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The Terror1963

  • 3.0
One of the most notoriously slapdash projects in film history, THE TERROR exemplified Roger Corman and American International Pictures' ability to create something marketable out of practically nothing. Having purchased three days' work from horror superstar Boris Karloff on the cheap, Corman threw together THE TERROR in a heedless hurry, using sets and costumes left over from prior films. For instance, legend has it that THE TERROR may have been set during the early 19th century solely because the leading man's uniform was Marlon Brando's old Napoleon uniform from DESIREE. The results don't make much sense but it's doubtful many teenagers busy making out at the drive-in cared or even noticed. Karloff plays a Baron whose seaside castle hides a terrible secret, one discovered by a French soldier (Jack Nicholson) who is lost and becomes fascinated by a woman (Sandra Knight) who is the spitting image of the Baron's late wife. Witchcraft, ghosts and other supernatural phenomena figure in the ensuing murky mayhem. In addition to the primary material Corman completed in just four days, Nicholson, Jack Hill and future directorial luminaries Francis Ford Coppola and Monte Hellman all supervised some additional scenes. Nicholson was in the midst of his early B-movie career at the time; soon he would consider giving acting up entirely until, five years later, EASY RIDER would suddenly catapult him to fame. His beautiful leading lady here was also his off-screen wife at the time and was pregnant with their only child. For all its behind-the-scenes curiosity value, THE TERROR still works. If not as coherent storytelling then as an almost abstract, morbid piece of sheer atmospherics. – Dennis Harvey

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Member Reviews (3)

top reviewer

Once upon a time, in a land called Hollywood, there were filmmakers who took risks. While “The Terror” is arguably Roger Corman’s weakest entry in his Poe-era films with American International Pictures, it’s also a sterling example of the Corman movie machine in action. Corman was a good filmmaker, but he was an even better film manager with a legendary team around him, from veteran cinematographer Floyd Crosby, to innovative production designer Daniel Haller, and up and comers like Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich. So the real story of “The Terror” is a story of calculated risk. Got nice fancy movie set and a couple of free days to use it? Why not make a picture! What the Hell! Make some phone calls, whip up a script, and roll the dice! This is a movie with nothing to lose and everything to gain—which is something that doesn’t really happen in the movie business of today. If nothing else, this film has entertaining presence of Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, and Corman’s ace-in-the-hole, the one and only Dick Miller. So be like Roger Corman, and take a chance on this one…what the Hell!

2 members like this review
top reviewer

Worth watching, but beware: the movie is slapdash; Boris Karloff is finely aristocratic, as in the stage production of "The Lark" with Julie Harris; Jack Nicholson nonchalant about not being the least bit French, good looking without flaunting, his flat diction already snidely curling at the ends of lines, sometimes; Roger Corman a good cook with left-over ingredients.

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top reviewer

I found it boring and contrite not worth watchin for more than 5 minutes even boris Karloff cannot save this one was very low budget at best !

top reviewer

"The Terror" is a far from perfect film, but there's quite a bit here to make it worth watching beyond the first five minutes. Yes, it was a low-budget film, but quite innovative in the use of those tiny production costs.