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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Skull
The Skull
Legend Films // Unrated // June 3, 2008
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Justin Felix | posted June 15, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Has there even been a more successful pairing of actors in horror film history than English legends Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee? Sure, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi starred in a number of memorable outings together (see Universal's Bela Lugosi Collection for several non-monster examples), but Lee and Cushing delivered together time and again. These two great actors appeared in literally dozens of movies together - perhaps most memorably in the Hammer gothic horror cycle. One of my personal favorites, though, is the oft-distributed Horror Express that captures the campy drive-in movie ambience very well.

And so it was with some eagerness that I received The Skull to review for DVD Talk. This 1965 Amicus production headlines Peter Cushing with support from Michael Gough and, of course, Christopher Lee. To add to the midnight movie pedigree of this film, it takes its inspiration from a Robert Bloch story - yep, the author of Psycho. The Skull is part of a wave of catalog titles Paramount is *finally* releasing through Legend Films, and this marks the first time The Skull has been available on DVD.

So, is it worth the fuss? I think it is - though for the movie alone. The DVD disappoints in the extras department, which I'll get to later in this review.

The Skull is really Peter Cushing's vehicle. In it, he plays Christopher Maitland, a wealthy collector of the rare and macabre. Christopher Lee is credited as a "guest star" (I've never understood how one can "guest star" in a movie, but that's a matter of semantics) here as Maitland's friend and rival at the auction block, Matthew Phillips. A shady dealer named Marco tempts Maitland with a rare biography of the Marquis de Sade bound in human skin. Fascinated, Maitland is then further tempted by Marco with the skull of de Sade himself. He learns that it's the real deal as he discovers it's been stolen from Phillips. Phillips is glad to be rid of it, though, as he knows that the skull is evil and warns his good friend about it over a game of billiards. But does Maitland heed Phillips' warning? Of course not! This is a horror movie, after all. The rest of the film is devoted to showing the results of the skull's evil influence upon Maitland.

Cushing is really good here, and his scenes with Lee demonstrate again the camaraderie that they were known for both onscreen and off. The storyline is rather silly, but it's fun in a Saturday afternoon matinee way. There's a lot of nice traditional spook show shots. We get skull-cam, where scenes are filmed through the skull's eyes. We even get the demonic skull suspended by strings . . . er, hovering spookily in midair.

Classic horror film fans won't be disappointed with this Amicus production. The average filmgoer would probably be entertained too. Recommended.

The DVD

Video:

The Skull is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen format, and it is anamorphic. The fact that it looks pretty good is a nice surprise, especially given the movie's age. There's some splotches and dirt, especially early in the film. Despite this, the movie appears sharp and clean, and the colors look great.

Sound:

The only audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0. It doesn't fare as well as the video image with some hiss present. But, it's still serviceable and well-mixed.

No subtitles are offered on this DVD.

Extras:

Well, a Play Trailer link on the main menu has the original trailer - surprisingly in anamorphic widescreen. And that's absolutely it. The Skull certainly could have used a historical commentary. Or, at the very least, Paramount / Legend Films could have dumped trailers for other catalog releases on this disc {as most other major distributors do}. But, alas, the trailer is all that's here.

Final Thoughts:

The Skull is a fun, old-fashioned ghost yarn - the type that used to show up on commercial television years ago during Saturday afternoons. Genre veterans Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, as usual, turn in good performances. Recommended.

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