The Screaming Skull
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|The Screaming Skull|
film poster by Albert Kallis
|Directed by||Alex Nicol|
|Produced by||John Kneubuhl
T. Frank Woods
|Written by||John Kneubuhl|
|Music by||Ernest Gold|
|Editing by||Betty J. Lane|
|Distributed by||American International Pictures|
|Release dates||January 1958|
|Running time||68 mins.|
- For the nickname of the conductor, see Georg Solti
The Screaming Skull is a 1958 American psychological horror film, inspired by the short story of the same name written by Francis Marion Crawford. The film stars John Hudson, Peggy Webber, Russ Conway, and Alex Nicol, the film's director. The film focuses on a neurotic woman who believes she is being haunted by the ghost of her husband's previous wife.
The film was featured and parodied in episodes of the television shows Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The New Uncle Gregory Horror Hour.
The Screaming Skull opens with a disclaimer that the film "reaches its climax in shocking horror"; American International Pictures promises free burial services to anyone who dies of fright while watching the film.
The narrative portion of the film begins as newlyweds Jenni and Eric (Webber and Hudson) move into Eric's palatial country home. Jenni is Eric's second wife; his first wife Marion died when she accidentally slipped and hit her head on the edge of a decorative pond on the estate. At the home they meet Eric's friends, the Reverend Snow (Conway) and his wife, as well as Mickey (Nicol), the aloof gardener. Eric privately mentions to the Snows that Jenni spent time in an asylum following the sudden death of both her parents.
Jenni is disturbed both by Mickey's belief that Marion's ghost wanders the estate and by Marion's self-portrait inside the house, who Jenni believes resembles her mother. When she begins to hear unexplained screaming noises and see skulls around her house, Jenni begins to believe that Marion is haunting her. Though Eric speculates to Jenni that Mickey, who was a childhood friend of Marion and thus dislikes Jenni, may be behind the trickery, Jenni worries that she is going insane. Eric then suggests to remove Marion's self-portrait from the home. Eric and Jenni take the painting outside and burn it. While they clean up the remains of the painting, a skull emerges from the ashes. While Jenni panics at the sight of the skull, Eric denies that the skull is there. Jenni faints and Eric withdraws the skull and hides it, revealing that he was responsible for the trickery all along in an effort to get hold of her wealth.
Believing she has finally lost her sanity, Jenni resolves to be committed. She tells Eric that the entire property will be meticulously searched for the skull as a last resort. Before Eric can retrieve it, Mickey secretly steals the skull and brings it to the Reverend, revealing Eric's plans. That night, Eric prepares to murder Jenni and stage it as a suicide. Jenni sees Marion's ghost in Mickey's greenhouse and flees back to the house. When she enters, Eric begins throttling her. The ghost then appears and chases Eric outside and about the property; it finally corners and attacks him, drowning him in the decorative pond.
After Jenni regains consciousness, the Snows arrive. Mrs. Snow comforts a hysterical Jenni and the Reverend discovers Eric's body in the pond. Some undisclosed time later, Jenni and the Snows depart from the house. Reverend Snow declares whether or not Marion's death was an accident will remain a mystery.
- John Hudson as Eric Whitlock
- Peggy Webber as Jenni Whitlock
- Russ Conway as Reverend Edward Snow
- Tony Johnson as Mrs. Snow
- Alex Nicol as Mickey