Title: The Terror
Writer: Leo Gordon and Jack Hill
Director: Roger Corman
Producer: Roger Corman
Starring: Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Sandra Knight, Dick Miller
Released: June 17th, 1963
With the scary day approaching later this month, I thought it best to showcase a movie starring one of the industries all-time greats. Boris Karloff is certainly recognized for his roles as the Frankenstein Monster, and the Mummy. But honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Mr. Karloff (William Henry Pratt). Karloff starred in many other horror films, and certainly the films with director Roger Corman must be mentioned!
Speaking of Corman films, today’s post is about the 1963 film “The Terror,” and it comes as no surprise that not only did Corman get a legend like Karloff for this film, but also a young man named Jack Nicholson! Another horror film staple, Dick Miller is in this one, and he collaborated with Corman before as well. Alright, let’s get down to this one!
As the film opens, we see an old castle, being besieged by a thunder-storm. Inside, an old man, Baron von Leppe (Boris Karloff), is trudging through the halls. He suddenly sees blood drops leaving a trail. He follows the trail, and winds up finding a cadaver hiding behind a curtain. Cue the opening credits, then we watch as a soldier on a horse, Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson) is very weary, and falls off of the horse, to the ground. He struggles to get o his feet, but then sees a beautiful woman nearby. A man is watching him from the top of the hill, but we cannot see who it is yet. As Andre nears the woman, she runs off, but then points him in the direction of some water. He tells her that he was lost from the regiment he was in, and that he doesn’t know where he’s located. The woman listens to his story, and tells him that her name is Helene (Sandra Knight). The two walk through the woods, and then the girl suddenly walks into the ocean and disappears. Andre goes after her, but almost drowns after being attacked by a hawk.
Andre then wakes up in the home of some old hag (Dorothy Neumann). He asks the hag where Helene is, but the hag doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Andre wakes in the night, and heads outside. He notices someone down by the river, and once again, sees Helene. She strokes his face, then hugs him. The next thing you know she’s making out with him, but then abruptly walks away. He chases after her (who wouldn’t?), but gets stopped by the old hag’s servant, Gustaf. He tells Andre that there is danger near, and shows him that there is quicksand all around. Gustaf tells Andre that the woman is possessed, and that he can go to the nearby castle to help her.
The old woman begs him not to seek out the castle, and if he must, to at least not tell the Baron she is living nearby. He rides his horse for a while, but eventually reaches the castle. He spies the young woman, but she rebuffs his attempts. he then pounds on the door, demanding to be let inside. The Baron answers, and is hesitant to let him in, but does agree to his demand. The two engage in some small talk, and then the Baron calls his man-servant, Stefan (Dick Miller), and tells him to get them some Cognac. Andre asks where the girl is, and the Baron tells him that no girl lives at the castle. He shows him a portrait of the woman, and tells him that she was his wife, and, that she’s been dead for twenty years.
Later that night, something is trying to break into the barn, and the horses are going wild. Andre is looks out to see what’s going on, and once again sees the young woman. He yells to her, but she ignores him, and walks away. He then hears some kind of wailing outside of his room, and grabs a gun for protection. The door is locked, and he demands that it be opened or he’ll shoot through it at whoever is outside. It unlocks, but when he opens the door, no one is there in the hallway. He quickly searches the castle, thinking someone must be near, but finds no one. He then heads to another area of the castle, and sees the memorial for the Baron’s dead wife. As he heads back towards his room, he hears a noise that startles him. He opens the door, and jumps back, because he thinks he sees the young woman. Inside his room, he finds a picture of the woman, and wonders what is going on in this castle.
The next morning, the Baron tells Stefan that they must get Andre to leave, but without any shenanigans. Andre confronts Stefan, but when he gets no answers, he then goes to the Baron. After some verbal jousting, the Baron consents and tells Andre that his wife was a peasant girl from the village below. He left one day for a war, and then later returned home, unannounced. He found his wife with another man, so he killed her. He then tells him that Stefan killed her lover. He also admits that there is a spirit torturing him, and he thinks it’s the spirit of his dead wife. Andre is skeptical, but then the Baron asks if Andre thinks he’s mad. Andre replies that he doesn’t know what to think yet. The Baron tells him that since he has seen the woman also, maybe they’re both mad. And he says it with a smile.
The following day, we see Gustaf, and he’s watching Ilsa standing by the sea. Gustaf tells the woman to go back to the sea, but she refuses, and tells Gustaf that the old woman commands her, and she’ll not relent until she tells her to. Ilsa also give Gustaf a warning to not interfere, or else the old woman won’t keep looking the other way. Speaking of the old woman, she’s back at her house, preparing a potion, and using black magic on Ilsa. A man watches from the window, take sit all in. The man is Stefan, ans he comes inside, and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t leave by tomorrow night. Stefan returns to the castle, and tells the Baron that they should kill Andre. The Baron forbids it, and Stefan gets angry.
Andre then begins to explore more of the castle, searching for Ilsa/Helene. He finds a room (possibly Stefan’s?), and begins to look for clues. He finds a pistol, and checks it out, but then turns his attention to the rest of the room. He then hears a door lock, and attempts to open it with no success. A voice then calls out to him, and he tries the door again, and it opens. As he looks for the woman, we see the Baron is nearby, and something is amiss. He hears a conversation, and bursts into the Baron’s room. No one is there beside the Baron. Stefan returns from the village with a horse for Andre, and he then asks him “who Eric is.” Stefan explains that he was Ilsa’s lover that he killed years ago. Meanwhile, out by the coastline, Gustaf is trying to help Andre, but that crazy hawk returns, and pecks his eyes out (image above)! he then tumbles down the cliff to his death. Andre tries to help, but Gustaf only has one gasp left in him, and he tells Andre to go back to the castle to help the woman.
He does return, and find the girl, and we get another make-out scene ( no woman can resist 1960’s Jack!). Her plunging neckline nightie is enough to keep his attention, and she tells him that she cannot leave the castle until the crypt is destroyed. He begs her to come away with him, but she refuses out of fear. Cue another make-out scene, and they both declare their love for the other. As Andre tells her to wait there for him to return, he walks away, but when he looks back, she’s gone again. He enters the castle, and the Baron, unaware that he’s back, opens the same gate from the beginning of the movie. He then opens a secret passageway to another room, and Andre follows him. The Baron heads down into the basement, creeping further and further into the bowels, until he reaches the crypt. he talks to the coffin, and tells Ilsa that they’ll soon be together, because Stefan is going to flood the crypt and kill him. A voice cries out to him, and tells him that he must do something. Just then, Andre bursts into the room, and calls out to the woman. The Baron struggles to stop him, and faints from the excitement.
Andre and Stefan head to the chapel, and then try to open the vault. It’s rusted shut, and they cannot open it. On their way to get a crowbar, they notice a light in the window of the former baroness’s window. They investigate, but have to break down the door to get in. Stefan warns Andre that the Baron won’t be happy about this, and just as they enter, the Baron shouts at them from behind. He’s got his pistol, and he orders Stefan to escort Andre out of the castle, and if he resists, to shoot him. His former wife shows up, and tells him to commit suicide. She tells him that they can be together again if he will. On the way out of the castle, Andre jumps Stefan, and knocks him unconscious.
I’ll stop here because to go further would be insanity!
OK, here are my thoughts:
Listen, for all those detractors out there, I get the criticisms about this movie. I cannot deny that the movie is sluggish, and doesn’t have the best acting, or sets, or special effects, or…OK, listen, Boris Karloff does a great job playing an old loony guy in a castle. There is a neat little twist at the end, and it will surprise anyone that watches this flick. It’s a total reversal of what is initially shown. The only problem I have is that there isn’t a true “villain” in the movie, or lost causes. Well, I guess the old hag is pretty much a villain, but she has motives beyond simple avarice or blood-lust.
The sets weren’t the best, but the old castle was pretty cool. It looked like something from a Tyburn or Amicus flick. You know, not quite Hammer but decent, nonetheless. The music score was actually pretty good, and we have Ronald Stein and Les Baxter to thank for that. Dick Miller plays a good henchman, and really adds just a bit of flavor to the film. Anybody that knows Corman, will be able to take into consideration that the guy made films for basically no budget, and reused everything including the kitchen sink. When you factor that in, you have to at least appreciate the film on those grounds. Nicholson was OK, but watching this movie now, after seeing many of his other films, I just can’t get into his character. He just isn’t very convincing.
Definitely give a click on the link below, because the film is public domain. Decide for yourself if it’s any good, but remember, Corman probably made this film for $50, and a few favors, so give the guy a break, huh?