Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959)

Poster for The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959)The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959) by #EdwardLCahn

w/#EduardFranz #ValerieFrench #GrantRichards

A family fights against a voodoo curse that marks each member for death.

“A Terrifying Case of SKULL-DUGGERY!”

“Your money NOT refunded if you faint!”


The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959) is a film in which you expect to see Boris Karloff, or some other aging icon of horror. The image on the poster almost looks like Vincent Price if you squint at it just right. But I didn’t recognize any of the major players the first time I watched this film (or even the last time, truth be told). 

Eduard Franz plays the titular Jonathan Drake. He was an experienced theatre actor, who went to Hollywood and got a fair bit of work as a character actor. He was in movies like Whirlpool (1950) and The Thing from Another World (1951). He also did a lot of television. Often playing supporting roles, he wasn’t really a recognizable star like Vincent Price when he made The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake. In fact, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake may have been one of his best roles. He’s very good in the part, but I’m not sure that audiences would have rushed out to see the film because he was in it.

Valerie French plays Jonathan’s daughter, and the leading lady of this movie, Alison Drake. She was a leading lady of the 1950s, having starred in movies like Jubal (1956) and Secret of Treasure Mountain (1956), but she was hardly a star like Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe. 

Grant Richards also appeared in lots of things before dying too young at 51. But I can’t say I recognized him from anything when I watched this.

My point, if I have one, is that The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake does not appear to be a movie that was sold on the basis of its main actors. But that’s okay, because it’s an enjoyable little film that stands on its own merits. I actually think I prefer it to Voodoo Island (1957), which was a vehicle for Boris Karloff and features somewhat similar, politically incorrect material based on primitive cultures.

In some ways, it’s not unlike a movie that Vincent Price might have made with Roger Corman; a sort of faux Edgar Allan Poe story about a cursed family in which all of the men die at age 60, their heads vanishing, and their skulls returning to spend eternity in a closet inside the family crypt (or something like that).

It’s better than it sounds, with some genuinely creepy scenes that might have scared the crap out of me if I’d seen them on Not Quite Classic Theatre when I was young.

Most of the time, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959) is just good, campy fun; the kind of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that always puts a smile on my face. If you a tolerance for slightly dated, politically incorrect material and no iconic horror stars, you might consider checking it out on your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.