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Horror mystery about the residents of a Louisiana castle who are being murdered by a masked killer. When the family arrives for the reading of Marion's will, his wife is strapped to the face of a cliff and drowned by the tide. More murders follow, and as Inspector Bore (Vicente Roca) investigates, he discovers some dark secrets in the family's past. Written by
Jess Franco made a lot of films that are liable to make you want to claw your eyes out; but then he also made a lot of films that made you wish he took more care of his overall filmography as the man clearly had talent. Night of the Skull is firmly in the latter category; as while the plot is not particularly original and has been done many times before and since; Franco makes good of it and Night of the Skull is a very successful thriller overall. The basis for the plot takes influence from the often used idea of a will reading causing trouble within a family. The film takes place in England and we focus on the residents of an old castle. The Lord of the manor, Lord Archibald Marian, has been murdered. As the family gather for the will reading, they are shocked to learn of two wills; one to be read in the case that the Lord was murdered, the other in the case that he died of natural causes. The family are shocked further when all of his assets are left to his illegitimate daughter, but there are twists in store before the will can be executed.
The film gives a writing credit to the great Edgar Allen Poe for his story "The Cat and the Canary", although clear influence is taken from crime writer Edgar Wallace and indeed his novel "The Terror" (which was adapted in 1965 as The Sinister Monk) features basically the same story. The film has some similarities with the Giallo genre also and Giallo fans will no doubt enjoy this one too (genre entries such as The Weekend Murders and Deadly Inheritance also use the same base for a plot). The film is set in England and Franco takes care with his setting and the film does actually have an English feel; despite the fact that all the characters speak Spanish. Franco also creates an effectively creepy atmosphere that benefits the film immensely. The film is of a higher quality than a lot of Franco's stuff also - with the acting from the ensemble cast being well above par. The storyline is interesting for the duration despite the fact that it will be familiar to most genre fans; and the ending does deliver something of a surprise. It's an unlikely way for the tale to end, but at least it sort of makes some sense. Overall, Night of the Skull is a very decent thriller and comes recommended.
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