Tuesday, July 5, 2011
The Screaming Skull (1958)
I have come to realize that the 1950's had quite a few B-movie. Many of them were pretty cheesy, but fun to watch. Some even showed a lot of potential and had some things that I really liked. "The Screaming Skull" is one of those films.
Jenni has just moved into her new husband's large mansion. Soon, however, her and Eric's happiness is marred by strange sounds and the appearance of skulls around the house. Is Eric trying to drive his wife insane? Is Mickey, the gardener, trying to scare Jenni away? Or is Eric's former wife coming back... from beyond the grave?
"The Screaming Skull" is NOT a great movie- but it did have some promise and potential to it. I had to smile at the William Castle-like opening, where a voice informs the audience that if they were to die of fright during the movie, the studio would pay for their funeral. Cheesy, and unnecessary, but I still liked it.
While most of the camera work was pretty basic, there were some great shots using unique angles, and showed some skill at framing shots. Unfortunately, the film quality wasn't that great. Many of the details were almost whited out in some scenes due to a high contrast. The sets and scenery helped make the camera-work take a step up to just above a B-movie- especially the scenes in the greenhouse and the surrounding garden. The use of an almost empty house was an interesting touch, though I have to confess the floor plan seemed a little confusing to me, as it took a rather long time for the characters to reach the front door from the landing just above the main entry way. The sets also allowed some good use of shadows to build atmosphere and tension. In conjunction with the music, "The Screaming Skull" wasn't a total loss in regards to building mood.
The pace was pretty slow though, with more talking than action. And when the action did start, it was spoiled by some rather hammy acting by John Hudson. The plot itself is also pretty plain and suffers from one or two logic holes, but still manages to serve its purpose.
I felt that the acting of most of the performers was pretty blah and uninspired- especially John Hudson as Eric. I found his frightened running around and "scared face" during the climatic sequence to be overblown and hammy to the point of squealing like a pig. I did however, like the performance given by director Alex Nicol as Mickey, the mentally unstable gardener. I got the impression that the characters of Reverend and Mrs. Snow were simply there to give Jenni and Eric someone to explain plot points to.
As for the Screaming Skull itself? Less than frightening, I'll admit- especially when you can see the wire that's rigged to move the skull.
When all is said and done, even though I DID derive some enjoyment from "The Screaming Skull", I'm going to have to place it in "The Ugly"