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The Screaming Skull (1958)

Public Domain Movie: The Screaming Skull (1958)

Directed by Alex Nicol

The Screaming Skull begins by showing the viewer a coffin, the idea being that it is reserved for them, just in case they die of fright while they are watching the movie.

According to the narrator’s introductory speech:

“The Screaming Skull is a motion picture that reaches its climax in shocking horror. Its impact is so terrifying that it may have an unforeseen effect. It may kill you. Therefore, its producers feel they must assure free burial services to anyone who dies of fright while seeing The Screaming Skull.”

So there you have it. Don’t say that you have not been warned. But is it really so terrifying? No, not at all, but it is pretty good and should appeal to anyone who enjoys old horror movies.

The central characters are newlyweds Eric and Jenni Whitlock. Eric is a widower and, two years after the death of his first wife, he has returned to his former home and brought Jenni with him. It is a large house surrounded by a lovely garden where peacocks roam the lawns and frogs croak in the pond. Such a big garden is a lot of work, but fortunately they have a good gardener. His name is Mickey and although he is a little mentally challenged he knows his stuff and treats the garden almost like a shrine to Mary Whitlock. Mickey loved her very much. His father used to be the gardener there when Mary’s parents were alive and he and she grew up together.

Eric and Jenni are very happy at first, but then strange things begin to happen. Jenni hears screams in the night and soon finds herself haunted by a skull. The first time it appears Eric is away on business and she is awoken in the night by a scream. She rushes to an empty room that has a view of the lawn and looks out. Seeing the peacocks on the lawn she breathes a sigh of relief, believing that they made the noise. Then a cupboard door swings open and the skull is inside it. Jenni throws it out of the window, but a little later she hears banging on the front door and when she opens it she sees the skull at her feet. Then it she who is doing the screaming and, one way or another, she ends up doing a lot more screaming before the end of the film.

The Screaming Skull has a runtime of about 67 minutes and although it starts off a little slow it gradually picks up pace and is rather spooky towards the end. In one scene Jenni is wandering in the garden at night, looking for Mickey. She has doubts about her sanity, is returning to the sanatorium in the morning, and wants to say goodbye to him before she leaves. She cannot find Mickey, but she does find the former Mrs Whitlock waiting for her in the potting shed, which gives  her something else to scream about.

Viewers who are looking for a high octane movie crammed with special effects may find this one a little disappointing, but viewers who enjoy old-fashioned chillers with a classic feel will probably enjoy watching The Screaming Skull.


    John Hudson     ...     Eric Whitlock
    Peggy Webber    ...    Jenni Whitlock
    Russ Conway    ...     Reverend Edward Snow
    Tony Johnson    ...     Mrs. Snow
    Alex Nicol          ...     Mickey  

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