One of the best sequences of THE SKULL (1965) is the extended dream sequence. Director Freddie Francis handles the transition from reality to fantasy so skillfully that the audience is not even aware of the fact that they are watching a dream. Sooner than rely on distortion filters, a la Roger Corman, Francis lulls the viewer into a state of blissful ignorance as the protagonist, Professor Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing), drifts into unconsciousness and undergoes a strange and terrifying nightmare.
Francis’ background as a cinematographer is very evident in the film, which is handsomely photographed by John Wilcox in the widescreen Techniscope process. Using sound effects and Elisabeth Lutyens’ score to help build the mood, Francis conveys much through camera movements and artful compositions within the frame. Much like the rest of the film, there’s relatively little dialogue—and this is why the film remains the director’s best film: it is a work of pure cinema, allowing his strengths as a visual stylist to take center stage. For fans of Cushing and Christopher Lee, THE SKULL is a genuine treat: it’s creepy, stylish and quite unlike anything else from the golden age of British horror.
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A Visual Nightmare : The Skull