Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bored Out of "The Skull"

This special Halloween installment of Mis-Treatments detours from my cheesy Sci-Fi box to a movie that I actually deliberately bought: the 1965 thriller The Skull.

I first saw The Skull sometime in the 1980s; it must have been on Elvira: Mistress of the Dark or as a late movie on some independent TV station (remember those?). Ever since, it has been one of my favorite bad movies, and it has probably been at least 15 years since I saw it last. It came out on DVD earlier this year, so how could I resist? (I actually like this movie and I am only slightly ashamed to admit that.) Welcome to this week’s Mis-Treatment: The Skull.

Previous entries in this series are:
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
The Wasp Woman
The Horrors of Spider Island
The Atomic Brain
The Amazing Transparent Man
She Gods of Shark Reef
Moon of the Wolf
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Queen of the Amazons
The Incredible Petrified World
The Skull (1965)
Auteur/Perpetrator: Freddie Francis (sorry, you lose all horror cred when you have a ludicrously alliterative name)
Star(s) of Shame: Peter Cushing looking only slightly less cadaverous than he did in Star Wars 12 years later; a young, hunky Christopher Lee if such a thing could be said to be possible), with far less hair than he had as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings movies
Monster: Demonically possessed and oddly ambulatory skull of the Marquis de Sade
“Plot”: A British collector of bizarre crap is stalked by the skull of the Marquis de Sade, which drives him to murder...or something vaguely like it

One basic problem with the movie—aside from the fact that it really is quite dull—is that it is based on the premise that the Marquis de Sade was demonically possessed and was evil. While it’s true that the word “sadism” was derived from his title (his full name was Donatien-Alphonse-Fran├žois, Comte [or “Count”] de Sade), and he did have a bizarre fetish for inflicting pain as part of his prodigious sexual proclivities, he wasn’t really evil, just a major pervert. In “literary” (and one uses the term loosely) circles, he is known for the novel Justine, which I have thankfully never read but which I understand is some kind of Family Ties fan fiction featuring Justine Bateman (damn Wikipedia). I guess De Sade’s Tina Yothers fan fiction has been lost to the ages, for which we should all be happy.

Anyway, De Sade was notorious for all sorts of perverted sexual acts and he was variously imprisoned and thrown in a mental asylum because of them. There is no evidence in any of his writings that he ever had any particular interest in Satanism (he admitted to being an atheist which, despite the belief of some, is not the same thing), or that he ever had Lucifer on his speed dial. De Sade also never killed anyone, which I guess would ruin it even for him. But then one questions how a decapitated skull could indulge in the activities for which the Marquis was notorious, since a skull by its very anatomical nature lacks the, um, pertinent parts. Still, this was 1965 and it was a good excuse to have a disembodied skull flying around horribly overdecorated English sitting rooms, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain.

The movie opens, as any self-respecting horror movie should, with a prologue set in a cemetery, where a cat meows and an iron gate blows in the wind (huh?). Or was it the wind... Bwa-ha-ha!
The rattling of the gate annoys Pierre, who is very edgy when he is robbing graves. He and his partner unearth a coffin, although we don’t know whose it is (except if we read the back of the DVD case or had some vague idea of the premise of the movie). He forces open the coffin to reveal what I guess is the body of the Marquis de Sade, who has certainly seen better days. Try getting women now, pal. Heh.
Pierre can barely contain his glee, and he looks like a kid in a candy store, albeit an old kid in a horribly freakish candy store. He takes a shovel and plunges it downward, which I guess was supposed to convey that he had chopped the Marquis’ head off, but all that really happens is that an owl freaks out, jumps onto a tree branch, and starts meowing like a cat, for reasons passing understanding. I guess even the wildlife surrounding the Marquis de Sade is perverted in some way. (Did the cat and the owl, um...you know; owl and the pussycat indeed.) Now a distant wolf starts getting in on the action. A regular menagerie-a-trois we’ve got going on here; the Marquis would be proud (or something). Pierre skulks (skullks?) off carrying something wrapped up in a black cloth. I’m guessing it’s either the head of the corpse he just defiled or he’s going bowling. It could go either way at this point.

He returns to his cluttered house, gathers some bottles, and takes the head-in-bag into the bathroom. If he starts singing “Rubber Ducky You’re the One” I’m turning this off. However, the bathtub is occupied by who I assume is his mistress, proving that he has little in the way of taste. She kind of looks like Bob Costas in drag. Ugh. He asks what she is doing there; now wait: he just dug up the Marquis de Sade and someone needs to explain sex to him? Jeez. She tries being seductive, but he has his skull to think about, and he kicks her out. She reminds him that he gave her his key; I guess he never expected her to actually use it. He says, “Not now. I’ve got to be alone tonight.” And then he disappears into the bathroom. Ah, now I understand: he had bad Chinese food for dinner. Been there...

In the bathroom, Pierre puts the severed head in the sink and pours various chemicals over it, presumably to remove the flesh. At least he’s not boiling it in a kitchenette in a Syracuse University dormitory.

Meanwhile, his mistress lies seductively on the bed eating a bowl of marshmallows. Huh? She lies back and utters a small moan. I guess this scene was targeted to the small demographic that is turned on by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. When you’re dealing with the Marquis de Sade, no fetish is too bizarre. Hm. Is her safe word “Fluffernutter”?

Meanwhile, in the bathroom (there’s a phrase one tries not to write too often), Pierre reaches into the sink and pulls out a nice, clean skull. I hope he rinsed it off, or the flesh on his hands will dissolve, and then there will be a disembodied skeletal hand creeping around in addition to the skull. But that’s a whole other movie.
On the bed, Marshmallow Girl (I’m guessing her name is Marsha?) calls out to Pierre, and she dashes to the bathroom door. Barging into the bathroom, she screams, although we don’t know why, but can take any number of good guesses. We zoom into the skull sitting on a marble table and the titles start zooming out of its eye socket.
Christopher Lee is credited as “guest star.” How does a movie have a guest star? Was this actually a long-running TV series? (“Next week on ‘The Skull,’ Peter breaks mom’s favorite skull while playing basketball in the house”...”Next week on ‘The Skull,’ Rockford and the severed head of the Marquis de Sade play a deadly game of cat and mouse”...“Next week on ‘The Skull,’ Benson, Mrs. Kraus, and the severed skull of the Marquis de Sade get trapped in a meat locker and reevaluate their relationship...”) We also learn that this movie was based on a story by Robert Bloch, a somewhat popular horror writer famous for the book that Psycho was based on, as well as a couple of Star Trek episodes (including the one where Scotty is accused of being Jack-the-Ripper).

And we jump out of the titles to purportedly to an auction in present-day London where Christopher Lee has just successfully bid on about £90 worth of books. We pan over and land on Peter Cushing. I thought I smelled his foul stench when I started this movie. He was perhaps hoping a Death Star was on the auction block, but no such luck. Behind him, Anthony Marco inhales a large quantity of snuff. Don’t tell me this is going to be a snuff film.

On the auction block, four freakish figures are up for bid. They represent, the auctioneer tells us, the hierarchies of hell. I didn’t know hell was quite so organized. (But then after Q4 sales dropped, there was a reorg and Beelzebub replaced Lucifer as VP of Marketing. The Prince of the Fallen Cherubim was given his pink slip.) Christopher Lee is visibly upset, likely because at various points in his career he has played all of those characters. Peter Cushing (his character name is Chris Maitland) and Christopher Lee (Matthew Phillips) get into a bidding war for the evil figures; Lee gets stuck with them with his bid of £1500. There’s a sucker (and an evil one, too) born every minute.
Afterward, Maitland asks Phillips why he paid so much for them; Maitland admits he only wanted them “because they would go well with my collection.” I’m guessing it’s not a collection of Star Wars action figures. Phillips has no idea why he wanted them so badly. Some people are just shopoholics. I’ve known women who reacted the same way around shoes, and many of those shoes were no less evil.

Meanwhile, Snuff Man (Marco) pays a visit to Maitland’s house. He is greeted by Mrs. Maitland (Jane), whose face looks like she was the survivor of a terrible trash compactor incident.
In Maitland’s drawing room, he certainly has enough crap. His whole house looks rather like Sir John Soane’s Museum. I wonder if he has a crypt in the basement. Maitland’s wife obviously doesn’t like Marco; she’s acting like Darth Vader. She asks Maitland why he puts up with him. “I need research materials and he is the only one who can get them for me.” What, dare I ask, is he researching? Giant planet-destroying space stations? Jane is frightened of Marco. “It’s because people all through the ages have been influenced, and terrorized, by these things that I carry out research to try and find the reasons why. It’s all part of the unknown, and the unknown is always intriguing.” Um, what are you talking about? It’s a smarmy guy in your foyer holding a shopping bag, not one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Marco is ushered into the Crap Room, and tells Maitland that he has something “choice” to sell him: a book entitled The Life of the Notorious Marquis de Sade. “A man who has become a symbol of the cruelty and savagery that is in all of us.” He has?
Marco then provides a short biography of the Marquis. “There were rumors that he dabbled in sorcery, making sacrifices of blood to his master, the devil.” No, there really weren’t. Even Wikipedia doesn’t mention that. “A most interesting man. A most interesting book.” Marco asks £200 for it; Maitland scoffs, but then Marco points out that it is bound in human skin. (Now there’s a product an service differentiator for today’s commercial printers. Try that, Amazon Kindle.) Maitland asks Marco where he got the book; presumably not on eBay (although one never knows) and Marco points out that Maitland has never been so particular before, and takes a tour of the various items in the room, a shriveled hand here, a knife owned by the wife-murderer Bluebeard there. (Make note of the knife; we’ll be seeing it again.) “You didn’t ask about their pedigree.” “I needed them for my work.” What work, I again ask, not sure I want to know. ”Yes,” says Marco, “demonology, black magic, witchcraft.” Oh, he works on Wall Street. Now I get it.

Maitland opens a wall safe located behind some false books on his shelf and takes out £200. He closes the safe. You know, it would be a lot more secure if you couldn’t actually see the safe when the false books were in front of it. Doh! “By the way,” adds Marco on the way out, “I may have ‘another item’ for you....I think you’ll find what I have for you is ‘most interesting.’” The location of the secret Rebel base? Nah, no such luck. But I wonder what it could be. Really, I am in complete suspense. Or something.

We then dissolve to Marco’s flat, and I am sure I do not want a peek into this guy’s personal life. And, what a surprise, his place is full of arcane crap. Man, who was the set designer for this movie, Charles Addams? Marco enters, sniffs some more snuff, counts his money, then goes to the closet, where the skull is sitting on the top shelf. He takes it down, smiles admiringly at it, then kisses it. Now we’re getting into a whole weird area.
The next night, Marco takes the skull round to Maitland’s. Maitland admits that he enjoyed the book Marco brought round the previous night. “I hope what you’ve brought me this evening is just as interesting.” He then takes out the skull, and you know he’s dying to say “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio. A man of infinite jest.” Well, in the case of the Marquis de Sade, infinite something. Not sure “jest” would be the right term. Infinite “ewwwww” maybe. “So small and delicate,” says Marco. Are skulls really all that delicate? “And all I’m asking is £1,000.” Seems like rather a bargain. I mean, Christopher Lee had paid £500 more than that for those lame devil statues.

Maitland is aghast. “A thousand pounds?! For a human skull?” He’s right, you know. You can get a whole pallet full of human skulls for half that at Sam’s Club. Marco is insulted. “Do you think I would bring you an ordinary human skull? Do you think I’d ask you for a thousand pounds for the skull of a nobody?” This isn’t the skull of some Joe the Plumber (it’s probably a lot more capacious, with less bone). He is proud of his wares, I’ll give him that. “Marco, I wouldn’t pay that price for Napoleon’s skull,” says Maitland. What about for Carrie Fisher’s?

Marco puts the skull down on the desk. “You see before you the skull of Donatien Alphonse Fran├žois—Marquis de Sade.” That, and the musical sting, get Maitland’s attention. Naturally, Maitland would like some proof. Marco grabs a Havelock Ellis book (Skulls in Relation to Society, perhaps) from the bookshelf, and relates the story of the prologue of the movie. The Marquis de Sade’s skull was stolen by a phrenologist (you know, someone who believed the bumps on one’s head were some kind of indication of mental health) who wanted to study the skull to see if the Marquis was truly insane. Now, we’re back to Marshmallow Girl barging into the bathroom, and this time we see what she screamed about: Pierre dead in the bathtub. Well, most accidents do happen at home. We zoom back to the skull on the marble table—oh, no, the movie is starting again! Are the titles going to come out of its eye sockets again?

Fortunately, no, Marco continues. The executor of Pierre’s estate—Dr. Londe—is muttering to himself and puttering around Pierre’s house cataloging bizarre items. The woman returns, and she asks if Pierre had bequeathed to her all his marshmallows. The executor asks her who she is, and she giggles. OK, then. She mentions that Pierre had brought “something” back with him the night he was killed. “It changed him. Made him evil.” Why, because he kicked her out of his house for one night out of how many? That’s not really evil. Rude, yes, but hardly evil.

The executor mutters and putters some more. He holds up a freakish blue head with enormous ears; “wonderful, just wonderful.” A fine arbiter of taste he is. He comes across the skull and cavalierly tosses it onto a couch. The skull is not happy about that, and transports itself instantly to the mantlepiece, where it sits next to a black raven. This is turning into a weird Poe poem all of a sudden. The executor is bemused (or horrified, it’s hard to tell) and the skull silently forces him to grab a letter opener... Meanwhile, Marshmallow Girl emerges from the bathroom and starts packing her stuff into a wicker box. She grabs a marshmallow from the bed and disgustedly throws it away. How fickle! Well, maybe she’s moved on to Circus Peanuts. Behind her, the executor sneaks up and plunges the letter opener into her back. No more marshmallows for her. And we get the first Skullcam, where we see out of the eye and nose sockets of the skull. Which is very realistic, because when I see things, I can always see the edges of my eye sockets and even my nostrils. My optometrist can’t explain it.
Marco finishes up his story while we get Skullcam 2 looking at him and Maitland. “Dr. Londe could not explain his action to the police. To all their questions, he merely replied ‘The skull, the skull.’” I’ve taken tests like that.

Maitland is still skeptical. Marco appeals to his own reputation of not purveying fake items. Marco is easily talked down to £500. Maitland accuses him of having stolen the skull. Maitland needs some time to think it over, and Marco gives him his card. “If you change your mind, come round tomorrow night.”

Some time later, Maitland is playing billiards at Christopher Lee’s place. Maitland tells him about the offer of the skull—and Christopher Lee knows the skull is authentic “because, my dear fellow, it was stolen from me.” It turns out that he is glad that the skull has been stolen; he thinks it is “dangerous.” Lee cites as evidence that De Sade said that he wasn’t mad, but Lee believes instead that he had been “worse than mad: possessed...possessed by an evil spirit, a spirit which still inhabits the skull.” He goes on to tell Maitland that he kept the skull in a locked glass case in his library, and once a month, during the two nights of the new moon—the time of devil worship and black magic (it is?)—he found that the skull had been “removed” by invisible beings that would use its power. “Sometimes, I would even hear them calling me to join them in their ceremonies.” Yeah; uh huh.

Maitland says that he would jump at the chance to cavort with the evil ones, especially Dark Lords of the Sith; “It would make a great chapter in one of my books.” Christopher Lee chides him for being so cavalier about evil. Lee knew that if he set foot in the same room as the skull, “I would do whatever the skull wanted me to do.” He then points out the evil statues he had bought at the auction, and recalls that he was unsure why he had bought them. “Why did you?” Maitland asks. “Because the skull wanted me to,” he replies. Yep; you can imagine him continuing, “And when I’m at the grocery store, the skull makes me buy M&Ms, Snickers Bars, potato chips, and pint after pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream.” Come on, Chris; we’ve all used that excuse before!

Maitland is having none of it. But Christopher Lee says, “Keep away from the skull of the Marquis de Sade.” You know, not many people know this, but that was the original lyric to the Beach Boys’ song “Runaround Sue.”

We dissolve again to Marco’s hovel, and Mr. Snuffleupagus takes another snort. No one does snuff anymore, do they? I guess we should be thankful. He goes to the closet, and the skull is gone. He turns around, and—dah!—the skull is right behind him, being held by the apartment house’s caretaker. “Is this what you’re looking for?” Come on: just one “Alas, poor Yorick.” Please please please! Oh, you’re no fun, movie. Marco asks where the landlord got the skull. “In the ’all,” is the Cockney-esque reply. “In the broom cupboard.” He hands the skull back. “If you can’t keep your pets inside your own apartment, you won’t be allowed to keep any!” is what you would expect the response to be. As the caretaker leaves, he asks if any of the junk in the apartment is worth anything. Apparently, it is not. “Anyone’d have to be barmy to collect things like this.” He does have a point.

Back at Maitland’s place, he sits down with the Marquis de Sade’s book and reads into the night, and we pan over the assortment of crap in his house, most of it involving weird, distorted heads of various kinds. I swear I saw a Mrs. Butterworth syrup bottle in there somewhere, but perhaps it was just a trick of the light. There is a strange montage and some odd music on the soundtrack, which is interrupted by a knock at the door. In walk two be-trenchcoated and be-fedoraed figures who abruptly announce that they are the police and that Maitland is under arrest and escort him out. This next bit is rather confusing, and it’s unclear if it’s a dream, or a skull-induced nightmare, or actually happening. The drive to the police station takes place in uncomfortable silence. However, when they arrive, Maitland says, “But this isn’t the police station.” We are not sure where it is, and Maitland is tossed unceremoniously into what at first seems to be a bare room but as we pull back we see that at the far end sits a judge, whose desk is full of more arcane statuary and curios. Man, does everyone in London have a weird statuary and curio fetish? And they say the Marquis de Sade was mad.

The judge glowers at Maitland, who insists on being told why he was brought there. The two “police” men clop over (everyone in this movie sounds like they are wearing giant tap shoes), hand Maitland a gun, and force him to play Russian roulette or the planet Alderaan will be destroyed. “Would you prefer another target, a military target? Then name the system!” That gets the judge nowhere, ironically. Anyway, the judge starts making strange hand signals. At one point, it looks like Maitland is being signaled to steal third base, but I could be reading that wrong. Maitland wins (he would have to, as the movie is only half over), and the judge grabs the gun, fires it, then laughs maniacally. Maitland then finds himself alone in a blood red corridor. The corridor has a series of vents, each of which spews out some kind of thick smoke which quickly fills the room. It also appears as if the walls are closing in, kind of like the trash compactor on the Death Star, now that I think about it. Through the smoke, the skull looms toward him. I think the lesson here is not to eat a Pizza Hut Super Supreme pizza right before bedtime.
Maitland claps his hands over his eyes as the skull bears down on him (it would be one hell of a head butt, I’ll give it that) and when he opens his eyes again, he is safe...but in a strange building. He walks down to the street level and discovers that he is in Marco’s apartment building. Hmm. I think I’d rather be in the smoky corridor with the skull. So would Maitland it would appear, and he goes home rather quickly. His wife is asleep on the couch, and he is pleased to see her. She fixes him a drink, and asks where he has been. He tells her he had a terrifying dream and woke up in Marco’s rooming house. His wife ain’t buying it. She goes to bed and sleeps fitfully. Maitland gets money out of the not-well-hidden safe and decides to pop by Marco’s—even though it is something like three in the morning. You know what they say: the skull never sleeps.

Maitland knocks on Marco’s door, and there is no answer. He tries the knob, and the door is unlocked. The room is dark and seems devoid of life—but then it did even when Marco was there. Maitland struts around like he owns the place, and opens the closet. A black mummified figure flops out and falls to the floor. Kind of like Fibber McGee’s closet, only weirder. He reaches up and grabs the skull and makes for the door. As the door swings away from the wall, Marco’s body flops onto the floor. Maitland isn’t sure what to do; he is clutching the skull like a football and looks like he’s about to run downfield with it at any moment. He goes out into the hall and stashes the skull in a closet, then returns to Marco’s room and calls the police.

Maitland’s story to the grouchy inspector is that he had come by to pick up a rare volume that Marco had, he found Marco dead, and called the police. Not too far off. The doctor is about to say something interesting about the body, but the caretaker arrives and interrupts. The doctor then himself interrupts—“Do you have a pet, a large dog perhaps?” The caretaker says they don’t allow them, then is quickly ushered out by the inspector, obviously an animal lover. The inspector is mad at the doctor, “Doctor, what do animals have to do with this?” he asks testily. Jeepers, give your own forensic examiner a chance, would you? “His jugular vein was bitten...clean through,” says the doctor. So nyah. So the skull bites. That could be the tagline for this movie.

We cut to Christopher Lee’s house, and a closeup of his clock. Hm. Could that be considered a Dooku clock? He is telling Maitland that the previous night was the first night of the new moon. (How many new moons a month are there in this movie?) That is, the first night of the evil skull-induced rituals. That means that tonight is the second night (you can’t put anything over on him). “If you have the skull,” says Christopher Lee, “get rid of it.” He then gives Maitland some kind of gold sphere on a chain—“protection against the skull, against the evil worshippers.” Maitland humors him. You know this won’t end well.

Maitland sneaks back to Marco’s building and retrieves the skull from the closet. The caretaker catches him in the act and asks if he is stealing something. “No, this belongs to me.” The caretaker doesn’t believe him and there is a slight altercation which is ended when the skull (maybe?) forces the caretaker to fall over a railing and plummet down a stairwell through two stained glass sky lights to his doom. Maitland isn’t all that broken up about it.

He goes home and locks the skull in a glass display case. Yeah, that’ll hold it. He takes out the talisman Christopher Lee gave him: the sphere actually opens up into a cross. It’s always crucifixes that thwart evil in these movies, but I wonder if any religious iconography would do. For example, what if he had a Star of David: would that work? Or a gold Buddha statue? Or a Navajo sand painting? What about a copy of the collected works of L. Ron Hubbard? I gotta know.

Later that night, instead of turning on the lights, he lights a bunch of candles in the skull room—I guess to really ratchet up the creepy factor. He then retires for the night (so was he lighting the candles for the benefit of the skull and/or the invisible evil worshippers?). You know how in the 1950s and 60s, married couples on TV and in the movies couldn’t be shown sleeping in the same bed? I guess in Britain, they couldn’t even be shown sleeping in the same room, because Maitland has his own bedroom and his wife’s bed is not much wider than an army cot. I guess it’s not so strange that they have no children and Maitland has a kooky skull obsession. Maitland slips into a smoking jacket and returns to the skull room—watched by the Skullcam. He spends the night staring at the skull. I think he needs a television.

The wind blows the window open, the curtains flutter, and the skull unlocks the cabinet. It clears off a round table and floats over to it. Maitland watches this all pretty calmly. The Marquis de Sade book then floats off the bookshelf and settles next to the skull. We get Skullcam perspective again, and even when Maitland stands up, the Skullcam pans up to follow him, even as the skull stays still on the table.
Maitland puts on a trenchcoat and leaves the house. We dissolve to a closeup of Christopher Lee’s Dooku clock, and Maitland breaking into the house. He is after the evil statues. Christopher Lee catches him, and warns him again to get rid of the skull. Maitland is sick of hearing about it, so he smashes Christopher Lee over the head with the Lucifer statue, and Lee collapses onto the pool table, scattering the billiard balls. It was a nice break, I have to give him that.

Maitland returns home with the statue, and the skull is waiting for him, like a faithful dog. Maitland places the statue next to the skull and the book, and it does make for a nice still life. Maitland then discovers there is blood on his gloves, although it could just as easily be marinara sauce or even red wine. For all he remembers, the skull sent him out for a lovely Italian meal and not to kill Christopher Lee and steal his devil statue.

Suddenly, the skull has drawn a pentagram around itself on the table with chalk or White Out or something (I hope it comes off; that’s a nice table). Maitland is under the skull’s control, it would appear, and he is sent right to the Bluebeard wife-murderer knife we saw earlier.

You know what playwright Anton Chekhov once said,: “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.” But then of course, Pavel Chekov once said, “If you mention nuclear wessels in one movie, you must maintain a ridiculous Russian accent for the rest of your career.” Points to ponder. But not for too long.

Anyway, Maitland grabs the knife and heads to his wife’s room. It’s actually rather convenient how the skull magically opens all the doors for him. I wouldn’t mind owning the possessed skull of the Marquis de Sade just for that alone. It would be a great help when carrying in groceries. He is about to stab his wife as she sleeps, but at that moment she rolls over, bringing the crucifix she wears around her neck into view. That, happily, prevents Maitland from stabbing her. It’s a good thing for her that he’s not Richard Dawkins. He tries to flee the room, but the skull has locked the door. He runs out through his own room and ends up back in the skull room. He tosses away the knife and is about to clout the skull with the evil statue, but I guess thinks better of it. He locks both the statue and the skull in the cabinet, blows out the candles, takes the key to the cabinet, and wraps Christopher Lee’s talisman around the latch. “That’s enough shenanigans from you, Christopher Michael Skull” he chides. He stalks out of the room and for good measure the skull magically smashes the mirror on the wall as he passes. The skull is not happy. Maitland retreats to his bedroom and takes off his bloody gloves. He looks in on his wife, who I guess could have slept through the London Blitz.

He collapses on he bed and starts weeping—yep, skull remorse. We’ve all been there.

Meanwhile, the skull is pissed, and is open for business. The wind bursts open the window again, and the skull relights the candles and bursts through the glass case. It is back in its pentagram. It calls to Maitland, and is now pretty insistent about him obeying. He is dragged downstairs for a face-to-skull meeting. I’ve had jobs like this. He retrieves the knife, stands with it, torn over what to do next. He can’t stop thinking about his wife’s crucifix and then, for some reason, he looks over at the display case, and the metal sphere of Christopher Lee’s anti-skull talisman suddenly opens into a cross. That tears it—Maitland drives the knife right into one of the skull’s eye sockets. Oh, that’s going to go over well.
Wisely, he beats cheeks out of there. Now the skull is really pissed. The knife is suddenly gone from the skull’s eye socket, but when Maitland walks into his bedroom, he sees the knife sticking out of his pillow. That’s not good. He tries to leave but is locked in his room. “Jane!” he yells, pounding on his wife’s bedroom door. Good luck waking her up.

The house starts shaking. He keeps yelling and pounding the door. “Jane! Stop this crazy thing!”

Now, the skull comes looking for him. It lifts up off its table and flies through the house. Suddenly, it is in his room. Gulp! As it heads toward him, you can’t help but wonder why he just doesn’t cut the strings that are holding it up, which are clearly visible. There is a lesson for us all: you buy a cursed skull, there will always be strings attached. As Skullcam zooms in on Maitland screaming, we fade to black. He’s dead, Jim.

The next morning, the room is trashed. His wife stirs in bed; oh, so she’s finally up, and at the crack of noon, too? She notices the wall hangings are askew, and charges into Maitland’s room: there he is, lying on the bed, his neck ripped open, and the skull sitting on the foot of the bed with bloodstained teeth. (This is why I will never get a pet.) She screams.

The inspector is back, investigating. He examines the skull room and the broken display case. The doctor comes in and explains that Maitland’s neck was ripped open, “just like in the Marco case.” “What’s the connection?” asks the inspector. “What connection could there be?” asks the doctor. “Witchcraft?” We pan down to the skull, sitting in its pentagram on the table. “Hardly,” says the inspector, and through the Skullcam we hear him say, “Not in this day and age....Not in this day and age.” Right.
Close up of skull, run end titles.

The end.

You know, I was in Costco the other day, and they had on sale a dozen possessed skulls for $19.99. Well, how could I refuse? The Marquis de Sade’s skull wasn’t included, but there were some other skulls that kept me up for several successive new moons.

The Marquess of Queensberry’s skull used its pyschic ablity to get me to break into other people’s homes and start boxing with them.

While taking Bob Denver’s skull out of the packaging, I was struck by lightning, and the skull fused to my hand. Thus, whenever I gesticulated or tried to put my hand down on a table or sleep in hammock suspended over the Skipper’s hammock, injury and destruction were the results, to hilarious effect.

Julia Child’s skull insisted on being boiled in a heavy cream sauce, with plenty of cooking sherry, until it finally fell off the counter and rolled around on the kitchen floor, giggling.

Every time I took the skull of Pope Gregory XIII out of the box, nothing really happened, but it was suddenly 11 days later.

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