Spoiler Alert: I intend to give away all major plot points in the movie The Screaming Skull. Oh, and at least one in Gaslight.
I don’t know that the warning was necessary, especially for The Screaming Skull. I mean, you pretty much see it coming. As for Gaslight, if you have not seen it, go watch it to see how it’s done. Then come back and read this post, and/or watch The Screaming Skull, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Where was I? Ah yes, popping in a cheesy movie, because after yesterday’s post I didn’t think I should go for a Middle-aged Musings Monday. Also, the Snapped episodes were all re-runs we have seen many times. Once again we pulled out the 50 Horror Classics DVD set I gave Steven for his birthday. I gotta say, I meant it as a present for him, but it’s really a present for me. Look at all the fun blog posts I’ve gotten to write out of it!
Steven thought we had seen The Screaming Skull (1958) before. I remembered that we had, but it was on an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. So I said we could now watch it without the robot heads (if you don’t get the robot heads reference, I urge you to check out MST 3000; episodes are available on DVD).
As the movie begins, a man brings his new wife to the estate of his dead wife. It is a beautiful estate with peacocks on the lawn and extensive gardens. The gardens are important, because they are maintained by a half-wit gardener who may or may not be aware that the first wife is dead.
The house itself is kind of eerie. There’s no furniture, because the dead wife got rid of it, saying she and the husband would buy all new and make it their own home. But she died before they made it to Raymour and Flanagan. There is a portrait of the dead wife in which she looks a little wild eyed. She was good friends with the gardener, we find out. He is the son of her (dead) parents’ (dead) gardener, and they were brought up almost as brother and sister.
The gardener is creepy, but the new wife wants to make friends. She suggests they take flowers to the dead wife’s grave, which, not surprisingly, is also creepy. The gravestone has a face carved in it, presumably of the dead wife, although I could detect no similarity between it and the portrait. Difference between two mediums, I suppose.
We also find out how the wife died. Apparently she was running in a rain storm, slipped on a leaf, hit her head, fell in the pond and drowned. Ah, with no witnesses. The base of her skull was crushed. Maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of Forensic Files, but that sounded suspicious to me. Actually, it sounded as if it was supposed to sound suspicious and was extremely heavy handed about it. I do hate a heavy handed plot point.
At this point I said to Steven (who was remembering the movie better than I did), “Oh, are they going to do a Gaslight thing and have the husband make the wife think she’s crazy?”
Big nod from Steven. He loves Gaslight, a truly well-done thriller. It’s not one I want to pop in very often, though, because I get too upset on Ingrid Bergman’s behalf.
It takes a long time for the skulls to show up, and the build-up is more boring than atmospheric (despite the creepy house, portrait, gardener and gravestone). We hear that the new wife had some mental problems due probably to the tragic deaths of her parents. I did not catch all of that back story, though, because I went out to the kitchen to make myself a snack (vanilla yoghurt with fresh blackberries and strawberries from the Ilion Farmer’s Market) (just to inject a little local color).
I think I missed one or two skulls, too, and I did not hear any of them screaming. Steven told me the skulls at the end screamed. Silly me, I thought that was the husband, getting his comeuppance at last (I really like that word comeuppance).
Looking back over what I’ve written, I see that I keep referring to skulls, plural, while the movie is call The Screaming Skull, singular. It appeared to me that there was more than one skull. On the other hand, there were never two skulls in the same shot, so maybe it was just one skull that got around.
I’m not sure if we were supposed to suspect the husband or the gardener right away. In a romance novel, the husband would have looked all kinds of suspicious and it would have ended up being the gardener or possibly the reverend and/or his wife. Or else the gardener would have been more gorgeous and more suspicious, and new wife would have ended up with him. I used to read a considerable number of romance novels.
The Screaming Skull clocks in at 68 minutes, which is probably the best thing you can say about it. Do I recommend you watch it? Let’s just say, if you want to see a good movie, watch Gaslight. If you want to impersonate a robot head, seek out The Screaming Skull.