has gone into the vaults of movie history and
re-introduced some classic horror movies on DVD. One of
the guilty pleasure classics is "The Skull."
"The Skull" is now available for the first time on DVD.
I've never been into the British horror films of the 1960s, so it was sort of "risk" on my part to review this Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee flick. I tend to remember flipping through channels some years ago and coming across these British horror films. They often seemed to have low budgets, occasionally funny effects, and lots of fake blood. But there was a charm to the movies and they've had a following over the years. What I admired was the conviction of the actors like Cushing and Lee. No matter how silly the material was, they ate it up.
This 1965 film is intriguing in many ways. The story revolves around the mysterious and evil skull of the Marquis de Sade and what it does to people in its presence. The opening of the movie takes place in a graveyard filled with appropriate fog effects and mood lighting. When "The Skull" flashes forward to 1965 London, the film is kept darkly lit with sets designed in red and black motifs. The mood of the movie is effective, though it won't scare anyone over the age of 13.
Cushing and Lee give their normally juicy performances as they've done in other films. Lee doesn't occupy screen time that much. Cushing is the main protagonist. My only real connection with this fine actor was his performance in, you guessed it, "Star Wars" (1977). So it's interesting to see that he had some good acting range prior to his performance in that classic space fantasy. His skinny face and piercing eyes almost always could illicit the shivers.
The movie was directed by brilliant cinematographer, Freddie Francis. Many people probably know him for his work on "The Elephant Man" (1980), "Dune" (1984) and "Glory' (1989). He also was a veteran director, having made a number of horror films including "Trog" (1970) and "The Creeping Flesh" (1973). Like Cushing and Lee, Francis could go from low budget horror films to classy productions.
Shot by cinematographer John Wilcox ("The Last Valley"), the movie does have a number of interesting camera moves which keeps the pace of the movie going well. I'm not sure how much the film's budget was, but it's probably safe to say it wasn't very high. The set design and camerawork give the film a much richer production value, though. Also worth noting is that the movie is based on a book by Robert Bloch, most famous for writing "Psycho."
"The Skull" won't give you nightmares, though if you're a small kid, it might. For some swinging '60s horror fun, it's worth a trip.
Special thanks to Legend Films
Photos: © Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.
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