When The Skull Strikes You’ll Scream!

In my last post I said that normal service was being resumed, meaning regular postings. Well, that was two weeks ago, so was clearly a case of famous last words, as they say. In between has been further decorating, room moving and dog walking combined with a general lack of inspiration.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been films or albums that have connected with me – there have, not to mention two concerts attended too – just that I haven’t felt the inclination to put virtual pen to paper. Some of those things will feature in future posts.

Anyway, making no promises this time, as there is still lots to do around here, but I intend to be posting on a more regular basis than the zero posts of the past fortnight(!), kicking off with a film that I watched today.

I do enjoy discovering decent old movies, and the 1965 horror thriller directed by Freddie Francis (“Tales From The Crypt“, “Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors”) for Amicus Productions titled “The Skull”.skull_poster_01

Maurice Good
Maurice Good

The film opens in the 1800s with Pierre (Maurice Good – “Quatermass & The Pit”, “Murder Most Foul”) digging up a grave. Pierre is a phrenologist and wants to study the skull of the body buried in the grave. Returning to his home he sets about removing any skin, leaving just the skull itself, but is found dead moments later.

Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing

In the modern day (well, the mid 1960s), Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing – “From Beyond The Grave”, “The House That Dripped Blood”), a writer and collector of occult items, is bidding for a set of figurines featuring likenesses of Lucifer, Beelzebub, Leviathan and Baal-Berith.

Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee

He is beaten in the auction by friend and fellow occult aficionado Sir Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee – “The Wicker Man”, “Curse Of The Crimson Altar”) who bids a very large sum of money, without seeming to know why.

Patrick Wymark & Peter Cushing
Patrick Wymark & Peter Cushing

Later Maitland is visited at home by shady artifact dealer Marco (Patrick Wymark – “Repulsion”, “Where Eagles Dare”) who sells him a book on the life of the infamous Marquis De Sade, which is apparently bound in human skin.

Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing
Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing

When Marco returns the following evening with a skull, which he claims to be that of De Sade, Maitland isn’t so quick to part with his cash, thinking it unlikely to be genuine. When he discusses it with his friend Phillips, however, he discovers that the skull is genuine and was stolen from Phillips – who is adamant that he does not want it back and strongly advises Maitland to steer clear as it is dangerous.

However, Maitland’s curiosity has been aroused and believing that the skull cannot possibly be dangerous “…only your mind makes it so…” determines to make the purchase. That’s when his problems start…

Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing

I thought this was a great film. It’s very atmospheric, with long period of little of no dialogue leaving the visuals and score to do the work – which they do really well. I particularly enjoyed the use of the camera looking out through the eyes of the skull.

Baal-Berith, The Skull  The Story Of The Marquis De Sade
Baal-Berith, The Skull & The Story Of The Marquis De Sade

There is a great dream / nightmare sequence involving Maitland as well as a nice selection of occult objects and imagery scattered around his study. Cushing takes most of the screen time, and portrays his role really well, all the more so when you consider that a lot of what he has to convey must be done without speaking.

Visually the film is spot on but even more importantly it gets the story across effectively and is thoroughly entertaining. Highly recommended…Skull Lobby


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