Dark and Stormy Night – Double Bill DVD Review, Part 2

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Apparently, THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN – a sequel to THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA – was not enough to keep low-budget auteur Larry Blamire busy, so in the proud tradition of Roger Corman, he shot another film with essentially the same cast and crew, creating an instant double bill that fans of camp sci-fi can now enjoy on DVD. With DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, Blamire kicks things up a notch, taking all the clichés of the various Old Dark House movies from the ‘30s and mixing them together in one outrageous plot. Thus, we have a group of strangers meeting at a mansion on a dark and stormy night, after the bridge has been washed away, in order to hear the reading of a will in a house haunted by a masked killer, a masked strangler, a witch, a curse, and a rumored ghost. As if that weren’t enough, there are also secret identities, an escaped lunatic in the region, and even the return of Kogar the Gorilla (Bob Burns, who played the same role in the GHOSTBUSTERS TV series).

Leading the cast are two competing reporters, Eight O’clock Farrady (Daniel Roebuck)and Billy Tuesday (Jennifer Blaire) who provide snappy patter and elicit exposition needed to understand the situation. The acting honors this time go to Brian Howe, who plays the prissy Burlington Famish Jr., the upper-crust heir apparent in an amusingly arch performance. Alison Martin is much funnier here than in LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN – this time as an addled psychic named Lucy Cupcupboard, who says things such as “The frog of uncertainty danced in my hat, too, as they say.”

After the death of Sinas Cavinder, the reporters, a cabby that Farrady shortchanged (Dan Conroy), members of the Cavinder family, and various hangers-on gather at the Cavinder mansion for a reading of the will. There a lawyer at the gathering reveals there has been an addendum to the will, but he is killed before he can reveal what the addendum was.

Among the suspects are the dimwitted nebbishy Ray Vestinhaus (Blamire in a wig and Harold Lloyd glasses), whose car just happened to break down and who is surprisingly mentioned in the original will, a money-hungry schemer (Kevin Quinn), the self-absorbed wife (Christine Romero), a scared-silly maid (Trish Geiger), a jungle guide (Jim Beaver), a dotty brother-in-law (James Karen of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and POLTERGEIST), a British twit (Andrew Parks), a snooty butler, crazed cook, and similar genre stalwarts (for a low-budget film, the cast is a large one).

Susan McConnell gets to play the part of the crazed relative locked in the attic, who comes down and insults all the guests in an amusingly overdone Scottish brogue. For a change, Blamire works on an actual set (production designed by Tony Tremblay), which includes such genre cliches as hidden panels, basement laboratory, and paintings with removable eyes. The Chiodo Brothers provide miniatures such as would be found in a ’30sfilm, including a toy taxi cab that approaches a model of the mansion drenched by a sprinkler and a collapsing bridge about to be washed out.

True appreciation of DARK AND STORMY NIGHT may depend with the viewers’ familiarity with the movies it is imitating, from THE CAT AND THE CANARY and THE BAT WHISPERS to ONE FRIGHTENED NIGHT and THE OLD DARK HOUSE. While it has fewer quotable non-sequitors than LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN, it holds up better as an actual plot, crammed with quirky characters.

The DVD includes a brief making-of documentary collage, a commentary track which includes several of the participants, and a short gag reel. Though the film is presented in traditional black-and white (appropriate for the genre being spoof), the DVD extras offer viewers the option to play the film is its original color version.

The task of creating a good, enjoyable deliberately bad movie is a tricky one, which has defeated many who have attempted it. Even making a bad film takes a lot of work, and not everyone is going to be on Blamire’s wavelength when it comes to spoofing genre films. But for those with a taste for the absurd, his movies are meta-commentaries that emphasize not only these kinds of movies’ shortcomings (ineffective effects, tongue-tangling dialogue, silly plot twists, strained acting, etc.) , but also what makes them fun, quirky, and enjoyable. The people who made these movies clearly had a lot of fun doing so, and fun can be infectious.

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About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Cinefantastique's Los Angeles Correspondent from 1987 to 1993 and West Coast Editor from 1993 to 1999. Currently the webmaster of Cinefantastique Online, I also run a website called Hollywood Gothique that covers Halloween Horror and Sci-Fi Cinema Events in the Los Angeles area.

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