On a 'Dark and Stormy Night', 'The Lost Skeleton Returns Again'

From The Lost Skeleton Returns Again

While Dark and Stormy Night and The Lost Skeleton Returns Again are similar in concept, the execution is (nether)worlds apart.

Dark and Stormy Night

Director: Larry Blamire
Cast: Larry Blamire, Fay Masterson, Brian Howe, Andrew Parks, Susan McConnell, Jennifer Blaire, Trish Geiger, Frank Dietz, Daniel Roebuck, H.M. Wynant
Film Rating: 2
Rated: Not Rated
Distributor: Shout! Factory
Release Date: 2010-08-17

The Lost Skeleton Returns Again

Director: Larry Blamire
Cast: Larry Blamire, Fay Masterson, Brian Howe, Andrew Parks, Susan McConnell, Jennifer Blaire, Trish Geiger, Frank Dietz, Kevin Quinn, Daniel Roebuck, H.M. Wynant
Film Rating: 6
Rated: Not Rated
Distributor: Shout! Factory
Release Date: 2010-08-17

I want back the 93-minutes of my life that Dark and Stormy Night stole from me. Actually, if you count the DVD extras, it was significantly more than that.

The film purports to spoof of the “Old Dark House” movies of the '30s, but instead wastes an hour and a half of your life. It starts off annoying, gets obnoxious, and finishes up painful. By the end I was grinding my teeth every time a character uttered a word.

On a dark and rainy night, complete with thunder and lightning and all the usual accouterments, a group of stock characters, including a cabby, two reporters, and a medium, show up at a mansion for the reading of the will of Sinas Cavinder. The characters all have wacky names like that, or 8 O’Clock Farraday and Seyton Ethelquake. Then the lights go out, something that happens every few minutes, and when they come back on the lawyer is dead and an important addendum to the will is missing.

What follows is an overdone rehash of a genre of movies that have been riffed on and mocked for decades. There is a curse, a witch, a series of murders, an escaped mental patient, and not one but two dead people that are supposed to come back from the grave on this very night. No one can go for help because the bridge washed out.

Dark and Stormy Night sounds like a good idea, like something that could be a lot of fun, but it’s not. Writer/director Larry Blamire employs his usual stable of Bantam Street actors, and none of them knows when to stop. The premise is beaten into the ground within the first 12-minutes, and by the time you get to the poorly executed “Who’s on First?” knock off, it's dead and starting to smell.

The script provides a few, very few brief chuckles, but the humor never offers anything beyond that. A guy with a tucked lip talking in a snooty, affected voice is only amusing for so long. This concept could have worked much better as a half hour episode or better yet, as a short sketch. I actually saw a college improve group do almost this exact thing about 15 years ago, with similar results, and that is a good way to describe what Dark and Stormy Night feels like.

If you enjoy the movie then you will probably enjoy the bonus features. There's a gag reel that is mostly characters in period costumes dancing like it’s modern times, and a colorized version of the black and white film. The behind-the-scenes feature and the commentary track, with Blamire and the primary cast, are chiefly people being very, very amused with themselves, as if they’ve made the funniest, most original film the world has ever seen. hey come across as smarmy, with an overinflated sense of importance. Dark and Stormy Night was one of my least pleasant movie watching experiences in recent memory.

On the other hand, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again, the sequel to 2001’s cult hit The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, is actually pretty entertaining. This is strange because both films are the exact same people doing the exact same schtick. The difference is that one works while the other one fails miserably.

When I say it is the exact same people, I mean just that. There are a few minor, extra roles that feature different people, but beyond those the casts and creative team are identical.

The Lost Skeleton Returns Again picks up a couple of years after the events of the first movie. Well, not entirely. Any character that dies in the first film, you get their twin this time around, played, of course, by the same actors.

In this film there's a new element, jerranium 90, and everybody wants it, especially the bad guys. So the government sends agent Reet Pappin (Frank Dietz) to the darkest corner of the Amazon to get to it first. He is joined on his mission by Betty Armstrong (Fay Masterson), who wants to find her doctor husband Paul (Blamire), now a bitter, disenchanted alcoholic, and Peter Fleming (Brian Howe), who carries the skull of the Lost Skeleton himself, and happens to be under it’s sinister spell.

The various factions—which include evil scientists, cheap crooks, a familiar pair of space aliens, and a humanoid amalgamation of four different jungle creatures—converge in the mysterious Valley of the Monsters, home of the jerranium 90, as well as the ancient race of Cataloupe People. That’s where things start to get fun. The black and white film becomes colorized, which makes the sets look a little like an episode of Land of the Lost, and we finally get to some monsters.

The Lost Skeleton Returns Again is far from perfect. Like Dark and Stormy Night it suffers from the idea, propagated by Family Guy, that any bit done long enough is eventually funny. It’s not. Some things just go on way too long. However unlike Dark and StormyNight, this time it's only some bits that go on to long. The humor works so much better in this incarnation. It doesn’t take itself as seriously, and the result is more of an Airplane!-style send up of '50s adventure films and b-grade science fiction rather than a heavy-handed jab at an irrelevant genre.

Even in the down moments there is enough off the wall nonsense to keep you entertained. There are spaceships, flying skull fights, guys fighting obviously fake snakes, and more guys in rad giant rubber monster suits.

The DVD comes with the same features, gag reel, short behind the scenes documentary, and an overcrowded commentary track (not everyone needs to be in the booth when your record the commentary). Yet they seem much more pleasant this time around. At first I assumed I was projecting my personal feelings about the respective films onto the bonus material, so I went back and watched some of the Dark and Stormy Night extras, and they were as grating and off putting as I remembered. On the Lost Skeleton Returns Again DVD, the actors seem genuinely fun and appealing, and they have an obvious chemistry that really comes through in the film.

While Dark and Stormy Night and The Lost Skeleton Returns Again are similar in concept, the execution is worlds apart. Do yourself a favor, skip Dark and Stormy and watch The Lost Skeleton Returns Again.

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