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The Screaming Skull (1958) - Blu-ray Review

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The Screaming Skull (1958) - Blu-ray Review

5 beersThis film might kill you.  Honestly, truer words have seldom been spoken.  The banging window.  The knocking on the door.  Don’t investigate it, Jenni (Peggy Webber), just leave it alone.  Webber could be your plainspoken Auntie, folks, and you definitely don’t want anything to happen to her.  Which means everything about the haunted mystery in director Alex Nicol’s The Screaming Skull is elevated, including the suspense, and that makes for mighty fine viewing – even if that skull that gets tossed around is made of foam.

For my money, The Screaming Skull packs a mighty big wallop.  It may seem silly to some viewers, but – when the mood is right – its spook house thrills are boundless.  I can’t even begin to imagine what my response would have been if I had seen this in the drive-in.  Sheer terror, I imagine. 

If the wailing soundtrack doesn’t unnerve you, the skull-faced ghost skipping down a garden path surely will.  Shame more people over the age of 20 didn’t appreciate it upon its release. 

Co-starring John Hudson as the widower who takes a new wife after the tragic drowning of his first wide and Nicol himself as the creepy caretaker, The Screaming Skull definitely lives up to its name and its legacy.  It has a maligned reception, with several critics dismissing it as silly and routine and, yet, I can’t help but see it as an expressive, stylized entry in the horror genre. 

It is indeed a unappreciated film that deserves some attention.  Thankfully, Shout Factory has seen fit to issue it on blu-ray with a new high-definition transfer from a fine grain print.  The black-and-white feature looks absolutely ravishing on 1080p.  Horror Hounds and Gore-Gore Girls are indeed spoiled by their efforts.

With a William Castle-like disclaimer at the beginning of the movie promising to pay for your funeral should the movie scare you to death, there’s no way that ANYONE walks away from the watching this movie without having nightmares.  It’s the story of a new wife trying to acclimate to her new surroundings, but the past will not stop knocking upon the door.  And I mean that quite literally.

Forget Hitchcock’s Rebecca.  I know that’s borderline blasphemous, but I’m serious as the thrills in Nichol’s work are more expressive and, certainly, a bit more in your face.  They are damn threatening and, as the film clocks in at a quick 68-minutes, a bit more urgent, too. 

The Screaming Skull, about a new wife being tormented by the past, has no budget, but was filmed independently on the unfurnished Huntington Harvard Estate.  The fact that it was shot outside of a studio lends itself to a more authentic set of creeps and crawlies.

Cover your ears!  The Screaming Skull has been awakened.

The Screaming Skull (1958) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
68 mins
Director
: Alex Nicol
Writer:
John Kneubuhl
Cast:
John Hudson, Peggy Webber, Russ Conway
Genre: Horror
Tagline:
A chilling blend of American Graffiti and Psycho.
Memorable Movie Quote: "The tortured ghost who claims vengeance in the bride's bedroom!"
Theatrical Distributor:
American International Pictures (AIP)
Official Site:
Release Date:
January 1958
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
April 25, 2017
Synopsis: When widower Eric (John Hudson) bring his mentally fragile new bride Jenni home to the palatial estate of his first wife, strange things begin to happen. Jenni is certain she is being tormented by Eric's former wife who died under mysterious circumstances. But no one else seems to hear the ominous screams or see the rolling skull that comes knocking at the front door. Much like master showman William Castle, the producers of the film promised a free burial service for anyone who died while watching the film. Of course, this never happened.

The Screaming Skull (1958) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- April 25, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English
Language:
English
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region A/1

The film is presented with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer using an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.   The black and white image is crisp with solid levels throughout.  The detailed image is surprisingly clean given the age of the film.  The clarity of the presentation is solid and the film retains a level of grain that ensures an authentic and credible appearance.  Even dark scenes are rarely problematic, with the blacks proving extremely solid, and the level of accuracy ensuring that this B-movie is visually absorbing throughout.  The audio is presented in a sufficient DTS-HD MA 1.0 sound mix.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

The film has been in the public domain for a number of years.  We are forever grateful that Scream Factory has licensed it and packed it with some unexpected supplemental items.

  • MST3K Episode (90 min)
  • This Film May Kill You: The Making Of The Screaming Skull (12 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

The Screaming Skull (1958) - Blu-ray Review

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