The movie kicks off with some gravediggers in a spooky cemetery. Now that is how you start a movie! We see them dig up a grave and remove the head from the corpse inside the coffin. One of them then takes it home, kicks a naked lady out of his bathtub, and then proceeds to remove the flesh from the skull. Not long afterwards he lets out a scream and is dead.
As promised, he shows up the night with a skull, the one we saw earlier. It belonged to the Marquis de Sade and is said to have supernatural powers. Maitland is a skeptic not only in the skulls supposed powers but that it even belonged to de Sade. He mentions it to Sir Matthew who admits the skull was stolen from him and that he doesn’t want it back. This intrigues Maitland who starts to pursue it and ends up entangled in all sorts of satanic shenanigans. In the end he comes to believe that the skull is in fact very evil and that it might have been a mistake to acquire the damned thing.
This is a wonderful old school horror flick. The story is paced well and gets right to the action with the graverobbing. Never fear despite the quick start it doesn’t dump the entire plot out for us as we get bits later with flashbacks to fill in the story. I enjoy the fact that we have something spooky and mysterious happening from start to finish. This is the kind of movie where you need to turn the lights down and watch in the dark. Heck we even get Maitland being menaced by some weird Satanists!
Peter Cushing does a fantastic job in his role. Much of the horror from The Skull comes from its influence on the characters as it tries to twist them into doing terrible things. The last fifteen minutes of the movie is basically Cushing doing battle with it as he fights to not stab his wife to death. He does this with no dialogue using instead his body language and facial expressions to portray the struggle within. Not many actors could convincingly pull this off without it seeming silly or overly dramatic. Cushing nails it. To a lesser extent Lee, who has a very small role here, adds some gravitas to the proceedings as he sets the stage for what the skull can do. Him not wanting anything to do with it is key to telling the part of the story that sets up what is to happen later.
I could go on but don’t feel the need to. This is a wonderful movie that I highly recommend everyone check out. I’m as big of a Hammer fan as the next guy but I’ve always thought of the Amicus flicks as overlooked gems that were on the same level as the more famous studio. Check it out you won’t be disappointed.
© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer
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