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A collector of esoterica, Dr. Maitland, buys an unusual skull from his ordinary source of artifacts. The skull is what remains of marquis De Sade. Much too soon he discovers how the skull affects him: by turning him into a frenzied killer.Written by
The heirs of Donatien Alphonse François de Sade pressed charges to prevent any use of his name on the advertising material. The changes on posters and lobby cards were made at the last minute by sticking the new title "Le Crâne Maléfique" (meaning "The Evil Skull") on top of the former, "Les forfaits du Marquis de Sade" (meaning "the Infamies of Marquis de Sade"). Only on that condition this movie could finally be released in the French territories. See more »
During the scene when the Skull floats to attack Peter Cushing's character, you can see the steel wires holding up the skull, in an "X" formation. See more »
The Skull is directed by Freddie Francis and adapted to screenplay by Milton Subotsky from the short story The Skull of the Marquis de Sade written by Robert Bloch. A Technicolor/Techniscope production, it stars Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Jill Bennett and Patrick Wymark. Music is scored by Elisabeth Lutyens and cinematography by John Wilcox.
When collector of occult artifacts Christopher Maitland (Cushing) acquires the Skull of the Marquis de Sade, he gets more than he bargained for.......
Out of Amicus Productions, The Skull represents one of the more successful ventures for the studio away from the portmanteau formula they would become regarded for. That's not to say it's without problems, because it is far from flawless, but with Francis casting an ethereal sheen over the production, the film does hold tight as a 60s Gothic chiller of some worth. Actually it's one of the rare films that is reviewed quite accurately by the majority of writers who have written about it. Most agree that the material isn't quite up to being stretched to a feature length film, the long passages of silence in the story proving to be a necessity rather than a creepy tactic by the makers. The string work effects are cheesy, Lee is underused and the rest of the cast away from Cushing are thinly drawn. But it does overcome its flaws.
There are a number of great things within the picture. The use of Skull-Cam that gives us POV from inside the skull itself, works really well, as does the colour tones that Francis uses whenever the skull is holding court. A set piece involving a character falling through stained glass is very well constructed (good stunt work too), and Lutyens musical score is top draw-nerve jarring stuff. Then there is Cushing himself, forced to react for the most part to nothing more than a prop, he gives much by way of visual acting, totally mesmerising for the near silent last third of the piece. It's a very under valued turn from Cushing as it features a different string to his acting bow.
With shady characters, suspenseful silences (the opening pillaging of de Sade's grave is excellently macabre) and visual treats aplenty, The Skull is well worth checking out. 7/10
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