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The Skull

4.1 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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(Jun 03, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Skull teams up horror legends Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in a chilling, supernatural tale of murder from beyond the grave. Based on a short story by Robert Bloch (Psycho), The Skull introduces us to Dr. Christopher Maitland (Cushing), a collector of the occult. When he is given the opportunity to purchase one of the infamous Marquis de Sade, he leaps at the chance. What he doesn't know is that his friend, Matthew Phillips (Lee) is the former owner of the skull - and quite happy to be rid of it. Possession of the Skull leads to a terrifying series of nightmarish events for Dr. Maitland as he tries to keep control of his life, and as the forces of unspeakable evil bear down upon him.


Legend Films has recently acquired a number of Paramount catalog titles to distribute on DVD, including a a handful of long-awaited genre titles. A much wanted crown jewel for horror fans (especially lovers of anything British and/or Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee), The Skull has mostly been viewed in badly panned and scanned transfers which totally detract from the filmmakers intentions. Now it s time to toss out your old VHS copies, because The Skull has finally arrived on DVD in all its widescreen glory!

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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Christopher Lee
  • Directors: Freddie Francis
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Legend Films
  • DVD Release Date: June 3, 2008
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0016LFUVQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,448 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Skull" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
"The Skull" brings to life (no pun intended!) a most interesting horror tale built around the evil doings written down in history concerning the notorious Marquis de Sade. He was supposedly not insane but simply the personification of pure evil with his handsome looks and anti social/sadistic behaviour towards all he encountered. His life here serves as an ideal and indeed original basis for a horror tale about the bizzare and frightening powers he still possesses after his death in the form of his skull which is unleashed on some unsuspecting individuals in a later century.

This 1965 Amicus production stars the always terrific combination of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and explores this rather frightening premise of life, or power, after death. Adapted from a short story by the very talented horror writer Robert Bloch who was responsible for such horror classics as "Psycho" and "The House That Dripped Blood" it tells of the exhumation of the skull of the Marquis de Sade which passes from one curio collector to another and through its strange and deadly powers manages to continue the terror from beyond the grave and bring misfortune and death to all who possess it.

Peter Cushing plays Christopher Maitland an avid collector of antiques and curiosities such as a book that once belonged to the famed Marquis, the cover of which is made of human skin! Despite warnings from his fellow collector Sir Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee) about the skulls evil powers Cushing through fair means and foul comes into possession of the skull and once it is placed among his collection it starts to take a frightening control over his mind turning him into a killer resulting in a tragic conclusion to the story.
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Format: VHS Tape
You might think that since "The Skull" stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee that it is a Hammer films production, but this 1965 effort comes from Amicus Productions. Based on the Robert Bloch short story "The Skull of the Marquis de Sade," this film deals more with psychological fear, until the somewhat laughable conclusion. It seems that in the 19th-Century a phrenologist, believing there is a connection between human physiognomy and character, unearthed the body of de Sade in France to steal the skull. We then shift to "today," where Christopher Maitland (Cushing) buys the skull for his private collection, even though his friend Sir Matthew Phillips (Lee) tells how he once owned the skull, which he believes to be possessed. Maitland becomes obsessed with the skull and apparently will kill anyone and everyone to have it for his own.
There are moments where this film drags, and I have trouble watching the sequence where the skull starts flying around the room, but director Freddie Francis lucked out when he decided to shoot several shots from the perspective of the skull. To do this he put a skull mockup in front of an aeroflex camera and moved around on roller skates. The happy result of this seeming absurdity is that the roaming camera serves to help involve the viewer with the developing psychological horror. The best sequence is when Maitland has a nightmare where he's kidnapped by the police and forced to play Russian Roulette. Despite what you would think to be inherent shortcomings, "The Skull" is an above average horror film carried in large part by Cushing's performance. It is nice to see him doing someone other than Dr. Frankenstein or Dr. Van Helsing.
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Format: DVD
A truly creepy film, THE SKULL is one of many great Peter Cushing films that has finally made its way to dvd in a great presentation. The film features one of Cushing's better performances -- not that he ever gave a bad one -- but this is one of his more subdued and thoughtful performances, until the skull of de Sade begins to take hold. Christopher Lee is credited as a "guest star", but he has three or four strong scenes with Cushing and does a stellar job not showing up the star. Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Jill Bennett, Michael Gough and Patrick Magee give very strong performances as well, regardless of the size of the roles in the movie.

What is most noticeable about the film is the last 20-30 minutes, in which Cushing (and the rest of the cast) give nearly wordless performances leading up to the thrilling climax. The atmosphere created by Francis and the rest of the crew & actors is some of the darkest and sinister I've seen in a British film from the 60s. The themes of evil lasting beyond the living, and what lies behind evil, are explored rather well too. I would say this is my favorite Amicus film after seeing the film presented widescreen, with a very nice, complementary transfer. Francis had a skilled eye as a cinematographer, and THE SKULL might be one of his better crafted movies.

Having picked up a copy of this already, I can say that Legend Films did a wondeful job with the release. The transfer captures the grain of the 1965 film well, the colors look smashing and the sound is much better than I expected. The dvd also has a trailer for the film. A real deal, as this is a well done creeper -- very highly recommended to fans of Cushing, Lee, Amicus, Hammer and all other Euro-gothic chillers. Thank you, Legend, for releasing this. Now to wait for THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH...
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