The Skull (1965)   Leave a comment

skull poster

Do you collect things?  Stamps?  Godzilla figurines?  Commemorative spoons?  In THE SKULL, Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing) and Sir Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee) collect all things Satan.  They scour auction houses in search of devilish statues and books about torture for their macabre collections.  They even buy hot tchotchkes from shady evil-stuff-seller, Marco (Patrick Wymark).  Marco stocks an unusual variety of bizarre items including a book he sells to Maitland.  It’s a rare book.  Well, one hopes it’s rare since it’s the memoirs of the Marquis de Sade covered in human skin.  Anyway, Maitland jumps at the chance to drop major ducats on the tome, which gives you some idea about his level of dedication to his hobby.

skullbook
I’ll wait for the paperback.

The next night, Maitland lounges in his well-appointed study reading his skin book when Marco arrives with a new demonic accessory to clutter his bookshelves.  Marco brings Maitland a skull.  This is no ordinary, dime-store skull, mind you.  This skull has provenance.  Well, Marco says it has anyway.  This skull is the bony part of the head of the Marquis de Sade!  Why Marco didn’t sell the skin diary/skull as a set will forever remain a mystery.  The two men haggle over skull prices, as one does, but Maitland won’t bite.  Maitland mentions the exchange to his friend, Sir Matthew who warns him not to buy it by saying, “All I can say is keep away from the skull of the Marquis de Sade.” Words to live by, Matthew.  Words to live by.

pool
“That skull’s evil, right devil statue?”

Unfortunately, Maitland doesn’t listen to his friend and drops by Marco’s place to buy the skull.  Marco is indisposed, being dead and all, so Maitland grabs his souvenir and hits the road.  Back home in his library, Maitland relaxes after a hard day’s looting.  He spends a lovely evening surrounded by statues of Beelzebub reading about sadism from a book made of skin.

the-skull-09
Cozy.

Almost immediately, weird stuff happens.  The normally peaceful Maitland begins to feel a strange, homicidal urge.
Is it coincidence?  Is it the skull?  Is he not getting enough fruit?  Only the skull knows for sure.

wife
“Honey? You up?”

THE SKULL is an absolute blast.  The stellar cast of Amicus/Hammer regulars including Patrick Magee, Michael Gough, and Jill Bennett add to the general atmosphere of British horror wonderfulness.  We even get a little George Coulouris for good measure.

pat
“You didn’t see my lips move, didja?”

Robert Bloch (Psycho) wrote the story, aptly named The Skull of the Marquis de Sade.  Milton Subotsky, half of the Amicus production team of Rosenberg/Subotsky wrote the screenplay and the script moves right along.  Director, Freddie Francis, a veteran of Amicus films, knows how to pack a lot into 83 minutes.  They also pack some cool special effects into THE SKULL.  Ted Samuels, who created the special effects for a number of Amicus features including DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS and THE PSYCHOPATH outdid himself here.  The skull, you see, flies.  When provoked, it floats gracefully toward the camera.  It’s not a choppy, Tingleresque motion, rather a majestic glide.  The skull also lights up.  It even manages to look evil.  I stopped the DVD three times to watch a lit skull soar across a gentleman’s study.  Seriously, you need to see this.  If I haven’t convinced you yet, think about this.  One scene in THE SKULL shows Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing playing pool…in tuxes.  ‘Nuff said.

skull
Hiya!

Note to self: Check into the possibility of manufacturing skull nightlights.  You know, for kids.

 

 

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