Since The Terror is public domain and always turns up on television, budget DVD’s and 50 Movie Packs, I’ve probably seen it more times than any other Roger Corman movie. It isn’t that bad of a flick, although the behind the scenes story of the film is a lot more interesting than the movie itself. Star Boris Karloff was available to director Corman for two days only so he quickly shot a lot of scenes of him running around sets from The Raven. He then got his assistants Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, and star Jack Nicholson to film linking scenes of what Corman shot and then pieced together the movie in the editing room. The result is a predictably choppy film, though considering the piecemeal production; it could’ve been a lot worse.
Nicholson stars as a French soldier who while walking along the beach sees the ghost/spirit/something of a beautiful woman (Sandra Knight, his real life wife at the time) and follows her to the
Nicholson is bland as all get out and is absolutely unconvincing as a soldier. While the young Nicholson can’t really command the screen like he would later go on to do, he at least steps up his game while acting alongside Karloff. Old Boris is quite good and his performance is easily the best thing about the movie. I also got a kick out of seeing Corman regulars Dick Miller and Jonathan Haze turning up in small roles.
The script is confusing and the movie is patchy, but Corman does make the castle seem spooky and the constant shots of and waves crashing against the rocky shore during a storm are effective. (They’d later turn up in many a Corman picture.) The foggy crypt is also pretty cool looking too.
There’s more gore than you’d probably expect from something like this. There is a juicy scene where a guy gets his eyes pecked out by a falcon, a decent set piece where a body set on fire after it’s struck by lightning and an excellent face melting scene that totally rocks. It should also be noted that whereas most of Corman’s movies (especially the Poe pictures) ends with a fire, this one ends with a flood. The Terror is way too uneven to be called a “good” film but if you’re a Corman, Karloff, or Nicholson fan, it will have its own rewards.
AKA: The Lady of the Shadows. AKA: The