Film Review: The Terror (1963)

Also known as: The Night of Terror, The Haunting, Lady of the Shadows (alternative titles)
Release Date: June 17th, 1963 (Buffalo premiere)
Directed by: Roger Corman; uncredited: Francis Ford Coppola, Dennis Jacob, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, Jack Nicholson
Written by: Leo Gordon, Jack Hill
Music by: Ronald Stein, Les Baxter (uncredited)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Dick Miller, Sandra Knight, Dorothy Neumann, Jonathan Haze

Roger Corman Productions, The Filmgroup, American International Pictures, 81 Minutes

Review:

“The crypt! It must be destroyed, and with it the dead.” – Helene

Man, The Terror is a really bizarre, nonsensical movie but if you are a fan of Corman’s ’60s gothic horror and know about this movie’s strange production, it’s a worthwhile experience to see this playout onscreen.

The movie shares the narrative and visual style of Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe pictures but this features an original, albeit very sloppy, story that was thrown together quickly in an effort to crank out this movie as rapidly as possible to recycle the still standing sets from Corman’s The Raven, which also featured Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson.

While Karloff’s scenes were shot in just two days, the movie took a staggering nine months to complete, which was absolutely unheard of for a Corman production. But like almost every Corman film, this didn’t lose money.

This is also legendary for the fact that so many people worked on it that would go on to be pretty damn famous: Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson, who even worked as one of the many directors, behind the scenes.

The story was written by regular Corman actor Leo Gordon, along with Jack Hill. The story itself is a mess but I don’t know if that’s due to Gordon and Hill’s initial script or if the chaotic production really screwed things up. There is a scene, leading into the finale of the film, where Dick Miller’s character just gives the audience a massive info dump, so that they can make sense out of what the hell they had been watching up to that point.

Overall, the story is all over the place and hard to follow. I feel like the info dump was necessary to salvage it somewhat. However, it doesn’t save the mess and honestly, there is more entertainment value in enjoying the mess itself.

Additionally, you also get to see Karloff work with Nicholson and Dick Miller in almost all of his scenes. It’s just cool seeing these three legends on the screen together despite the overall quality of the film.

In what must’ve been a real treat for a young Francis Ford Coppola, this was released on a double bill with his horror classic, Dementia 13.

Rating: 5.25/10

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