THE SKULL All Marquis-ed up
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.