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Today’s horror films are usually missing something. Sure there are some good ones here and there that strike my fancy and end up being better then expected, but that is quite rare. You see, if one of today’s horror releases isn’t a remake of an older film then chances are it has a chance of being somewhat creative. Going back in time though is your best bet for getting a good scare or at least being creeped out. And when you get two masters like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, then you’re in for a real treat.
Christopher Maitland is an older gentleman that loves to collect antiques, but, you see, not just any old thing will do. He goes off in search of the strange and unusual so that he will be one of a few or perhaps the only person to own such a thing. His good friend Matthew Phillips is also his chief rival when it comes to getting his hands on some pricey collectibles. That holds true at an auction they have attended as some very interesting items have caught Maitland’s eye. A rather sketchy man by the name of Marco flaunts to Maitland that he has a book from the Marquis de Sade which is bound in human flesh, but that isn’t all.
Marco then presents a very hard to attain item to Maitland: the supposed skull of the Marquis de Sade. Believing he has a one of a kind item, he quickly acquires it but soon realizes the truth. The skull actually used to belong to Phillips and he could not be happier to be rid of the collector’s item. He warns Maitland that there is something not right about it and that only evil can come to he who possesses it. Maitland thinks little of the warning and soon learns that perhaps there was a lot more he didn’t know about his newly acquired skull.
The Skull was released in 1965 and stars two of the greatest actors ever in Cushing and Lee. Cushing is simply genius in his role as Maitland while Lee astounds in the smaller amount of screen time he gets as Phillips. But it is their time together on screen that really makes it so good. They have the sort of compatibility that makes you think their friendship has been solid for years and years. It is a joy just watching them work together.
If you’re looking for “jump scares” or freakish horror icons to come your way then you might as well bypass this film altogether. Don’t expect a lot of big effects or evil creatures to scare you half to death. This is a classic horror film that explores the art of “setting the mood.” Things are going to float around, odd little noises will be heard, and people will be murdered for reasons unknown to anyone. It even has some of the coolest, albeit quite silly at times, shots as some of the murders are shown through the empty eyes of the skull. Really awesome I must say.
The film is shown in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and it looks miraculous for its age. Colors are bright and vibrant while there are barely any signs of aging at all.
The film is heard in Stereo Sound that leaves a lot to be desired, but it gets the job done for the film at hand. Most of the dialogue can be heard cleanly with a few slight problems here and there, but nothing to get upset about.
Except for the sad fact that this DVD has nothing in the way of special features, I’d be willing to recommend it to anyone. If you like horror films and are tired of or even content with the stuff being released today, do yourself a favor and check out what it was like when “horror” actually meant something. There didn’t need to be buckets of blood or a sociopath with a hockey mask walking around to make it entertaining or scary. The music, facial expressions of the actors, and simplistic props like an old skull were all that were needed to make it spooky and have you glancing over your shoulder. Cushing and Lee are spot on here making The Skull even more attractive to movie fans. If you’re not looking to spend the money on a purchase just yet, then grab it as a rental sometime. Turn off all the lights, pull down the blinds, and hope for a thunderstorm outside because then all you’ve got to do is pop in this DVD and you’re in for a real frightening experience.
Legend Films presents The Skull. Directed by: Freddie Francis. Starring: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Jill Bennett, Michael Gough, George Coulouris, Christopher Lee. Written by: Milton Subotsky (screenplay) & Robert Bloch (story). Running time: 83 minutes. Rating: Unrated. Released on DVD: June 3, 2008. Available at Amazon.com