The Skull is one Amicus film that has been well reviewed by everybody who has seen it. This makes my own disappointment a puzzle. The film has many similarities to the other Amicus-Francis-Bloch collaboration Torture Garden stamped all over it Torture Garden included an episode where an obsessive collector resurrects a writer (Edgar Allan Poe instead of de Sade). Indeed, Robert Blochs original story has the pace that one feels more properly belongs at anthology length The Skull would probably work perfectly at the 15-20 minute length of one of Amicuss portmanteau episodes.
The very first scene tips off the storys one and only surprise that the skull is possessed if the publicity campaign had not already. From there on, all that is left is Freddie Franciss uncustomarily heavy-handed atmosphere, aided by an equally overblown score. That is if it is possible to find subtlety and suspense in the somewhat foolish notion of Peter Cushing being pursued by a floating skull, where the camera even gets to charge around peeping out of its eyesockets. The best sequence, where Peter Cushing is dragged before a judge by police and forced to play a game of Russian Roulette, is irritatingly unexplained is it real or an hallucination or what?
The central premise is silly and Milton Subotskys script never develops it or offers any surprises on the basic idea of a possessed skull running around. The Skull might have been a much more interesting story if it had been portrayed as akin to The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) where we could not have been sure if the possessed skull is real or a figment of the central characters imagination. Moreover, the film is inaccurate to the historical Marquis de Sade, portraying him as a Satanist and irredeemably evil, whereas de Sade was merely a very horny pornographer whose personal tendencies ran toward the dom end of the BDSM market, something that hardly classifies as evil incarnate.
Freddie Franciss other genre films are:- Vengeance/The Brain (1962), Paranoiac (1962), Nightmare (1963), Dr Terrors House of Horrors (1964), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Hysteria (1965), The Psychopath (1966), The Deadly Bees (1967), They Came from Beyond Space (1967), Torture Garden (1967), Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1969), Trog (1970), The Vampire Happening (1971), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Tales That Witness Madness (1972), Craze (1973), The Creeping Flesh (1973), Legend of the Werewolf (1974), Son of Dracula (1974), The Ghoul (1975), The Doctor and the Devils (1985) and Dark Tower (1987).
Robert Bloch was most famous for writing the novel that became the basis of Psycho (1960). His other genre scripts are:- The Cabinet of Caligari (1962), Strait-Jacket (1964), The Night Walker (1965), The Psychopath (1966), The Deadly Bees (1967), Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1970), Asylum (1972), the tv movie The Cat Creature (1973), the tv movie The Dead Dont Die (1974), Three Dangerous Ladies (1977) and The Amazing Captain Nemo (1977).