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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Terror (1963)

After all the black and white films I've watched over the past month or so as I worked my way through horror films from the 1920 to the present, I finally hit 1968- and a colour film.  It was a welcome change of pace- as was the story.

Seperated from his regiment in 1806, Andre Duvalier stumbles across the castle of Baron von Leppe, and a mysterious woman whom the Baron claims has been dead for the past 20 years- because he killed her and her lover.  Determined to discover the truth behind the dark past of the castle, Duvalier soon finds himself confronting a deadly mix of guilt, revenge, and madness...

"The Terror" was filmed on sets used in two other Roger Corman films- "The Raven," and "The Haunted Palace".  The tree in the final scene is from "The Haunted Palace" where it was the sight of Vincent Price being tied up and burnt.  In addition to re-using sets, this movie is notable for the number of directors it had:
  • Roger Corman
  • Francis Ford Coppola
  • Monte Hellman
  • Jack Hill
  • Jack Nicholson
I'll say from the start that I enjoyed this movie.

The acting was quite good- but that's only natural considering it had Boris Karloff as the Baron, and a young Jack Nicholson playing the role of Duvalier.  Nicholson brought some cheese to his performance, but it wasn't overpowering, and was enjoyable.  Karloff, as he did when playing Frankenstein's monster, brought pathos and a feeling of tragedy to the character of Baron von Leppe.  Seeing the two of them together was just a joy to experience.

Dick Miller- who plays Stefan the butler, did a remarkable job as well.  You got the sense that he honestly did care about the Baron, and would do what he had to in order to protect his secrets.  I also really enjoyed the character of the peasant witch, played by Dorothy Neumann.  She didn't have a huge role, but still helped the story move forward, and showed the folly of revenge.  The mysterious woman, Helene- as played by Sandra Knight, was beautiful, and brought a very ethereal air to her character.

The cast helped to strengthen a really good storyline.  It was layered, but not so heavily that you got distracted thinking too much.  The characters were well written and interesting, and the events moved smoothly from one scene to the next.

"The Terror" had some very effective camerawork- especially during the exterior shots on the beach and in the forest.  The scenery in the beach scenes was simply beautiful, and perfectly set-up the isolation of the Baron's castle.  The only scenes where the camera work wasn't as good involved the ones out front of the chapel.  It just couldn't hide the fact that it was a set.  Other than that one area, I was impressed.  I also quite liked the opening credit sequence.  It reminded me very much of the style used for the opening of Coppola's earlier movie, "Dementia 13".  I have to wonder if they got the same artist to do them.

There aren't a lot of special effects in this movie- other than lightning, and the final scene.  I was especially impressed with the smoothness of the final sequence.

For a low budget film- and one often considered to be a B-movie, I have to say that "The Terror" is one of my favorite ghost story movies.  I'm definately rating this one as "The Good".

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