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Dark and Stormy Night / The Lost Skeleton Returns Again


comment">Clue." All involve a large group of people trapped in a classy mansion on a rainy evening, where murder turns out to be the main course. Secret passageways are involved, and sometimes, a runaway ape.

Such is the case here, all the better to lovingly poke fun at all the moldy conventions, right down to the black-and-white film, the multiple backstabbings and power outages, and dusty dialogue like "Why, I oughta!" and "Get wise wit' yerself!" It's inspired lunacy from the crew behind 2001's minor cult item, "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra."

Speaking of, Shout! Factory is releasing "Dark and Stormy Night" simultaneously with "Cadavra"'s sequel, "The Lost Skeleton Returns Again." Lampooning 1950s-style sci-fi cheapies, it sends a group of scientists/adventurers to a valley strewn with goofy monsters, created by the Chiodo brothers (forever endeared to B-movie lovers for their "Killer Klowns from Outer Space"). It's also shot in B&W ... until it switches to color.

Both re-create the milieu of their respective genres credibly, stretching assuredly slim budgets to their breaking points. Written and directed by Larry Blamire, they have a Firesign Theater influence, where acerbic wordplay and near-"Airplane!" absurdity reign supreme.

But his unofficial troupe is not quite as funny as it thinks "? like Broken Lizard, but for people with Ph.D.s. There's an over-reliance on silly character names (Happy Codburn, Pristy Famish, Reet Pappin), and each film has at least one running gag that gets run straight into the ground. In the case of "Returns," that's one character's repeated utterance of "Slowly!" However, the dialogue of the floating skull is so start-to-finish hilarious, I'm apt to let it slide.

The cast members remind me of local stage actors who don't have an off switch: fun to be around for a little while, but ultimately grating for not knowing when to dial it down, if they're able to. What initially is endearing becomes tiresome. To that end, I wish both films had been chopped in half and sewn together with some fake trailers, a la "Grindhouse." Blamire is so good at making his work look vintage, he could knock that out of the park, without wearing out a welcome. "?Rod Lott


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