The Screaming Skull (1958)

“The tortured ghost who claimed vengeance in the bride’s bedroom.” If you enjoy campy, extremely low-budget horror films as much as I do, then don’t miss the opportunity to check out The Screaming Skull, which opens with this rather sensationalistic disclaimer: “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 service to anyone who dies of fright while seeing The Screaming Skull” (along with a open casket that contains a sign reading “Reserved for You”). The story opens with “Eric Whitlock” (John Hudson) and his new wife, “Jenni” (Peggy Webber), moving into Eric’s rather dark, depressing and foreboding country estate where his first wife died in a freak accident (she slipped, hit her head on a concrete slab and drowned in a fish pond on the property). Jenni, who had apparently spent some time in a mental institution after the sudden death of her parents years earlier, soon comes to believe the mansion is haunted by the ghost of Eric’s former wife (she starts seeing skulls all over the place and hearing weird noises). Is Jenni truly insane or is someone trying to drive her mad? However, it’s Alex Nicol (who also directed the film) who steals the show as “Mickey,” the rather grubby and creepy half-witted gardener who seems kind of obsessed with Eric’s former wife to say the least. The film, which also stars Russ Conway as “Reverend Edward Snow” and Tony Johnson as “Mrs. Snow,” boasts a twist ending that you can probably see a mile away. If you get totally bored with this one I suggest you partake in the Mickey Drinking Game: Each time a character says “Mickey” you have to take a drink from the alcoholic beverage of your choice. You will most likely be totally hammered by the end of this 68-minute epic! Oh yeah, critic Leonard Maltin gave the film 1½ stars. What the hell does he know! The Screaming Skull was loosely based on a 1908 short story of the same name by Francis Marion Crawford (1854-1909).

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