Terror, The (1963)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2008-03-15 14:04

Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Leo Gordon and Jack Hill
Produced by: Roger Corman and Francis Ford Coppola

Reviewed by: Brett H.

Forget the credits listed above, thereís no way to chronicle exactly who did what in this AIP group effort. It almost sounds like a bad joke you would hear in grade school. What do you get when you combine two days left in a contract with Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson as lead, some left over sets from a classic gothic horror comedy, The Raven and the even better The Haunted Palace, a handful of directors and no script whatsoever? The Terror.

Andre (Jack Nicholson), a French soldier has lost his regiment and has been riding down the beach trying to find his way. He passes out from the excruciating heat and when he awakens, he meets a woman (Sandra Knight) who seemingly appears out of nowhere. She introduces herself as Helene and after a short meeting with Andre, begins to walk into the sea. The waves crash and Andre goes after her, but she suddenly disappears and he is left fighting the waves Ė and a blood hungry bird. Andre wakes up in the home of an old woman who plans to nourish him back to health. In her home, he sees the same bird (also named Helene) that attacked him and isnít too pleased to stick around much longer. A man named Gustaf had rescued him, but as of yet, heís not saying much about the mysterious woman Andre asks the two about.

Later on Gustaf does break his silence and tells Andre to steer clear of her, she is possessed. He says she resides in Castle Von Leppe. Despite the old womanís reluctance to give out info about the place, Andre sets out on his own to find the vanishing woman. He eventually finds the place and sees Helene once again at the castle. Itís not easy to get into the castle, but he uses his stature as soldier to gain access. He meets Baron Victor Von Leppe (Boris Karloff), who tells Andre just what is going on with this ghostly female. Victor had been gone for nearly a year on military duty and when he returned, he found his wife, Ilsa in bed with another man. Shocked and furious, he and his servant, Stefan, murdered both of them.

As much as Baron Von Leppe and Stefan try to get rid of Andre, itís just not happening as he delves further into the mystery, seeing the woman again and again and gathering more and more information from Stefan, the Baron and the mysterious old woman. Stefan discovers the old woman performing witchcraft with the Helene present and informs her that sheís living on the Baronís land and she had better get lost or heíll kill her. A name, ďEricĒ keeps coming up, but his place in the events canít be traced. Finally, Stefan is compelled to release the true events of the night Baron Von Leppe returned from his military duties. But, will it be too late?

For a film made up completely on the fly, I will give The Terror some major credit. Although it doesnít make too much sense (especially the ending), it really holds your interest and presents some big time mystery to think about. Even with tons of gothic atmosphere, mystery, and a dabble of blood, itís nothing thatíll be placed up there with the great AIP movies but it certainly gives the viewer some great scenes and fun story. Even if it doesnít make sense. Thereís a fair amount of wandering around, but other than that you really canít complain too much about the film knowing itís interesting past. With names such as Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, Francis Ford Coppola and even Jack Nicholson himself taking turns directing and a story made up as they went, itís remarkable The Terror turned out watchable at all.

Jack Nicholson is miscast as Andre and his line delivery is pretty wooden, but Boris Karloff makes up for everything as he absolutely steals the show. Thereís a reason names such as Karloff, Lugosi, and Chaney are remembered to this day, they could make bad movies good and good movies great. Karloff does such a good job that you just canít help but smile at the gothic goodness and the various castles, crypts and graveyards provide more than enough mood. The delivery of his lines is just phenomenal and makes the limited/non-existent script seem moot. The film really picks up at the end as everything is ďtiedĒ together and you learn just who Eric is and you learn just how sinister most everyone involved in the film truly is. Revenge, betrayal, possessions, hauntings and mystery, itís all here.

Iíve owned this film for nine years and Iím not pleased with myself for waiting so long to watch it, itís definitely the type of film that would get better upon multiple viewings. The Platinum DVD doesnít fare so well, quality ranges from poor to decent VHS quality, but it all seems appropriate for the film. Unquestionably it would highly benefit from proper treatment, as all AIP films released on the Midnite Movies line from MGM are all the more gratifying because of the re-mastering process. Of course, you have to look at things from a realistic point of view, the movie can be found on countless public domain sets and if you pay more than a buck for this one, youíve been had. And for a dollar, this is one Terror youíre going to want to own. Buy it!

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