Friday, May 23, 2008

The Screaming Skull

The spotlight today is on: "The Screaming Skull." Prepare to be boned.

Movie blurb: "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 the producers feel it necessary to provide free burial services to anyone who dies of fright, while seeing The Screaming Skull!"

In 1958, American International released The Screaming Skull. This was the same year something else boney and screaming was released, namely me, from my mother's scary place. The movie's mystery is similar to "House on Haunted Hill" (which also had a cool movie poster), in that one wonders if the appearances are supernatural or part of a plan to scare the main female character. To it's credit, this movie keeps you guessing and then plays it both ways.
I scream, you scream, we all scream...

Peggy Webber portrays Jenni, the new bride of a man who had lost his first wife to a tragic, and suspicious, drowning accident. This film marks Alex Nicol's debut as a director, and he also portrays Mickey the caretaker. He should have stuck to the caretaker role and let someone else direct.

The best thing about this movie, as can be said about many, is the poster. Who wouldn't want to see a huge, floating, screaming skull (who happens to have bony hands also, so he's probably technically a skeleton) molesting a bra-clad woman in her bed? That would be scary. Or at least, entertaining.
Jenni was shocked to see that the skull had eaten all of her stashed "Screaming Yellow Zonkers."

Unfortunately, in the movie all we see is an ordinary skull that keeps popping up here and there to un-nerve the mentally tormented heroine. Of course, that alone would reduce most people to a quivering mess, but eventually you'd get used to it and move it aside to get the peanut butter.

And although it does eventually scream, the audience is already screaming, for their money back. The MST3K version is the best one to watch in order to really enjoy this movie. You might make it through the original once, but the "misty" version is the one you can come back to and watch again and again. It's a perfect Halloween party movie.
Jenni in a calmer, reflective moment between skulls.

To be fair, Peggy Webber fit the mold of the 50's horror-movie female... with the bullet bra and tight sweaters and dresses, she added some erotic visual interest that kept the adolescents riveted. Even today, the scene of her undressing down to her bra is more of a turn-on than the artificially-inflated plastic barbies of today's films.

It's the premise, the poster, and really the title alone, that sold this movie. The very idea of a disembodied skull, appearing in the night over your bed, was enough to return you to your younger days of bedwetting. Too bad the movie didn't live up to it.

But another one was coming, that would. We'll talk about that one soon.

The image and title probably sold this book too.

Here's the story that the above book headlines.
It's has little in common with the movie, which is a good thing: it could actually give you goosebumps if you read it late at night with most of the lights off. The only thing it has in common is the title, which someone in Hollywood obviously thought would make a good poster.

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