THE SKULL (1965) Reviews and overview



The Skull is a 1965 British Amicus Productions horror film directed by Freddie Francis from a screenplay written by Milton Subotsky, adapted from The Skull of the Marquis de Sade, a short story by Robert Bloch (Torture Garden; The Night Walker; Psycho).


The film stars the frequently paired horror actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, alongside Patrick Wymark (Repulsion, The Blood on Satan’s Claw), Jill Bennett, Nigel Green (The Masque of the Red Death, Countess Dracula), Patrick Magee (Dementia 13, The Black Cat) and Peter Woodthorpe. Michael Gough (Horrors of the Black Museum, Konga, Horror Hospital) also has a minor role as an auctioneer.


It was one of several British horror films of the sixties to be scored by ‘avant-garde’ composer Elisabeth Lutyens, including several others for Amicus.


Buy Blu-ray:

On 14 March 2017, Kino Lorber released the film on Blu-ray in the US with the following special features:
Audio Commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas
Jonathan Rigby on The Skull featurette (24:14)
Kim Newman on The Skull featurette (27:18)
Trailers From Hell with Joe Dante

the skull 3

In the 1800s, Pierre, a phrenologist (Maurice Good), robs the grave of the recently buried Marquis de Sade. He takes the Marquis’ severed head and sets about boiling it to remove its flesh, leaving the skull; before the task is done, Pierre himself has met an unseen and horrific death.


The modern-day: Christopher Maitland (Cushing), a collector and writer on the occult, is offered the skull by Marco (Wymark), an unscrupulous dealer in antiques and curiosities. Maitland learns that the skull has been stolen from Sir Matthew Phillips (Lee), a friend and fellow collector.

Sir Matthew, however, does not want to recover it, having escaped its evil influence. He warns Maitland of its powers. At his sleazy Soho lodgings Marco dies in mysterious circumstances; Maitland finds his body and takes possession of the skull. He in turn falls victim as the skull drives him to hallucinations, madness and death…


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p style=”text-align: left;”>Although Freddie Francis created a visually seductive film, the narrative — based on Robert Bloch’s short story — is simply not strong enough to support the feature-length running time. A sterling cast is therefore wasted in what would have been a better part of one of Amicus’ celebrated anthology features.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA

MOVIES and MANIA rating:


“Clearly the film lacks a proper script, and I wouldn’t blame any Peter Cushing fan for wanting to avoid one of his poorer performances. However, it is probably the most visually dynamic film in Freddie Francis’s directorial oeuvre, even when those visuals can’t sustain the flimsy story. What The Skull does best is provide a peek at the full potential of a highly talented individual.”

The Skull remains one of the most stylish and atmospheric horror movies of the 1960s and certainly worth repeated viewings for those attuned to it in, order to take advantage of the amount of visual detail that director Freddie Francis and his staff have imbued with it.” Britmovie

freddie francis directs peter cushing in The Skull 1965

“Francis overdoes his camera movements, inserting too many point-of-view shots from within the skull, detracting from their effectiveness. Most of the credit for the film’s success should go to Bill Constable and Scott Slimon for their claustrophobic sets which expertly convey the barely pathological tendencies of a manic collector of occult bric-a-brac.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror, edited by Phil Hardy

The Skull Blu

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Buy The Skull + The Man Who Could Cheat Death + The Deadly Bees on DVD from |

the skull

the skull la calavera del marques


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peter cushing a life in film

Buy Peter Cushing: A Life in Film book by David Miller from |


Cast and characters:
Peter Cushing … Christopher Maitland
Patrick Wymark … Anthony Marco
Jill Bennett … Jane Maitland
Nigel Green … Inspector Wilson
Patrick Magee … Police Surgeon
Peter Woodthorpe … Bert Travers
Michael Gough … Auctioneer
George Coulouris … Doctor Londe
April Olrich … French Girl
Maurice Good … Pierre, Phrenologist
Anna Palk … Maid
Frank Forsyth … Judge
Paul Stockman … First Guard
Geoffrey Cheshire … Second Guard
George Hilsdon … Policeman
Jack Silk … Driver
Christopher Lee … Sir Matthew Phillips

Filming locations:
Great Cumberland Place, Marylebone, London, England (Maitland’s home on the crescent)
Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England

Filming dates:
Began 18 January 1965

Technical details:
1 hour 23 minutes

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