THE SKULL. Amicus Productions / Paramount Pictures, 1965. Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Patrick Wymark, Jill Bennett, Nigel Green. Screenplay by Milton Subotsky, also co-producer, based on the short story “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade,” by Robert Bloch (Weird Tales, September 1945). Director: Freddie Francis.

   A reasonably good job was done in adapting Robert Bloch’s short story to the screen, but at 83 minutes long, it’s at least a half hour longer than it needs to be. And for a movie to be scary, it certainly doesn’t bode well when a sizable chunk of it can be cut out with nothing being noticed.

   But it’s always good to see Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in a movie together, no doubt about that. This time around, Cushing plays a collector of occult and inhuman items who is offered an absolutely unique item, the skull of the notorious Marquis de Sade, while Lee is it’s previous owner — who most definitely does NOT want it back. He is more than happy it was stolen from him.

   Better, though, than either of these two actors in their respective roles is Patrick Wymark as Marco, the unctuous middleman (or thief) in the sale of the skull to Cushing. His death, a dramatic fall down a stairwell through several panes of colored glass, was for me a highlight of the film. That was also the turning point for me. The movie simply ran out of steam from that scene on.

   On hand is plenty of scary music, flashing lights and moonlight, and a skull mysteriously floating in the air, but none of these are of any avail when the story itself doesn’t make sense. Horror is a state of mind, and there have to be rules that have to followed, even in terms of the supernatural, not so?

   Read the story (follow the link provided). It’s only six pages long, and in those six pages it packs up to 20 or 30 times the punch of this highly acclaimed but in the end not entirely convincing horror film.