BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Stories about obsessive collectors have always fascinated me. From the book-hoarding stories I wrote during my undergraduate studies to the volumes of the weird and twisted objects I now own, it could be suggested that the fascination with collectors has become intrinsic. Or was it always there? Movies as frighteningly effective as 1965’s The Skull make me question that which I presume to know.
Author Robert Bloch (Psycho) knows many, many things about horror, but it is the short story, The Skull of the Marquis de Sade, in which he revealed one of his most important truths about collectors: the depth of their passion is without remorse because – as Peter Cushing admits – it truly is nice to have a book bound in a woman’s skin. Wait. What?!?!?!
Horror Hounds and Gore-Gore Girls, welcome to the disturbing territory of Amicus’ second horror film, The Skull. It is an eerie place where the kitsch kills and the difference in the mindset between the madman and the scholar is only one born of opportunity. Co-starring Christopher Lee (House of the Long Shadows), Patrick Wymark (The Psychopath), Nigel Green (The Ipcress File), Patrick Magee (A Clockwork Orange) and Michael Gough (The Crimson Cult), The Skull is a mood-lit horror film that is as mesmerizing in its use of visuals as it is with its cast and the absorbing characters they inhabit.
Directed by Freddie Francis, The Skull’s strongest visual is its inventive use of perspective from behind the eyes of the genuine skull of the Marquis De Sade. People say the skull moves on its own, finding comfort in shocking its owners with new locations around homes and flats. It's true. You'll see it with your own eyes. And, when it comes to the fate of collector Dr. Maitland (Cushing), it will take every bit of vocal warning to get his esoteric mind to pay heed. Even he finds the much-ballyhooed rumor about its role in murder to be far-fetched and completely bonkers. He doesn't admit it, but his expression says everything.
The Skull is an expertly realized slice of head-tripping horror. John Wilcox is listed as the official director of photography, but most genre lovers suggest that it is Francis’ keen eye for lighting and odd angles that keeps this one fresh in the annals of horror. After all, Francis is one of the prominent auteurs in BOTH the horror-themed British production companies of Amicus and Hammer. Complete with distorted reflections and long periods of silence, The Skull still swells with creepy intentions to do harm.
While Francis would later score big with his production of Glory, it is the horror genre that first gave him a life reanimated with one monster flick after another. Thankfully, he never simply cashed-in a paycheck and, right off the heels of Dr. Terror’s House of Horror’s (also written by Milton Subotsky), he came springing back to Amicus with new and interesting ways to visualize horror flicks. The Skull remains in a league above everything and everyone else.
The Skull is now on blu-ray and available to own thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime: 83 mins
Director: Freddie Francis
Writer: Robert Bloch, Milton Subotsky
Cast: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Jill Bennett
Genre: Horror | Thriller
Tagline: When the Skull strikes you'll Scream! | A new hight of fright
Memorable Movie Quote: "All I can say to you is keep away from the skull of the Marquis de Sade!"
Theatrical Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: August 25, 1965
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 14, 2017
Synopsis: The Skull once again teams up horror legends Peter Cushing (Horror of Dracula) and Sir Christopher Lee (House of the Long Shadows) in a chilling, supernatural tale of murder from beyond the grave. Based on a short story by Robert Bloch (Psycho), The Skull introduces us to Dr. Christopher Maitland (Cushing), a collector of the occult. When he is given the opportunity to purchase the skull of the infamous Marquis de Sade, he leaps at the chance. What he doesn't know is that his friend, Matthew Phillips (Lee) is the former owner of the skull - and quite happy to be rid of it. Possession of The Skull leads to a terrifying series of nightmarish events for Dr. Maitland as he tries to keep control of his life and the of unspeakable evil bearing down upon him.
Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray - March 14, 2017
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region A
Presented with 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Kino Lorber’s 1080P MPEG-4 AVC encode is as good as it gets. The Skull is, in fact, better looking than I expected. Colors are strong and vibrant and saturated with strong hues of bursting lusciousness and an eye for details. The sets are also incredibly detailed. Black levels are solid and shadows, while not deep, are expressive enough. For a subgenre film from the middle of the 1960s, the image – and its remastering from Kino – is a good experience as dirt and debris and random scratches are at a very low level. The sound, presented here in a good Dolby Digital Audio English 2.0 track, is adequate for the film.
The Audio Commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas is both entertaining and articulate. It’s full of good information about the making of this horror classic. Fans of the flick will not to skip over this one.
We get a bit more than the usual collection of supplemental materials from Kino, solidifying its importance to the genre. The interviews are good and, combined with the commentary, make for a good time with one of my favorite flicks.
- Jonathan Rigby on The Skull" featurette (24 min)
- Kim Newman on The Skull" featurette (27 min)
- "Trailers From Hell" with Joe Dante