Jack Nicholson! Boris Karloff! The Terror (1963)! Now on DVD & Blu-ray
A gothic castle! The French Revolution! Boris Karloff! A ghost! A witch! Thunder! Lightning! (Very, very frightening!) With the legendary Roger Corman producing and directing, who could ask for more?
But more is what you get. Now available on both DVD and HD Blu-ray, The Terror offers up Jack Nicholson in one of his earliest roles as Lt. Andre Duvalier, a soldier in Napoleon’s army who somehow got separated from his regiment. Cult fave Dick Miller (billed as “Richard Miller”) appears in the role of Stefan—a faithful retainer, and the great Karloff plays the forbidding Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe.
Duvalier is drawn to Von Leppe’s castle by Helene, a young woman (Sandra Knight) who saves then threatens his life (by luring him into quicksand). Helene’s an unusual woman—having been dead for 20 years, she is still beautiful, unspoiled by time or decay. Duvalier encounters Helene at every turn—is she the ghost of Ilsa Baroness Von Leppe?
Nicholson’s performance is a nineteenth century incarnation of Robert Dupea (Five Easy Pieces)—charming, angry, out of his element. Dick Miller, in a role far-removed from Burson Fouch (Little Shop of Horrors (1960) and the comic-relief characters he often played, is strictly serious and sinister, although his native Bronx accent is sometimes detected, breaking the spell.
Roger Corman, busy little bee that he was, couldn’t devote himself full-time to directing The Terror, and enlisted the (uncredited) aid of four aspiring directors within his crew: Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, and Jack Nicholson. The Terror is a fairly standard spooky-castle horror flick distinguished by its cast and Corman’s talent for getting the most out of miniscule budgets (like using recycled sets from other films). All of the twists were saved for the dramatic climax when secrets are revealed and Jack Nicholson's reaction shots reign.