of the mistakes they made in the first film. I honestly don’t think that Skyline is a good film, but I do think it was a good attempt and had it been executed better, may have even been a great film.

There have been so few truly SCIENCE fiction films, that I like to support even imperfect attempts at it. I think even a failed attempt like Skyline deserves to have both the positive and negative aspects of the film as a whole pointed out, so that we as fans can hopefully encourage film makers to continue to make not only good sf films, but excellent ones.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Thanks to one of my fellow bloggers Dempsey Sanders, I found this posting on Bantam Street's web site by Larry Blamire about his next film project.

After THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA I never really considered a sequel. I tend to not like them. They usually don’t work. Particularly the ones that simply recycle the original material. No way, I said.

But an idea came to me that I just thought was too good to pass up. I felt THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN would be fresh enough, a fairly different kind of movie.

Then recently, as some of you know, an idea for a third film hit me, something I felt I simply had to do. So we announced there would be yet another sequel, a third installment in the Skeleton Saga (as it’s now starting to look like, terrifyingly enough).

Well, a couple of days ago, Mike Schlesinger took great amusement in pointing out something I’d completely forgotten. Evidently, in an interview, shortly after wrapping LSRA, I stated quite flatly that this was it, no more Lost Skeleton films. I laughed, and responded that I was truly the Brett Favre of independent filmmakers.

I’ll never say never again. Well, maybe.

Anyway, thought it was a good time to unleash the title.

May God have mercy on us all…

—Larry Blamire

Monday, November 15, 2010



The fourth and final film of the Scare-a-thon was another film directed by Larry Blamire and a sequel to the previous film in our Scare-a-thon, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. The Lost Skeleton Returns Again brings back many of the characters from the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, but instead of a parody of the 50’s b&w sci-fi cheapies, it is more of a satire of the low-budget jungle serials of the 30’s and 40’s.

The Army has sent Reet Pappin (Dietz) to Betty Armstrong (Masterson) to help them find Professor Paul Armstrong (Blamire) who has been lost in the Amazon for two years searching for Jerranium 90, a ” little rock that made all the papers”. Meanwhile, the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra’s skull has awakened to command Peter Fleming, the “good twin” brother of Dr. Roger Fleming. The skull forces Peter to the Amazon’s “Valley of The Monsters” to retrieve the Delph of Anicram that can restore his skeleton. The Armstrongs, Pappin and Fleming, who disguises the skull as an umbrella holder, join together. A crooked importer Handscomb Draile, slimy Gondreau Slykes, cheap crook Carl Traeger and evil scientist Dr. Ellamy Royne also search the Amazom for the rock and are joined by the aliens from Manerva, Lattis (McConnell) and Kro-Bar (Parks), who have returned to Earth in an attempt to help their friends Paul and Betty from the dangers they will soon find themselves in. The divergent parties soon converge in the dreaded Valley of the Monsters, and meet the ancient race known as the Cantaloupe People, who are led by their haughty queen, Chinfa (Matin). Will the Armstongs be able to defeat the monstrous Magraclop that guards the Delph of Anicram and find the hidden Jerranium 90 before evil Dr. Royne? And how the heck does Anmailia (Blaire) find herself in the Amazon and in the middle of these meddlesome people? You’ll have to watch The Lost Skeleton Returns to find those answers out for yourself!

Larry Blamire’s budget was evidently larger on this project than its predecessor, because he fills this sequel with even more bizarre and wonderful characters than the first film. Just like some of the films of the late 30’s, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again begins in black and white, but when everyone arrives in the Valley of the Monsters, the film is in full “SuperSkeletoRama” color. Like many film sequels, this one doesn’t have some of the innocent magic of the original. However, it does make up for it with even more cheesy dialogue, stiff acting, cheap effects and goofy monsters. The Lost Skeleton Returns Again is a fun way to spend 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010



Our next movie was The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, which was Larry Blamire’s directorial debut. I had watched this film way back in 2004 when it was first released on DVD, but I hadn’t seen it since then, so I was hoping it would be as funny as the first time I had watched it. I needn’t have worried as this spot on satire of the sci-fi horror films of the 1950’s was just as clever and subtly humorous as I’d remembered. The story of The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra involves a scientist, Dr. Paul Armstrong - played by Larry Blamire himself – searching for and then finding a fallen meteor in the middle of a mountainous forest that “could mean actual advances in the field of science”. He is aided by his wife Betty – played by the lovely Fay Masterson - who is loyal, but not so keen on "this science stuff." They encounter an alien couple from the planet Marva, Kro-Bar and Lattis – played to a straight-faced tee by Andrew Parks and Susan McConnell – who disguise themselves as ordinary humans and attempt to obtain the meteor, from Dr. Armstrong. The meteor contains the rare ore Atmosphereum, which powers the Marvaian spaceship. Meanwhile, the evil scientist Dr. Roger Fleming (Brian Howe) is wandering the same forest, looking for the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra that will enable him to “conquer the world”. He finds the skeleton, but the immobile remains informs Fleming that he must obtain the rare ore in the fallen meteor to effect his full recovery! Fleming uses a discarded alien devise to create a female companion from various forest animals, so that he can steal the meteor from Armstrong without drawing suspicion. Animalia (played seductively by Jennifer Blamire), as he dubs her, is less than convincing, as she insists on eating with her mouth and walking on all fours. Fleming steals the meteor, reviving the skeleton, and it is up to the Armstrongs and the aliens to join forces to stop the mad plans of The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra!

Anyone who has watched any of the many low budget sci fi films of the 1950s, will appreciate the care with witch Larry Blamire has recreated the look and sound of these awful, yet entertaining films. The silly silver spacesuits of the aliens, the ray gun made from a caulk gun, the rocket ship model made from a silver spray-painted toilet paper roll, the giant “mutant” that looks like a Sid and Marty Krofft reject, the skeleton that “walks” and climbs on very visible wires… are all calculated details that make The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra look like its preposterous predecessors. Larry Blamire’s script is wickedly funny in its use of stilted dialogue, that would make Ed Wood, Jr. proud. This exchange between Dr. Armstrong and his wife Betty early in the film sets the tone for the entire film.

Dr. Paul Armstrong: Looks like a perfect day for hunting space rocks, wouldn't you say Betty?

Betty Armstrong: Oh Paul, I'm frightened.

Dr. Paul Armstrong: Wh-what is it darling? What's the matter? Tell me?

Betty Armstrong: I don't know. Nothing I can put my finger on. Not something I can see or touch or feel. But something I can't quite see or touch or feel or put my finger on.

Dr. Paul Armstrong: Oh well. Shall we find that meteor?

This is satire at its best! If you “get” The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra’s brand of humor, then you will be rewarded with many laughs throughout its entirety.

The final film in the Scare-a-thon was another Larry Blamire film and a sequel to The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra: The Lost Skeleton Returns Again, which I'll be reviewing in my post on the 15th Annual Scare-a-thon - Part 4!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010



Keeping with the theme of funny and scary films, our next feature segued neatly from the horror happenings of The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters. Dark and Stormy Night is a modern movie (made in 2009, but just released on DVD this year) that looks like a film made in the 1940’s. The man behind this tribute and subtle satire of the classic B-movies of the 40’s is Larry Blamire. I first became aware of Larry’s films at a local science fiction convention, where Larry and many of his cast and crew, had a panel to talk about his then new film The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. As soon as the film was released to DVD I bought it and have been a fan of Larry Blamire’s films ever since!

Dark And Stormy Night begins just after the death of the wealthy Sinas Cavinder. Coming in out of a torrential storm, family members, friends, reporters, and even a cabbie arrive at the Cavinder estate to hear the reading of Sinas' last will and testament. At the conclusion of the reading of the will, Cavinder's attorney reveals an additional sealed envelope, containing a provisional to the will. Sudddenly the lights go out and on top of the envelope going missing, the attorney is found dead with a knife sticking out of his back. Naturally, because of the storm, the phones are out and the only bridge leading to the mansion is washed out, so it is up to the guests to figure out who is responsible for the murder.

Every hoary gag and character stereotype is satirized to great effect in this film. There is the mysterious hooded figure lurking in the shadows, the deadpan butler, the wisecracking reporters and even a man-in-ape-suit. If you are a fan of old fashioned murder mysteries and scary old house movies, this is the perfect film for you. Even if you are not familiar with the tropes that Blamire so faithfully mimicks in this film, you’ll still enjoy the fast paced and cleverly written banter of the many divergent characters in Dark and Stormy Night.

The next film in the Scare-a-thon was also a Larry Blamire film: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, which I'll be reviewing in my post on the 15th Annual Scare-a-thon - Part 3!