The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1960)

Article #982 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-22-2003
Posting Date: 4-20-2004
Directed by Edward Cahn
Featuring Henry Daniell, Valerie French, Grant Richards

When a man dies suddenly and his body turns up at his funeral missing its head, his brother fears he was the victim of an ancestral curse and that he will be next.

I just barely remember watching this movie as a kid on my local creature feature, but about the only thing I could remember about it for years was the title and the vision of skulls floating through the air. I think part of the reason I didn’t remember anything else was because the somewhat lethargic pace had me drifting in and out of sleep, and the most grotesque sequence in which we see the steps undertaken to create a shrunken head (this was fairly explicit for its time) was removed from that print. Despite its pace and occasional omissions in storytelling (I never really heard a good explanation as to what brought on the ancestral curse), this is sporadically effective, partially because it is effectively lurid in its way and partially because it never quite turns into the voodoo movie it so much resembles in other ways. Henry Daniell is the villain (this is established early enough that it isn’t giving much away) and Paul Wexler (who looks just a little like Christopher Lee here) is the South American Indian assistant with his mouth sewn shut.


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