Night of the Skull (La Noche de los Asesinos) (Jesus Franco, 1973)

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nightofthesku
With the untimely passing (read: murder) of a Louisiana castle’s patriarch, all the gold digging family members show up for the reading of the will. Soon they start getting bumped off by a mysterious killer in a (albeit plenty cool) rubber skull mask according to a passage in “The Book of the Apocalypse” that apparently everyone worth their salt has memorized. Can the peeping tom and his partner the drunk from Scotland Yard (yes, Scotland Yard) unmask the killer before his dastardly plan comes to fruition?
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Ah Franco, I don’t know why but I love you so. Night of the Skull (or Assassins if you prefer) is one of Franco’s stronger outings most likely because of the source material it’s based off of.  Franco actually gave a shit when filming this, and it shows. The sets are atmospheric and eerie, with plenty of dark brooding shots of the castle and the grounds and the elaborate set pieces therein are really quite exquisite.
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As usual, Lina Romay plays a prominent role in this as well, portraying the abused illegitimate servant daughter of the dead guy who owned the castle, although for some reason she’s supposed to be half black. I’ll let you figure that one out…. And yes, she gets naked. And whipped. And beaten. And fucked. The usual. Don’t get too excited  – there’s not a lot of that.
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But I digress. According to the film credits, Night of the Skull was based on Edgar Allen Poe’s story “The Cat and the Canary”  but I’ve read that the film borrows far more liberally from Edgar Wallace’s “The Terror”. Regardless, clearly the writing is a bit beyond “naked sluts rolling around, weird zoom shot of building” that Franco often reverts to.  Night of the Skull is akin to a Spanish Giallo more than anything else. For the most part it works, although I found it starts to drag a bit near the last reel. The performances from all involved are quite good (despite the way that Lina Romay somehow manages to talk while simultaneously chewing on her tongue – drives me nuts) including a cameo by Franco as one of the Scotland Yard investigators. There’s an adequate amount of nudity – mostly by Ms. Romay – although there is a very hot scene where her evil stepmother is murdered and is immersed in the ocean in her panties. Sadly, no shoe or foot play worth mentioning at all.
COSDS - Night of the Skull00011The murders aren’t particularly graphic or disturbing, but the skull-clad killer has quite a presence and is a blast to watch. He seems very adept at rendering his victims unconscious effortlessly in order to place them into their necessary positions for death according to the aforementioned book.
I would recommend this to the uninitiated as well as seasoned Francophiles, it’s a solid film. And far better than I was expecting, to be honest.
Official COSDS Nunspank rating:

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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

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