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The Terror (1963)

Public Domain Movie: The Terror (1963)

Produced and Directed by Roger Corman

The Terror is a 60s horror movie starring a young-looking Jack Nicholson and Boris Karloff and a rather voluptuous-looking Sandra Knight. The movie can also boast a vicious-looking bird of prey, belonging to the film's witch, whose looks are more akin to Karloff's than to Knight's.

Nicholson stars as Lieutenant Andre Duvalier, an officer in the French army. He has become separated from his regiment and finds himself riding along a secluded beach with only his horse and a rather dodgy compass for company. The horse at least seems to know where it is going. The needle of Andre's compass, on the other hand, is jumping around all over the place and, as the sun beats down mercilessly on his head, Andre topples off his horse.

When he awakes the first thing he sees is they mysterious and beautiful Helene. He is captivated immediately and proceeds to charm Helene with a few of his chat-up lines which, it has got to be said, are pretty poor and Helene not only giggles at him, but runs away (way to go Andre, you silver tongued devil you). Andre chases after her, and seems to spend the rest of the movie continuing to do so.

After a little mishap in the sea—courtesy of the witch's pet bird—the lieutenant finds himself unconscious again and this time wakes up in the home of the witch. At this point he doesn't know  she is a witch, but he has the rest of the film to find that out. When Andre enquires about the strange girl the witch tells him that there is no girl and says that the only Helene in the area is her pet bird. "This is Helene," she says, bringing her feathered friend to show to the less than impressed soldier.

Eventually Andre finds himself at the Castle Von Leppe where the baron also denies any knowledge of Helene; even though the lieutenant points out that he has seen her at one of the castle's windows. The baron insists the only other person living in the castle is his servant Stefan. Andre keeps pushing the subject though, and in the end he is shown a portrait of the Baron's wife Ilsa. She is the spitting image of Helene, but she has been dead for twenty years.

Roger Corman is credited as the director of The Terror, but Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill and Jack Nicholson all supposedly had a hand in its direction. If there is any to truth to this, too many cooks didn't spoil the broth because The Terror is a very enjoyable movie. It has a very atmospheric and Gothic feel, a creepy soundtrack, and all the usual trims and frills of a horror movie of its era—a spooky castle on a hilltop (often shown against a dark and stormy sky and lit by lightning), a family crypt, and candlesticks that open a secret passage. What more could any fan of Classic horror movies ask for?

The Terror was filmed in colour, but the colour quality does not compare well to that of modern movies and many of the scenes look like they have been shot through a blue filter: blue castle walls? (But only sometimes).

There is not a lot of blood shed in The Terror, but whenever blood is shown it looks more like tomato ketchup than anything else, so when one poor chap gets his eyes pecked out by the witch's bird he looks more like a victim of sloppy table manners than an attacking bird. 

Fans of classic horror movies may recognize the baron's servant, Stefan (played by Dick Miller), because he starred in Roger Corman's earlier movie A Bucket of Blood.


 Boris Karloff  ...   Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe
 Jack Nicholson ... Lt. Andre Duvalier
 Sandra Knight ...  Helene / Ghost of Ilsa (The Baroness Von Leppe)
 Dick Miller     ...  Stefan
 Dorothy Neumann ...  Katrina, Witch / Eric's Mother
 Jonathan Haze ...  Gustaf 

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