Uncovering Curiosities: Freddie Francis’ THE SKULL
They don’t make movies like The Skull anymore. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee top-line this 1965 British horror that sees Cushing’s occult collector acquire the skull of the Marquis de Sade – but the evil relic soon takes on a life of its own and causes all sorts of eerie doings.
On the surface you’d think that The Skull was a Hammer film, after all it stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, while Freddie Francis calls the shots behind the camera. However this curious 1965 effort is actually an Amicus Production. Amicus was a another British-based production company dealing in horror and their output was often mistaken for that of the mighty Hammer due to the casting of the likes of Cushing and Lee and their focus on classy, yet inexpensive genre films.
Based on the short story The Skull of the Marquis de Sade by Robert (Psycho) Bloch, The Skull runs a little under 90 minutes and that gives it room to deliver a few interesting moments – even if the story is on the slight side. Francis creates an interesting tension in the film and offers up some impressive visual moments that make it stand out from a lot of other similar horrors.
As you can imagine, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee add pure class to this mid-range fright pic and they fully deliver on a performance level. Horror enthusiasts will also be pleased to see fellow horror staple Michael Gough appear early on in the film as an auctioneer.
Curious without ever being truly essential, The Skull is a must for those who like their horror to be slow burning and interestingly plotted. The film tries to be different and succeeds, but it won’t have you cowering behind the sofa.