Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Cushing and Lee at cross-purposes

THE SKULL (1965). Director: Freddie Francis.

Dr. Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing) is a collector of macabre esoterica who is brought a certain skull by Marco (Patrick Wymark); Marco insists it is the skull of the Marquis De Sade. Exposure to the skull brings doom and death to certain parties, and begins to control the mind of Dr. Maitland. Another collector, Sir Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee), from whom the skull was stolen, warns Maitland about the skull, to no avail. Amicus studios tried to go Hammer one better by hiring away their stars and directors, and using similarly handsome settings, but producer (and Amicus bigwig) Milton Subotsky's script for this pretty much does it in. Just about everything that happens is completely predictable, and at one point the skull even goes flying through the air like a bat in a silly bit of business. Based on a story by Robert Bloch, it presents a foolish stereotype of De Sade as well. Cushing is marvelous, as usual, with fine support from Lee and Jill Bennett (For Your Eyes Only) as his wife. George Coulouris is an early victim of the skull and Michael Gough is an auctioneer. The whole thing becomes surprisingly boring pretty quickly. Asylum was a much better Amicus picture.

Verdict: More of a numbskull than a skull. **.

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