THE SKULL All Mar­quis-ed up

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Re­views -

re­leased oUT NoW! 1965 | 12 | blu-ray/dvd (dual for­mat) Direc­tor Fred­die Fran­cis Cast Peter Cush­ing, Christo­pher lee, Jill ben­nett, Pa­trick Wy­mark

“Stay away from the skull of the Mar­quis De Sade!” As rules to live by go, it’s a good one, up there with “never mix beer and wine”. Un­wisely, oc­cult col­lec­tor Christo­pher Mait­land pays no mind. Fall­ing un­der its malefic in­flu­ence, he’s driven to kill – though not to par­take of any­thing pervy, thank god. No one wants to see Peter Cush­ing’s or­gasm face.

Pre­sented with a 53-page screen­play, direc­tor Fred­die Fran­cis turned a pig’s ear into if not a silk purse then at least a ser­vice­able wal­let, en­liven­ing a rote script with vis­ual flair. A dream se­quence which sees Mait­land hauled be­fore a judge, forced to play Rus­sian roulette, and trapped with the walls clos­ing in on him is a par­tic­u­lar high­light.

But the film’s se­cret weapon is Cush­ing. The dra­matic peak sees Mait­land strug­gling not to plunge a sac­ri­fi­cial dag­ger into his snooz­ing wife – who’s wear­ing a glint­ing cru­ci­fix. A su­per­nat­u­ral rock-pa­per­scis­sors fol­lows, cli­max­ing in cru­ci­fix block­ing skull. It’s a mo­ment of ut­ter non­sense, but Cush­ing’s mount­ing panic and fear to­tally sell it, and com­mand your rapt at­ten­tion.

Ex­tras In­ter­views with hor­ror ex­perts Kim New­man and Jonathan Rigby (51 min­utes); a 36-page book­let. Ian Ber­ri­man

As scripted, the dream se­quence also saw Cush­ing’s char­ac­ter flogged by tor­tur­ers – but the BBFC nixed that.

Ron­nie O’Sul­li­van was on next.

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