on November 6, 2002
"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.
Ably directed by veteran Hammer director Freddie Francis this film has a very spooky premise which delivers a good but not great story. The film does tend to drag at times, in particular in Cushing's dream sequence where he is abducted and taken to a mysterious court where he is almost forced to commit suicide. However "The Skull" has some very memorably scary moments.Particulary effective is the way the skull seems to take on a life of its own. Some of the action is shot from within the skull which is excellent in engendering an eerie sense that we are seeing what it is actually thinking. It's movements around rooms and its appearing in different locations is also well handled. The film also boasts one of the finest graveyard sets of any Hammer/Amicus production in the flash back sequence at the beginning when the Marquis's skull is dug up. Full of creepy old headstones, wrought iron fencing and an eerie whistling wind it is unsurpassed in creating just the right sense of doom and horror in this story. Indeed as in all these types of productions the attention to detail is excellent. Cushing and Lee work well together as always and it is good to see Peter Cushing, a highly underrated actor performing in a role that has a bit of menace thrown in for good measure.
"The Skull" is definately interesting viewing and has a theme which is original and a move away from the usual Vampire/Wolfman/Frankenstein features that predominated at this time. While not a great horror classic it is still a good film that has its share of spine chilling situations guaranteed to keep your interest.
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.
on May 9, 2008
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...
on February 13, 2015
This is one of the best movies I have ever seen!!! They could of made the move plot go in three different directions. In stead they gave the
the movies plot to Peter Cushing. And wrote out a unique set of scenes for him. You see chistopher Lee in the movie too! But has a more limited role in the movie. At one point in the movie all the colors in a minor way start to stand out in Cushings curio Library and start to move and swirl around in a few patterns. And had the look of the lighting and background of the old tv shows Dark Shadows or so it seemed to be. The only thing they can do now in the future is make the prequel to this movie where they tell the story about the 4 demon statues.. The skull and one of the statues have a great scene with Peter. Where the skull floats through the air for some magical reason. For some reason Peter Cushing has passed away some time in the year 1994 although it really seems like it was in the early 1980s. If you want a good movie and want to study Peters movies this would be the one to start with. You never will see anything like it again. The DVD has the same cover picture on it. And a small background song. No extra footage or interviews on this Dvd. You really should buy two of these dvds incase something happens to the first one. Dont know how long they will be around.
on September 7, 2008
For the life of me, I can never work out why 'the Skull' isn't better thought of across the horror world.
It's moody, got inclusively great performances and a brash, kickin' soundtrack.
Cast-wise, it's nigh on untouchable: Peter Cushing plays Maitland, a fool-hardy collector of occult 'curios' who comes to own the possessed skull of the Marquis de Sade, Patrick Wymark is brilliantly squalid as the shady antiques dealer, Marco, Christopher Lee and Peter Woodthorpe make telling cameo-appearances, and the deeply sexy (and good actress(!)) Jill Bennett plays Cushing's terrified wife, pushed to her limit by his obsession.
It's got Hammer-esque cemetery scenes, bulging-eyed insanity murders, a brilliantly trippy dream sequence where Cushing is forced to play Russian Roulette in a mad courthouse, and a devilish, grinning titular villain that floats around his front parlour very stylishly - even with a vicious letter-opener rammed in it's eye.
There may well be typically cryptic 60's drug metaphors abounding(I can sense them, but I'm damned if I can coherently uncover one for you), but that's not why 'the Skull' is so watch-able and entertaining.
It's a combination job, and with all it's component parts firing so finely, it can't do much else but work beautifully.
It's an elegant film, totally out of sync with many of its rivals and peers of the brash, boundary-pushing 1960's. Hopefully, this long overdue dvd release will redress the balance in 'the Skull's favour, and bring it to a modern audience, it's unavailability being the only reason I can see why its not being hailed.
on October 9, 2003
This Amicus film has haunting music by Laurie Johnson. Based on a story by Robert Bloch ,the theft of the Skull of the Marquis De Sade was a true incident. The film improves on the Bloch story and is very cleverly plotted by the screenwriter to center around two collectors of occult memorabilia (Peter Cushing as "Christopher Maitland" and Christopher Lee as "Sir Matthew Phillips") They are supplied their goods by a very shady dealer in antiques known as Mr. Marco who stumbles upon the Skull and sets up the Maitland character with an initial purchase of a book on the notorious life of the Marquis De Sade with a binding made out of human skin. It is important to remember that this book is only a prop. I say this because I have seen advertisements in antiquarian book trade magazines where the dealer states "customer is looking for a book bound in human skin" Incredible but TRUE! The initial sale is followed up by the offer of the Skull and after a short discussion based on Havelock Ellis's "Love and Pain" Maitland considers purchasing it but asks for time to think about it. He is advised against it by former owner and friend,Sir Matthew Phillips during a discussion over a game of snooker. The film has true "scare-ability" in the dream sequences and the mysticism surrounding the collections of both characters. It also has atmosphere. Some of the angles and lighting are really good, especially as Maitland is reading in his library (we have a view from within the fireplace!). When Maitland is kidnapped he enters into a new relationship with evil based on the power of the Skull and ultimately fails to realize that without protection he cannot fight the powers of darkness that are displayed so prominently in this work.If the film has a weakness, it is in the end where the "floating skull" sequences are rather ridiculous (wires can be seen). Otherwise it is an excellent adaptation of the original story and contains some memorable scenes and camera work.
on October 17, 2000
The first time I saw this movie I was about eight and it scared me pretty bad. So when I saw the movie was airing on sci fi in the late night, I made a special point to watch it. Figuring that the movie would seem like an old "B" picture and seeming rediculous. Not so, I watched it enthusistically, and really enjoyed it. The skull "Originally" belonged to Marquis de Sade who was labled insane. However, he wasnt insane, but "Possessed" by evil spirits which still inhabit the skull. Peter Cushing is a collector of rare and strange artifacts and ends up purchasing the skull. Too late that he finds out that the skull can make him do whatever it wants through possession. Slow to build, but definately worth a one time watch for anyone interested in classic movies.
on April 28, 2008
Wonderful cast of pros and a story by Robert Bloch juice this British horror film from 1965 to near classic status, especially in light of the stuff coming out today. The murderously possessed skull of the Marquis de Sade is passed from collector to collector with horrifying results for anyone who owns it. The skull's history is seen in flashback and now occult collector Peter Cushing wants it despite Christpher Lee's warnings. One of the cool gimmicks in "The Skull" is the action seen through it's empty eye sockets as it seeks to possess the mind of it's next victim. Jill Bennett ("The Nanny") is Cushing's wife---who will soon be in danger. With taut direction by horror vet Freddie Francis, "The Skull" is in eerily saturated color and perfect for an evening of chills. A must for fans of British horror and Lee and Cushing. Enjoy.
on November 14, 2014
Here we go with yet another great teaming of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. I just love these two actors in the same movie. One of my all time favorites of them together is this one and "Horror Express" (out on Blu-ray/DVD combo).
A Skull from a notorious dead man is taken from his crypt and seemingly possesses unexplained powers. It wreaks havoc with everyone who comes in contact with it. Peter Cushing, his character, is an occult collector of rare items along with Christopher Lee. They both bid on a set of rare statues of evil beings, with Lee winning the bid. Later on, Marco, a friend of Cushing's character, comes with the "ultimate" occult prize, THE Skull of Marquis De Saud (1740). (may not be spelled correct). Soon after, he encounters strange dreams of death and finds himself doing things he normally would not do. He soon realizes however, getting rid of it is another thing altogether.
Menu has background music and the colorful Skull image.
English Dolby Digital 2.0, No Subtitles
Special Features are limited to the Theatrical Trailer.
Amicus and Paramount have done a good job on this DVD edition. Picture is good and sound is good. If you have not seen this movie before and love Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as I do, I think you will like the movie as a whole. The storyline is what makes this worth watching.
I have ordered the Blu-ray combo of this movie and "The Man Who Would Cheat Death".
on October 19, 2009
If you are a Peter Cushing / Christopher Lee (Horror Express, The Creeping Flesh, Horror Of Dracula, etc.) fanatic, then THE SKULL is a must for your collection! This time, Cushing gets to play the obsessed, murderous character, while Lee is the voice of sanity. Both are tremendous as always, delivering effortless performances. The story (by none other than Robert Bloch) is an eerie gem w/ plenty of supernatural darkness and death. The title SKULL has a sinister personality of its own, as we are given its point of view through skull-o-vision! Classic stuff! Also, watch for Michael Gough (Horror Hospital, Batman, Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow) as an auctioneer, and Patrick Magee (Asylum, Dementia 13, A Clockwork Orange) in a 10-second role as a police investigator at the end. This Amicus production, directed by Freddie Francis, belongs in any horror vault...