• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

The Screaming Skull

TITLE: The Screaming Skull

YEAR: 1958

GENRE: Horror

Before the first overtly blood soaked horror film Blood Feast came out in 1963 the horror film relied more on a recipe of a heavy dose of a mystery element loaded with an extra helping of atmosphere to make the final product more intriguing and scary for the viewers. A good gimmick would also be used here and there, but atmosphere was the most effective way to create a great film and fill the seats of those local downtown theaters and drive-ins across America. Although one of the many 1950’s chillers that has been lampooned by “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, one of the better horror films in the years of poodle skirts and big tail fins would be The Screaming Skull due to its fantastic atmospheric sets and situations.

Eric Whitlock (John Hudson) is a recent widow who takes another wife Jenni (Peggy Webber) and together they move into his sprawling mansion that Eric and his first wife shared. Jenni discovers through stories from Reverend Edward Snow (Russ Conway) and his wife (Tony Johnson) that the wife died from accidentally smashing her head on a wall in her garden. Jenni has a history of mental instability, and the stories are unsettling to her. Jenni starts seeing some bizarre visions including a floating skull, and Jenni and her new husband believe that she is starting to lose her mind once again. Everybody believes that Mickey (Alex Nicol), the mentally slow gardener who had an obsession with the first wife, is playing mind games with Jenni so that he can have the maintenance of the garden to himself, but even more sinister intentions are at hand. Is there a real ghost?

“MST3K” is famous for having their robot hosts put the screws on some terrible movies, but they also took stabs at some pretty good films; remember, their full-length movie parodied This Island Earth which is considered by many as one of the great sci-fi films of all time. The Screaming Skull does have its lousy moments, but the atmosphere of the film which mostly consisted of a mostly empty old mansion, overgrown gardens, and a fairly consistent fog is fabulous. This setting combined with some sudden noises and genuinely creative filming make The Screaming Skull an enjoyable viewing. On the more voyeur side, Webber spends a lot of the time running around in a tight, sheer nightgown that displays her ample curves about as well as any 50’s B-movie would allow; the first Hollywood film with frontal nudity was 1963’s Promises! Promises! but The Screaming Skull did push the envelope with the nightgown a bit. The special effects are poor and consist of a rolling rubber skull and some super imposed skulls chasing around people so some moments will make people laugh at the effects, but they are honestly effective at times. The ending is a little hokey—okay, a lot hokey–with a more justice-oriented bad guy gets what he deserves ending that was pretty standard for those days, but the build-up to the climax is dramatic and generally well performed. The filming is hard to assess because The Screaming Skull is a public domain film and the print that Netflix distributes (a double feature with the abysmal The Werewolf Vs Vampire Woman) is terrible. The Screaming Skull is a perfect candidate for some small film company to re-master and clean up a print for B-movie fans to enjoy.

The Screaming Skull starts with a warning of the fright level of the film and actually promises a free casket to anybody who dies while watching the movie which is an interesting gimmick for the film. There are a fair amount of low budget cinema fans who fondly remember The Screaming Skull, and it is fair to understand why. Yes this film has its occasional stupid moments, but The Screaming Skull is a fun Saturday afternoon film that would be enjoyed by fans that enjoy a horror film with a quality atmosphere. This one is for fans who can take a film that is over 50 years old and enjoy it for what it is even if it comes across as silly by today’s standards.

* * *

–Mark

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