Wednesday, October 23, 2013
So some weirdo phrenologist dude just up and decides to dig up the corpse of the Marquis de Sade one night, steals only the head, strips the flesh off it with chemicals, and... proceeds to immediately be possessed by the skull and kill himself. Nice one, jackass. Many years later, Peter Cushing is a rare items collector who decides to (illegally) purchase the skull despite the fact that it was stolen from his friend (Christopher Lee) who has also warned him of the skull's danger. Soon enough, mystery is afoot and Cushing finds himself under the spell of the skull.
Building from what I frankly thought was a stupid premise, because let's face it we all know this is going to end with a cheesy-looking flying skull, The Skull manages to be entertaining, atmospheric and even a little classy, after a fashion. An Amicus production directed by one of British horror's best and brightest, Freddie Francis, it manages to admirably delay any silly special effects involving a floating skull for as long as possible, instead drawing out the buildup and suspense and playing a bit more on the psychological and mystery elements of the story.
The best stuff involves Cushing slowly coming under the influence of the skull, including a tense & bizarre dream sequence that comes unexpectedly in the middle of the film. In fact, as fun as The Skull is overall, more of this would have been appreciated. More dream sequences, more Cushing losing his shit, maybe even more ambiguity as to exactly what the skull is doing or whether or not it's doing anything at all.
And, you know, the skull floats around at the end if you like that sort of thing.