‘This isn’t just any skull…’ says seller Marco (Patrick Wymark) to potential buyer Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing); it’s not even a Marks and Spencer skull, it’s the actual noggin of the Marquis de Sade himself, and no good can come of it being hawked around occult dealers in this initially sedate yet fairly engrossing Freddie Francis horror/thriller.
With a script by Amicus regular Milton Subotsky and based on a short story by Robert ‘Psycho’ Bloch, The Skull is a cut above the usual fare, with an unusual straight role for Christopher Lee, plus a perfect supporting cast including Patrick Mcgee, Michael Gough and Nigel Green. It’s quite tame by modern standards, but the quaintness is charming, and Francis whips things up to quite a frenzy by the end.
The art of this kind of gentleman’s horror film is long gone; The Skull popping up on mainstream streaming services is a nice reminder of the genre’s charms back in the day. Don’t expect exploding heads or much gore, but long drawing room conversations and extreme politeness are what you expect in a vintage 60’s horror with these actors involved, and that’s exactly what you get.
And according to Wikipedia, the actual skull of the Marquis is still unaccounted for to this day, so in the light of what happens to the esteemed gentlemen here, it’s probably best avoid any rash ebay purchases, as no refunds will be provided…