In 19th century France, a phrenologist (Maurice Good) acquires the skull of the Marquis de Sade, giving it a bath of acid to remove any skin or remains. Believing the skull might answer some questions about de Sade s madness, the phrenologist is soon brutally murdered, with the same fate brought upon anyone who comes across the evil object. In present day (1965) England, researcher and collector Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing) is sold a human skin-bound autobiography of de Sade by a shady dealer Marco (Patrick Wymark). When Marco returns the following day claiming that the skull he is trying to peddle is that of de Sade, Maitland is reluctant of its authenticity. Friend and fellow collector Sir Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee) assures him that it is the real deal, as it was actually stolen from him, and he warns Maitland not to make the purchase. Maitland becomes more and more obsessed with the skull, and it eventually comes into his possession, but the warnings of his friend reign true; it is pure evil, bringing on a nightmare world of violence and cruelty.
Although Amicus would be best known for their series of anthologies (this was the next production they made after Dr. Terror s House of Horrors), The Skull remains one of their finest single story outings and an exemplary 1960s genre work. Co-producer/screenwriter Milton Subotsky adapted Robert Bloch s eight-page story The Skull of the Marquis de Sade effectively, and although some feel the film drags in spots, the very capable direction of Freddie Francis shines through. Francis experience as a cinematographer allows his imagination to flow here, with perspective shots through the skull s head. [...]
As the determined collector of the unique and unusual, Peter Cushing is great as Maitland, and the film is one of his best vehicles of the 1960s, as he really is the star of the show and the story evolves around his character. Receiving guest star billing, Cushing s cinematic mate Christopher Lee has a much smaller role, but thankfully he shares most of his screen time with Peter. The chemistry is undeniable, and the duo have a nice bit where they are relaxing over a game of billiards, discussing the Marquis de Sade s deadly cranium. [...]
The only previous home video release of The Skull came in the 1990s when Paramount released it on VHS in a full screen edition in the EP mode. Legend Films DVD release looks terrific, presenting the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. It s a pleasure to finally see the compositions the way they were meant to be seen, and colors look excellent, with good fleshtones, and there is plenty of detail to the image. The print source is also very clean, with only some printed-on dirt on scenes with opticals. The mono English audio track is also impressive, with clear dialog and music. An original theatrical trailer (in 1.85:1 anamorphic) is a pleasant surprise, as there s no mention of it on the back cover. --George R. Reis of DVDDrive-In.com