Sade’s Skull Onscreen

A few weeks ago I had the misfortune of watching The Skull (1965). I don’t recommend it. Based on a short story by Robert Block (author of Psycho), the movie centers on an occult scholar and collector who purchases the Marquis de Sade’s skull after its exhumation by an phrenologist sometime back in Thee Olden Days. In the movie, no mention is made of Sade’s sexual proclivities—instead he’s a Satanist, and as a result his skull has malevolent powers on par with Chucky.

The movie stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who are great, and includes some enjoyable creepy-groovy 1960s sets. The main problem is that the skull is treated like a main character, which is hard to do with an inanimate object. Large chunks of the end of the movie are actually shot through the skull’s eyes, which I guess is supposed to make you feel closer to the skull, but really just makes you feel like you’re looking through a pair of broken binoculars.

I took a screenshot to prove I’d watched it. Here’s the phrenologist, “Pierre,” with his new friend freshly plucked from the grave:

Say hello …

(There’s a whole mess of stills over at the Peter Cushing Appreciation Society, where they seem to share my ideas about the film.)

Robert Block’s original short story looks like it might be more promising, and I’m going to try to track it down. Just for fun, here are some of the  original posters for the movie and covers for the book:

Poster for the movie, via Wikimedia Commons

1976 book cover via Flickr
Tie-in book cover via eBay

While looking for the movie posters, I discovered that ZombosCloset has the movie’s entire press pack! Apparently the original promotion options included a tabloid herald printed with day-glo ink and silver novelty skull rings with fake ruby eyes. But the best is the sheet of ideas for promoting the movie: a Coffin Contest! Cranium Hunt! Shock-tail party! Check it. I may have to steal some of these:


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