The Skull (1965) was a very enjoyable cheap piece of kitchy horror, based on the Robert Bloch short story "The Skull of the Marquis de Sade."
Dr. Maitland (Peter Cushing), collector of macabre oddments, has come into possession of de Sade's skull, which begins to exert a horrific influence on him.
The special FX could've been done with exactly the same flourish in a highschool play. The "floating skull" sequences are so cheap & tacky it drags the film down, but even today it's a pretty strong film in the "so bad it's good" category, & in 1965 on the American Drive-in Movie circuit, it must've scared the bejabbers out of more than a few naive souls.
Whether it's saying much or not, The Skull is possibly director Freddie Francis's best film. It's a talkative script & most of the psychology of the thing is dull & silly & too obviously present to pad out a film with no budget.
The presence of a formerly unknown book written by the Marquis de Sade, but bound in human skin, is a nod to H. P. Lovecraft's "The Necronomicon," likewise bound in human skin.
Such an allusion would be typical of Robert Bloch, who when still a kid corresponded with HPL. And yet even this seems to exist mainly because a book made for a very cheap prop in a film with no budget to speak of.
Although The Skull has the look of an old Hammer film, thanks largely to the presence of Peter Cushing as Dr. Maitland & Christopher Lee as Sir Mathew Phillips. But it was actually made at Amicus, with whom Bob Bloch had a brief association.
With Cushing & Lee -- & a fine supporting cast including Patrick Wymark & Patrick Magee -- the quality of the acting was able to carry the tale a lot further than could've been achieved by lesser stars.
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