1963 | Color | 1 HR 21 Min | Horror | PG | Corman Productions
France, 18th century. Lieutenant Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson) has been accidentally separated from his regiment. He is wandering near the coast when he sees a young woman and asks her for directions to Coldon, where he hopes to rejoin his regiment. But the woman doesn't answer, doesn't even greet him and walks away. Eventually, she takes him towards the sea, where she disappears in rough water. Andre loses consciousness while trying to follow her, and is attacked by a bird and awakes in a house where an old woman claims never to have seen the woman.
After he leaves, he sees the woman again, and while trying to follow her, is saved by a man from certain death. Andre learns that in order to help the girl, he must go to the castle of Baron Von Leppe (Boris Karloff), and when he arrives, Andre sees the woman looking out of a window. However, Baron Von Leppe is old and seems reluctant to let Andre in. He claims there's no woman in the castle, but shows Andre a painting which does indeed portray her. Andre learns that she is the Baroness, who died twenty years ago. What is the baron's secret?
Being a big fan of Roger Corman and other directors like him I knew that this was going to be a low budget flick so my standards are already set low. And who does not already love Boris Karloff? Now the whole reason for watching the Terror was for Jack Nicholson's Birthday. I enjoyed his small part in Little Shop of Horror's so why not this one it has so many elements I already enjoy. Sadly tho Jack comes off a little stiff almost like he tried really hard to make this all work. IF he just would have loosened up a bit and relaxed like the Jack we know and love today this movie may have worked on a whole new level, Maybe he was still scared after Coppola almost drowned him while filming in the surf of Big Sur. Speaking of Coppola it took him eleven days to shot his second unit footage which only lasted ten minutes in the film.
After finishing 1963's The Raven (1963), Roger Corman immediately shot this film using the same sets and the same two lead actors. All of the scenes involving Boris Karloff were filmed by Corman in four days, but the finished film, which was largely improvised, required nine months to complete, the longest production of Corman's career. The second unit alone filmed for over nine month's using five directors, Coppola, Dennis Jakob, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, and Nicholson himself. Kind of long for a bunch of guys doing a low budget flick, In fact, Hill used his own backyard for the quicksand shot and we get laughable moments when the rock's and bricks are floating in the water! But nobody said it was going to be perfect.
Say what you will the locations do look great and give you the lonely feeling of a cold dark castle. Even the location of the witch's house looks great. I wish that the print I watched was a little crisper mine was from AMC's Classic Corman 3 film public domain set. There was no color correction at all and the scratches and blurry moments took me out of the movie more than the slow pace at hand. That pace was not helped by the dull acting given by Nicolson himself. I'm not sure really what it was but he was rough around the edges. I get it this is years before Five Easy Pieces and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Still to this day his bit part on the Andy Griffith Show and his wacky part in The Little Shop Of Horrors stand out as my favorite Jake moments.
The Terror is considered a Cult Classic due mainly to Karloff and I'm glad I finally sat down to watch it. The slow burn may turn many fans of horror off but there is still plenty to see here. The ghost story is pretty well done and the small cast is strong together. As with most Corman flicks, we will laugh at the bad special effects but that is part of the allure that keeps you watching. I looking forward to revisiting this movie someday when a much cleaner Blu-Ray comes around. In the meantime, it's worth a whirl the Terror is a diabolical plan of torture ... inconceivable ... unbelievable!
The Terror Review was part of Jack Nickolson's 80th Birthday Blogathon, make sure to check out the other bloggers by clicking here!