31 (Revived) Days of Horror: The Skull

I kept seeing this one on my recommended movies suggestions and avoided it like the plague. I had it confused with The Screaming Skull (1958), a film that turned up on MST3K if that’s any indication of its quality. Upon closer examination, I saw Peter Cushing’s name, a man whose become the iconic figure of this year’s movie marathon, listed among the credits so I gave it a chance.

The Skull (1965) in question is that of the Marquis de Sade and the acquisition and subsequent consequences of obtaining it form the plot. Stolen from the Marquis’ grave—and the Marquis, himself, really—the skull quickly does in the hapless, grave robber phrenologist who stole it, then vanishes into the world of occult antiquities. We’re introduced to this world some years later at an auction where frenemies Christopher Maitland (Cushing) and Sir Matthew Philips (Christopher Lee, naturally) are competing for a quartet of diabolical statues. Phillips succumbs to a strange trance-like state during the bidding, paying far more than Maitland can afford—and more than the statues are worth. Something is clearly amiss. After the auction, seedy occult antiquities dealer Anthony Marco approaches Maitland, offering to sell him the skull of the Marquis de Sade. Maitland later learns the skull was stolen from Phillips, but he’s in no hurry to reclaim his property. It appears the skull vanishes on the night of the new moon, the time when satanic powers are at their height. Despite the warning and a death or two, Maitland acquires the skull and is soon facing off against the demonic powers of the dead de Sade—or perhaps the demon who possessed him.

The Skull is an Amicus production, albeit not one of their anthologies. It’s a solid film and it’s always good to see Cushing and Lee sharing scenes together. I did have some trouble engaging with the movie, but I suspect that was because it was the third film I’d watched that day as I tried to wrap up my marathon before the year’s end. I’d like to return to it in the future when I can focus more on what’s happening and less on the clock counting down.

Despite the distractions, I still enjoyed the movie enough to give it 3 out of 5 skulls. Or maybe that’s 4 out of 6 skulls if we’re including the Marquis’ in the tally. In any case, this film is heads above Gallery of Horrors, but that’s not saying much at all.

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