The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra directed and written by Larry Blamire, produced by F. Miguel Valenti, with Blamire, Fay Masterson, Brian Howe, Susan McConnell, Andrew Parks and Jennifer Blaire. 90 minutes. A Sony Pictures/TriStar release. Opens Friday (March 12). For review, venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 85. Rating: NNN
The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, written and directed by and starring Larry Blamire, is a distinctly Ed Wood-ish tribute to the B movies of the 50s. Shot over 10 days in black-and-white with a cast of family and friends, it's the story of a mad scientist, a sane scientist, his vacant wife, two pompous aliens, Animala the animal woman, a murderous mutant and a psychic skeleton, all searching for the space element atmospherium.
Sound ludicrous? It is. But that's the fun of it, particularly for Blamire, a rabid B movie fan.
"I don't even call Ed Wood a bad filmmaker any more," Blamire says, on the phone from California. "His films never bore. There's something uniquely entertaining about them. I'm impressed that he got his films made. I mean, good for him."
Good for Blamire, too. Not only did he get his first film made - for a paltry $40,000, mind you - but he got a distribution deal beyond his wildest expectations.
"We were hoping that we could get midnight showings, DVD distribution. I don't think we dared to hope that we would get a theatrical release."
When he's talking about the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, his voice has the smooth, resonant timbre of a professional actor or B movie scientist, but get him talking about schlocky horror films and his voice brightens.
"I took elements from different B movies. Animala is from Cavern Of The Moon, the scientist that I play could be Arthur Franz or Peter Graves or Richard Carlson, and the aliens are inspired by the two in Plan Nine From Outer Space.
"Then you get the mutant and the skeleton and set them up so they meet, looking for this one element, which, naturally sets up absurd coincidences."
He fell in love with the genre as a kid growing up.
"Every major city in Massachusetts had its own Chiller Theatre on the local channel, which would show all kinds of old low-budget horror movies. It was a hell of a big deal."
He learned a lot from his early exposure to schlock. His hero was Roger Corman.
"He was working with tiny budgets. Attack Of The Crab Monsters and Not Of This Earth are wonderful examples of what you can do with no money. They actually set a mood, an atmosphere of dread.
In Boston, he worked in the theatre as a playwright, director and actor.
"I think I was really trying to make movies. All my plays were inspired by cinematic ideas."
"I'd actually written a play at one time that was produced in Boston, about a sort of Ed Wood-type filmmaker scrambling to get his movie made. In the play, you see little bits of his movie acted out as he was shooting it. I took parts of that - the aliens' names, for example - to make Skeleton."
He wrote the script in five days, and within a month had secured backing from an Internet mogul friend. Casting was a piece of cake - for example, his wife, Jennifer Blaire, plays Animala. Scouting locations, sorting out paperwork and storyboarding took time, but there was so much planning that by the time the crew got to the shoot, they were surprisingly efficient.
Blamire's currently directing a script that he wrote for his friend John Fiore of The Sopranos. It's another retro comedy, called Johnny Slade's Greatest Hits, about a down-and-out lounge singer who's hired by the mob to sing terrible songs with sinister results.
But the B movie blitz isn't over.
"My agent and I want to start sort of a franchise of B movies. Right after we finished shooting Skeleton, I wrote a follow-up film - not a sequel - called Trail Of The Screaming Forehead. I'd like to do this one in colour. This one would spoof those paranoid Invasion Of The Body Snatchers-type of films, with these crawling foreheads and a scientist who's trying to extract Foreheadazine."
You can take the boy out of the Chiller Theatre....