Saturday, October 03, 2009

THE SKULL (1965)

Peter Cushing, a collector of arcane occult memorabilia, buys an antique book, bound in human flesh, about the Marquis de Sade from shady dealer Patrick Wymark. The next night, Wymark brings him a human skull reputed to be Sade’s. It turns out Wymark stole the skull from fellow collector Christopher Lee, who is glad to be rid of it as he believes the skull is possessed by evil spirits that make its owner do terrible things by the light of the full moon. Sure enough, one night Cushing has a freaky nightmare and wakes up in Wymark’s apartment and finds Wymark dead, with his throat looking like it was chewed through. Yes, the spirit in the skull is apparently possessing Cushing, causing him to murder by the full moon. As most critics note, the idea here is OK, but the execution leaves something to be desired. It was based on a short story by Robert Bloch and might have worked better as a Night Gallery episode. There are some good atmospheric subjective shots through the eyes of the skull as it floats about a room, but then the shots actually showing the skull floating are rather silly. The opening graveyard scene, with some poor schmoe (Maurice Good) digging up the skull in the first place, and the price he pays, is nicely done. Some good supporting actors, like Patrick Macnee, George Coulouris, and Michael Gough have thankless roles. Not a disaster, but not as much fun as it sounds like it might be, with virtually no Sadean kinkiness at all. [DVD]

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