THE TERROR (1963)

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The Terror Cover Honest to Blah! The movie poster blurb for this horror flick actually stated 'No one will be admitted into the theater whilst the coffin is being opened!'. However, do you know why the makers of this film had the audacity to claim this fact? Well, it was because they were bloody bonkers, that's why. Just ask Directors: Roger Corman and Francis Ford Coppola; plus Actors: Boris Karloff, and Jack Nicholson. But only ask them this in 1963 and for about 81 minutes. Thanks


The Terror


THE STORY:
Questions. Questions. Questions. Wary French cavalry officer, Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson), is full of questions as soon as he claps his eyes on the buxom young lady called Helene (Sandra Knight). Such as:


  1. Why does she suddenly disappear to, prior to him being washed into the sea?
  2. Why does the old lady who saves him, Katrina (Dorothy Neumann), state that she does not know who Helene is, even though her aide, Gustaf (Jonathan Haze), says that he has seen her at Baron von Leppe's castle (Boris Karloff)? 
  3. Why does Helene look a lot like the Baron's dead wife, Ilsa (Sandra again), when she passed away over twenty years ago?

Well, when I say 'passed away', after Andre does a bit of snooping around the Baron's old castle -- to the chagrin of his butler, Stefan (Dick Miller) -- the Baron does come clean and explain to Andre that he killed Ilsa when he caught her in the sack with a villager called Eric. So fairs fair, right? It's not like he is haunting Andre or anything. Like Ilsa seems to be haunting them both at the moment.

Yeah. Straight up. Ilsa just appears and vanishes at a drop of a hat. First Andre spots her by the family crypt. Next Stefan sees her at Katrina's house. After that, the Baron hears her voice in the distance. And finally, Gustaf is confronted by her not so long after a bird pecks out his eyes.

Ouch! But then again that's most probably why what next transpires goes bump in the night when a startling revelation is made. As not everything is as it seems - this film doesn't end in vivid dreams - a witches plan has no fear - and a baptism ends on a solidarity tear.   




THE REVIEW:
Now I know that some people out there think that 'The Terror' was one of Roger Corman's 'Poe film'. But did you know that it wasn't based on any of Poe's actual works?

The Terror DVD Cover
Here, check out what else I know about this sixties horror classic, dear reader: (1) This movie was released by 'American International Pictures' on the 17th of June, 1963. (2) Believe it or not, actress, Sandra Knight, was pregnant during filming, and shares the same name as the forties super-heroine, 'The Phantom Lady'. (3) After completing his previous horror saga starring Jack Nicholson and Boris Karloff -- called 'The Raven' -- director, Roger Corman, shot the majority of this production -- mainly the Karloff scenes -- within four days, using the same sets. Although the remaining improvised scenes were shot over a nine-month period with his apprentices: Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill, Dennis Jakob, and Monte Hellman. (4) Now Roger Corman didn't want to finish this picture as he did his other pictures -- i.e. with a fire -- so he decided to flood the finale with water instead. (5) According to Jack Nicholson, he almost drowned whilst shooting in the watery currents at 'Big Sir'. (6) It took Frances Ford Coppola eleven days to capture his part of this film, but only ten minutes where used in the finished product. (7) Boris Karloff was doubled by Dennis Jakobs in the flood scenes. (8) The quicksand section was shot by Jack Hill in his own backyard.


Jack in The Terror


Boris in The Terror
OK, I know that I could go on and on, spouting more trivia about 'The Terror' until the cows come home. But you don't want that, do you? You want to know what I feel about this film in bullet-point form, right? (1) Conceptually, I only have three slight gripes with this horror classic. Firstly, Jack's character is supposed to be French, but he does not even attempt to sound French in it. Secondly, like many of Corman's films during this era, he concentrates more on plot than on character; which can be a bit of a set-back where association is concerned. And thirdly, it does take quite a bit of time for this tale to really kick in -- about thirty minute approximately -- making it a slow start to say the least. (2) Now I know that this was supposed to be a low-budget film, but I have to state for the record, that it did not look like a low budget film at all. The pallet was saturated. The backgrounds had depth. The effects were far better than many others I've seen in the eighties. And without a shadow of a doubt, the overall spit and polish of this piece was just out of this world. (3) Although the first part of the film does drag on for a bit too long, when it does step up to the mark, it really does motor all the way home is style. Honestly, there were two twists at the end of this tale that really did surprise me -- prompting me to want to watch it again for a more in-depth look at the story. (4) Another one of my small gripes with this yarn is how things are deliberately delayed for no apparent reason what so ever. Like how the Baron explains about his wife's demise for example. Or how Stefan appears reluctant to help Andre out at first, but on the next occasion doesn't. (5) From a personal perspective, the stand out actor in this film for me has to be Boris Karloff. His mannered yet dramatic style really aides this project in places, and you can tell how he elevates a scene to bold proportions when the need arises. Now that is not to say that Jack, Dick, or the rest of the cast are rubbish in any way shape or form! Oh no! Rather that they were still perfecting their craft, where as Boris wasn't.


Pretty Lady in The Terror


Overall 'The Terror' is a classic slice of cinema which is a much see for any fans of horror or filmic history. Heck, where else are you going to see a flick directed by Roger Corman and mister 'Godfather' himself, Francis Ford Coppola, aided and abetted by Jack the man and that chap who starred in 'Gremlins'? Nowhere else, right?


Boris Karloff in The Terror


Say no more.

THE RATING: B