31 DAYS OF HORROR 2014-DAY 2: THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE (1959)
Yeah, it pretty much sucks when your family is on the ongoing receiving end of a righteously pissed-off witch doctor's curse. You see, nearly two-hundred years before the start of the story, a Drake family ancestor wiped out every male in an Amazon Indian tribe of head-shrinkers, all save the the tribe's witch doctor, who curses his male descendants to die at age 60, with their heads inexplicably removed, yet somehow the victims' skulls end up in the family tomb. With his elder brother recently deceased under the previously described curse, Jonathan Drake (Eduard Franz), himself a hair away from sixty, has spent considerable time studying the occult in an effort to figure out what the hell is going on and how to thwart the inevitable, but exactly what hope does have have when the curse is enforced by Zutai (Paul Wexler), the terrifying immortal assistant of the curse's initiator?
Though I somehow missed this flick during my formative immersion into the genre, I rate this as a perfect film with which to get kids hooked on old school, E.C. Comics-style shudders. The operative word here is "spooky," with the film's look and atmosphere exuding a humid creepiness that really draws the viewer into the proceedings. And the comic book analogy is quite apropos as the movie has the feel of a well-thumbed cheap funny book obtained from a highway rest station during an over-long family car trip. I can't speak for you but comics of that nature saved my young sanity a good number of times during my childhood, and a tad later the same came to be said about the old shockers that used to populated horror movie showcases on local TV channels in the pre-cable days of yore. Films like this were emblematic of the kind of dark comfort one obtained from tuning in to CREATURE FEATURES, FRIGHT NIGHT, CHILLER THEATRE, and other such indoor, at-home, cathode ray campfires, and the memories engendered by those stories, even the ones that kinda sucked, made eager kids into horror fans for life. Try this one out on your own spawn and see for yourself what happens. Anyway, I heartily recommend checking out THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE. It's not a life-changer but it is certainly a hell of a lot of fun.