The Terror Film Review: Done by Rancel
The Terror is a grim horror film and is directed and produced by Roger Corman. It came out in 1963. It is a low budget film that stars Boris Karloff and a young Jack Nicholson. This is an early role for Nicholson before he became a big time actor that he is today. Jack Nicholson previously was in another Roger Corman feature called “The Raven”. The other actors in this film are Sandra Knight, Dick Miller, Dorothy Neumann, and Jonathan Haze. The film is a rather short at 81 minutes long.
The Terror is set in the 19th century, 1806 to be exact. After the beginning of the film which has Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe (Boris Karloff) opening a secret door in his castle and following a trail of blood. Jack Nicholson plays a lost French Soldier named Lt. Andre Duvalier. He is seen here riding his horse along the shore and suddenly loses consciousness only to be awakened by the waves on the beach. A mysterious woman, Helene (Sandra Knight) he comes across directs him to where he can get some fresh water. They soon get acquainted with each other. Not long after that Andre Duvalier wakes up in the house of an old woman named in Katrina the Witch (Dorothy Neumann) after losing consciousness again when he was attacked by a bird while following Helene who disappeared into the crashing waves next to some rocks.
He has a discussion about the young woman Helene with Katrina, who claims she has never seen her before. She also tells him the name of her bird which attacked Andre Duvalier is Helene. After he heals up he leaves the old woman’s house at night and runs into Helene again. While following Helene, he is stopped by a strange man, Gustave (Jonathan Haze), who warns him that Helene tried to kill him via a quicksand pit that he almost falls into while he was following her. He tells him that Helene, “knows not what she does, “her will is not her own”. That she is also possessed, needs his help, and will find her at the Baron’s Von Leppe’s Castle. Back at the old woman’s house and disregarding her warnings not to go to the castle. Andre Duvalier soon arrives at the old castle and sees Helene peering out the window.
The Baron reluctantly lets him and tells him that there is no woman here. He shows him a painting that looks just like Helene. The Baron tells him the woman in the picture is his wife who has been dead for 20 years. While looking out the window in his room Andre Duvalier sees Helene walking into the crypt. Andre Duvalier leaves the confines of his room and exits the castle. He goes into the tomb and sees the crypt for the Baron’s wife Ilsa. Still in the castle Andre convinces The Baron to tell him what happened to Helene/Ilsa. The Baron tells him that his wife while in the village was sleeping with another man named Eric. In his rage The Baron killed both of them.
You soon find out that the ghost of Helene/Ilsa is under the control of the witch Katrina when Stefan (Dick Miller) travels to the old woman’s house and sees her performing a ritual. She commanded the ghost to haunt The Baron for years for his crimes. He questions her and she tells him that Eric used to live here in the village. Back at the castle Andre confronts the Baron after hearing voices of a conversation between Ilsa and The Baron. Andre leaves the castle after the Baron ousts him. Gustave dies from falling to his death after having his eyes ripped out by the Bird/Helene. Right before he dies he tells Andre that Helene/Ilsa loves him and that he must go back to the castle tonight to help her. The scene then shifts back to Andre back at the castle and having a brief moment with Helene/Ilsa before she suddenly disappears again. Andre follows The Baron through the secret door and into the castle crypt.
The possessed spirit of Helene/Ilsa torments The Baron, in her room, to commit suicide. So they can be together forever. The witch Katrina suddenly shows up outside next to the mausoleum with Andre and Stefan. She reveals to Andre why she possesses Helene/Ilsa’s spirit to torment the Baron to suicide. She tells him The Baron is the one who killed her son Eric and he must pay by being damned to hell. Stefan reveals in a sudden revelation that Eric never died really and it was The Baron that was the one killed. Eric took The Baron’s place and while going mad in solitude his mind discorporated into thinking that he was actually the real Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe. Both Andre and Stefan head into the crypt to stop Eric from flooding it which would kill both him and Helene. The Witch Katrina who refuses to go in there with them is struck by lightning and then burns to death.
The Terror climaxes with Eric being ordered to flood the crypt by Helene. Helene ghost tries to kill Eric as the crypt floods with water. Stefan is seen struggling with them as Andre has now gained access to the crypt that is flooding and crumbling apart. Andre carries the body of Helene out of the destroyed mausoleum and shares one last kiss with her before she decomposes/melts and turns to nothing. Katrina’s hawk is seen flying away.
The Terror: The Review
The Terror, although slow paced and very low budget, it is a very entertaining mystery type horror film. The film is not restored well though. The print of the film is badly damaged. There is a lot of discoloration. It is also very dark with poor detail in some scenes. The film is considered public domain now too. This means copyright laws do not apply to it. I love the creepy music the film has which adds to the atmosphere. The film has since been restored in 2011 and is available in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo packaged, distributed by HD Cinema Classics. The new transfer isn’t perfect but it is the best available version out there. The acting in this film is somewhat cheesy and not perfect. This is Jack Nicholson early on before he fine-tuned his craft and started slicking back his hair in signature fashion due to a receding hairline. Boris Karloff looks very sad, broken down, and old in this film. Karloff did a good job in this film as always as a sad lonely old man. The Butler, Stefan played by Dick Miller who has been in other Roger Corman films such as A Bucket of Blood (1959) and The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) is effective in his role. Jonathan Haze as Gustave I did not like. His voice which sounded like he had a strep throat sounded ridiculous but luckily his scenes were brief. The witch Katrina played by Dorothy Neumann did all right in her role as a hermit/crazy old witch. Sandra Knight who was Helene/ Ilsa’s ghost was nice to look at. She also was married to Jack Nicholson for a while for those who do not know. The effects used for the brief amount of blood in the film and the ending scene look like something from a household product or food. The blood looks like it came from Ketchup and the effect on the melting/decomposing face of Helene looks like wax or caramel.
From what I read the The Terror was a difficult production for Roger Corman and his crew. Leftover sets from other AIP films were used in The Terror. The film was rushed too, I believe. Nevertheless despite the films cosmetic flaws it is still fun to watch and has a good replay value. I’m going to upgrade my Mill Creek Entertainment Box Set version to the recently released Blu-Ray version. I first saw the Terror when my dad bought it for me in the early 90’s on VHS video and enjoyed it the first time I saw it and still do to this day. Old classic films like this have a unique charm to them, especially classic horror cinema. This film is great to watch when you can’t sleep at night and you are alone.
The Terror Trailer
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