B R I E F   S Y N O P S I S
Saucier than a killer tomato, more powerful than a 50-foot woman, this sci-fi send-up spoofs the best B-movie thrillers of the 1950s. Assisted by his clueless, overly hair-sprayed wife (Fay Masterson), a dedicated "man of science" (writer/director Larry Blamire) rolls up his shirt sleeves to save the world from radioactive monsters, mutant beasts, curious space aliens and an evil skeleton. Shot on location in Bronson Canyon and Lake Arrowhead, California—in some of the original locations of classic '50s sci-fi films.
  Grotesque Intrusions

Depending on your point of view The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is either a spoof of, an emulation of, or an homage to the wonderful black and white, low-budget, sci-fi/horror films of the 1950s. I guess it's all of these, since we play it absolutely straight—which of course makes it even funnier. Hopefully our affection for this genre comes across.

Lost Skeleton suggests Robot Monster, Cat Women of the Moon, Plan 9 from Outer Space, etc.—all marvelously entertaining in their own special ways. But on the flip side, there were just as many that emblazoned on my memory for a totally different reason and I find it a real shame when the genre's lumped together.

So many startling images continue to resonate with me today, branded onto my subconscious thanks to Fantasmic Features (Boston's Chiller Theatre).

In Roger Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters—a film utterly saturated with strangeness—a hapless sailor (played by screenwriter Charles Griffith) falls in the ocean and is grabbed (below frame) by one of the titular creatures and lets out a terrifying underwater scream. The muffled sound only adds to the helpless horror. This chilling close-up could be intercut with the bloody nurse with shattered glasses in Potemkin and the murdered accountant in Force of Evil as images of shocking despair and violence.

Later on the crab monsters—who absorb the intelligence of their victims—are able to transmit their "voices" through metal objects, treating us to the high strangeness of a gun lying on a table talking to the principals.

And for unsettling, how about the pathetic victims in Attack of the Giant Leeches, lethargic, moaning, as they loll helplessly, half-dead in the underwater grotto, like some low-budget vision of hell?

Are there any more surreal creations than the crawling, murderous brains of Fiend Without a Face, whose stop-motion animation only adds to their nightmarish quality?

How about The Angry Red Planet with its bizarre, immensely tall bat/spider monstrosity clopping towards us over an alien plain the very silence of which is so "loud" it's almost oppressive. Even though it looks like a puppet to us now the effect is no less arresting. In fact,
that might actually heighten the dreamlike aspect.

And Ray Harryhausen's beautifully repulsive cyclops intruding on the pristine blue sky, bleached rocks and clear ocean of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad looks for all the world like something that would please Dali or Magritte.

That's what these films offered me: a surrealist's dream, the grotesque infringing on a mundane world. I realize that as an adult many of my favorite films are also dreamlike: Three Women, Don't Look Now, Black Narcissus, The Parallax View, Picnic at Hanging Rock. It's an aspect I hope to bring to my films—the transporting to a world that seems like ours, until you scratch the surface.

When I started painting I'm sure the images in those old sci-fi/horror films fueled my love of surrealism. My paintings often show a familiar, comforting setting with a sudden grotesque intrusion, like Too Late To Focus painted in our courtyard at Park La Brea. I find images like this both startling and stimulating. They jar our reality, make us question the norm, and for just a moment we find ourselves facing the unknown. Before fading away, immersing themselves forever in our subconscious.


©2004 Landmark Theatres