Director: Freddie Francis
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Patrick Wymark, Patrick Magee
97min | Horror | UK
THE SKULL opens with a scene as creaky as the skeletons who haunt its graveyard setting. But don’t be dismayed, this soon morphs into first class Horror due to a some fiendish tropes and a stylish cast of sterling British acting talent in the shape of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Patrick Wymark, Jill Bennett and Patrick Magee. Director, Freddie Francis took the story and adapted it with Milton Subotsky from Robert Bloch’s “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade”. This literary underpinning gives the film considerable gravitas and a certain piquance particularly when the real descendants of the French nobleman complained about the original title The Skull of the Marquis de Sade – whereupon it became known as THE SKULL.
Peter Cushing plays Dr Maitland, a collector of rare and occult antiques who is offered a skull – purportedly that of the French nobleman – by Richard Widmark’s slightly disreputable but debonair dealer, Marco. A series of murders ensue and appear to be connected to the skull which possesses strange powers during certain phases of the moon whereupon the object literally glows with a ghastly spectral pallor in some scenes. The film features a stylised noirish dream sequence that takes place in a courtroom and is directed with much skill and panache by Francis with the help of John Wilcox (The Hound of the Baskervilles) and is enhanced by a percussive score from Elisabeth Lutyens, the first woman to compose music for British feature films and daughter of Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Francis was a talented director whose skills ranged from early sixties Sci-fi with The Day of the Triffids to horror outings such as Tales of the Crypt, Paranoiac and The Ghoul . He also offered his talents as a cinematographer on more mainstream hits such as The Elephant Man, Cape Fear and Dune. MT
OUT ON DUAL FORMAT BLU-RAY | DVD COURTESY OF EUREKA FILM AND VIDEO ON 26 OCTOBER 2015