Lost Skeleton Returns Again, The (DVD)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Larry Blamire, Fay Masterson, Andrew Parks, Susan McConnell, Jennifer Blaire, Daniel Roebuck
Written and directed by Larry Blamire
Distributed by Shout! Factory
All it takes is one truly lame character to completely ruin a movie. That's how my two friends and I felt once the character of "Chinfa, Queen of the Cantaloupe People" was introduced around the 55-minute mark of The Lost Skeleton Returns Again. Even in a film so silly that it includes people getting pummeled to death by a floating skull, this one character was just so dumb and annoyingly unfunny it pulled all three of us out of the movie. With her dopey cantaloupe-themed costume, the strained nature of the actress' performance, the lameness of her entire shtick, this one character ruined The Lost Skeleton Returns Again for us.
Up until the first appearance of that unwelcome newcomer, we had been enjoying Larry Blamire's follow-up to his loving spoof of old science fiction monster movies of the Fifties, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. If you didn't care for The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again won't do much to win you over. If you were a fan like me, even if you don't find yourself completely put off by the Queen of the Cantaloupe People, I wouldn't be too surprised to hear you say you this sequel didn't feel as fresh as its predecessor. The Lost Skeleton may have returned again, but this time he's not quite as novel as he once was. Six years have passed, and now there's no shortage of such low budget parodies trying to recapture the spirit and tone of the sci-fi and horror films of yesteryear while simultaneously poking fun at their shortcomings and eccentricities. That's not to say you won't still find a considerable number of laughs. Just try and watch this movie and not find yourself afterwards quoting "Slowly... Slowly..." to your friends as they perform an action. That scene is worthy of Airplane or Naked Gun or Mel Brooks in his prime.
Every character from the first film is back, including those that died, returning in the form of their twin brothers. Ranger Bob was killed, so here's Jungle Bob. Identical twins with the same first name? "We had different last names," explains Jungle Bob.
It's two years later and the government desperately needs geologist Dr. Paul Armstrong to find them the rarest and most powerful element of all: Gerranium-90. Why isn't really all that important. What's important is that Paul has lost his love for rocks and become a bitter man. His ever doting wife Betty dons her finest Sunday dress to go trekking about jungles of the Amazon (clearly somewhere in California) with her husband and company in search of this elusive element. A rival group led by Daniel Roebuck is also after the Gerranium-90 for nefarious means that aren't all that important either. Obtuse aliens Kro-Bar and Lattis return from outer space to warn Betty and Paul of the danger that awaits them and have just as hard a time fitting in amongst the human species as they did last time, and just like last time, nobody acts none the wiser to their strange behavior and peculiar reassurances that they are one of us. Even humanized wild animal Animalia is brought back to slink around once more, going "Rower!", and complicating matters with her simple-minded antics.
None of it makes much sense nor is it intended to. I commented to my friends about a half hour in that I had no idea what the plot was. Neither did they. The only character whose motivations I truly understood was that of the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra itself. Now just a telepathic skull, it needs Gerranium-90 to regrow its body. Doing so requires mentally manipulating the twin brother of the evil scientist the Skeleton controlled in the first film. The two infiltrate Paul's Amazon expedition under the guise of a twin brother trying to make good for his twin's sins and the skull he continuously talks to that he claims to merely be his umbrella holder. Something about the booming sarcastic voice of that skull almost never failed to crack me up.
The silly dialogue, eccentric performances, and joking homage to sci-fi, monster, and jungle pictures of the Fifties and Sixties is all well and good for a while, but too many characters, too little narrative, and too many jokes that feel like a retread of the first film make for an inconsistent comedy. Then Blamire makes a bold movie midway to switch from monochrome to Technicolor, a decision I felt caused the film to lose some of the chintzy charm black & white afforded.
Soon after they all meet the Queen of the Cantaloupe People with her cantaloupe breast pasties and Spaceballs-esque cantaloupe helmet with a slice of cantaloupe ornament on top that would have looked too hokey for its own good even in black & white. Coupled with the actress' grating wannabe Phyllis Diller performance that doesn't fit with the low-key tone of everyone else in the cast, the Technicolor, and Blamire seeming to not quite know where to go with the plot once it finally got where it was going, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again began to feel less like the affectionate spoof it had been and more like a particularly bad episode of "Gilligan's Island".
Jokes that weren't funny the first time get repeated. Having actors repeatedly walk past the same plant as a joke is still actors walking past the same plant. When a fairly lengthy amount of time is dedicated to teaching Chinfa the art of the double negative, I couldn't help but be of the opinion that Blamire was letting himself get too wrapped up in his own word play. When you try to stretch an hour's worth of material to a length of 95 minutes, you're bound to run out of steam eventually.
The saving grace of the third act is a pair of spectacularly cheesy monsters to terrorize the cast. One I can only best describe as a Toxic Avenger version of Gumby and the other a ferociously funny looking cyclops that resembled a mean mutated Charlie Brown. That "Magraclops" as they called it would have been my favorite Garbage Pail Kid growing up. I wish Blamire had found more to do with these denizens of the "Valley of Monsters" in lieu of a certain Queen of the Cantaloupes, who left us begging for Gallagher to show up and use his Sledge-O-Matic on her.
The DVD extras are a mixed bag. A gag reel is mainly just a bunch of lines getting flubbed because actors got the giggles; funnier to them than to us. A making-of documentary is actually three short different making-of featurettes on the cast, the art direction, and the creation of the creature costumes cobbled together into one. Pretty standard stuff. The highlight of the extras is easily a breezy and informative commentary track with Blamire and five other members of the cast that mostly highlights how much affection they have for these films. Maybe too much affection, given their blindspot when it comes to one movie-ruining character.
2 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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