Horror on the Lens: The Terror (dir by Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, Dennis Jakob, and Jack Nicholson)


Have you ever woken up and thought to yourself, “I’d love to see a movie where a youngish Jack Nicholson played a French soldier who, while searching for a mysterious woman, comes across a castle that’s inhabited by both Dick Miller and Boris Karloff?”

Of course you have!  Who hasn’t?

Well, fortunately, it’s YouTube to the rescue.  In Roger Corman’s 1963 film The Terror, Jack Nicholson is the least believable 19th century French soldier ever.  However, it’s still interesting to watch him before he became a cinematic icon.  (Judging from his performance here and in Cry Baby Killer, Jack was not a natural-born actor.)  Boris Karloff is, as usual, great and familiar Corman actor Dick Miller gets a much larger role than usual.  Pay attention to the actress playing the mysterious woman.  That’s Sandra Knight who, at the time of filming, was married to Jack Nicholson.

Reportedly, The Terror was one of those films that Corman made because he still had the sets from his much more acclaimed film version of The Raven.  The script was never finished, the story was made up as filming moved alone, and no less than five directors shot different parts of this 81 minute movie.  Among the directors: Roger Corman, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, Francis Ford Coppola, and even Jack Nicholson himself!  Perhaps not surprisingly, the final film is a total mess but it does have some historical value.

(In typical Corman fashion, scenes from The Terror were later used in the 1968 film, Targets.)

Check out The Terror below!

Horror on the Lens: The Little Shop of Horrors (dir by Roger Corman)


(It’s tradition here at the Lens that, every October, we watch the original Little Shop of Horrors.  And always, I start things off by telling this story…)

Enter singing.

Little Shop…Little Shop of Horrors…Little Shop…Little Shop of Terrors…

Hi!  Good morning and Happy October 24th!  For today’s plunge into the world of public domain horror films, I’d like to present you with a true classic.  From 1960, it’s the original Little Shop of Horrors!

When I was 19 years old, I was in a community theater production of the musical Little Shop of Horrors.  Though I think I would have made the perfect Audrey, everybody always snickered whenever I sang so I ended up as a part of “the ensemble.”  Being in the ensemble basically meant that I spent a lot of time dancing and showing off lots of cleavage.  And you know what?  The girl who did play Audrey was screechy, off-key, and annoying and after every show, all the old people in the audience always came back stage and ignored her and went straight over to me.  So there.

Anyway, during rehearsals, our director thought it would be so funny if we all watched the original film.  Now, I’m sorry to say, much like just about everyone else in the cast, this was my first exposure to the original and I even had to be told that the masochistic dentist patient was being played by Jack Nicholson.  However, I’m also very proud to say that — out of that entire cast — I’m the only one who understood that the zero-budget film I was watching was actually better than the big spectacle we were attempting to perform on stage.  Certainly, I understood the film better than that screechy little thing that was playing Audrey.

The first Little Shop of Horrors certainly isn’t scary and there’s nobody singing about somewhere that’s green (I always tear up when I hear that song, by the way).  However, it is a very, very funny film with the just the right amount of a dark streak to make it perfect Halloween viewing.

So, if you have 72 minutes to kill, check out the original and the best Little Shop of Horrors

Scenes That I Love: The Job Interview From The Shining


I don’t care what Stephen King says.  Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining is great.

One of King’s big complaints about the film is that Jack is obviously unhinged from the start.  King is right that Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance as being someone who has a few screws loose even before he starts to work as the caretaker.  But it works for the film, as can be seen in this scene in which Stuart Ullman tells Jack about what happened to previous caretaker.

Incidentally, Barry Nelson’s performance as Ullman is seriously underrated.  Ullman is a far more interesting character in the movie than he was in King’s book.  For that matter, the same can be said of just about every character in the movie as opposed to the way King envisioned them in his novel.  Maybe that’s the main reason King doesn’t like this movie.  Kubrick understood King’s story better than King himself did.

Scenes That I Love: The Conclusion of The Passenger


Today’s scene that I love comes from 1975’s The Passenger, a film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.  Antonioni was born 110 years ago today, in what was then the “Kingdom of Italy.”

In The Passenger, Jack Nicholson plays a journalist who, because he’s bored with his life, impulsively assumes the identity of a deceased American businessman.  What he discovers is that the businessman was an arms dealer and that the people that the arms dealer were doing business with still expect to get their weapons.  Despite the fact that he knows that it might cost him his life, Nicholson is still drawn to see just how far he can take his new existence.

The film’s enigmatic final scene, in which Nicholson goes to a hotel to wait as both the people who double-crossed and his wife search for him, is Antonioni at his best.

8 Shots From 8 Films: Special Robert Evans Edition


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

92 years ago today, Robert Evans was born in New York City.  He started out working in his brother’s clothing business but a chance meeting with actress Norma Shearer led to him becoming an actor.  And while Evans, by his own account, was not a particularly good actor, he did prove himself to be very skilled at playing the games of Hollywood.  Evans eventually moved from acting to production, first as an executive at Paramount and then as an independent producer.

He lived a life as glamorous and tumultuous as the stars of his pictures and his memoir, The Kid Stays In The Picture, is considered to be one of the classic show biz autobiographies.  He hung out with cinematic rebels like Jack Nicholson and Robert Towne and counted Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as a friend.  He suggested that Francis Ford Coppola should direct The Godfather and, when Paramount put pressure on Coppola to cut the film down to two hours, it was Evans who famously announced that a two-hour Godfather was nothing more than a trailer.  He lost Ali MacGraw to Steve McQueen and, again by own account, he lost a lot of potentially productive years to cocaine.  (The Cotton Club scandal is one of the wildest in the history of Hollywood, though it should be noted that Evans himself was never charged with any wrongdoing.)  But, for all that he lost, Evans continues to gain admirers as being the epitome of the producer who was willing to take chances.  For all of his flamboyance, Evans had an eye for good material and the willingness to protect his directors.  In many ways, he was as important to the cinematic revolution of the 70s as the directors that he hired.  When Evans passed away in 2019, it was truly the end of an era.

Here, in honor of the birth and legacy of Robert Evans, are 8 Shots from 8 Films that Evans produced, either as studio chief at Paramount or as an independent producer.

8 Shots From 8 Robert Evans Films

Rosemary’s Baby (1968, dir by Romnn Polanski, DP: William A. Fraker)

Love Story (1970, dir by Arthur Hiller, DP: Richard Kratina)

The Godfather (1972, dir by Francis Ford Coppola, Cinematography by Gordon Willis)

Chinatown (1974, dir by Roman Polanski, DP: John A. Alonzo)

Marathon Man (1976, dir by John Schlesinger, DP: Conrad Hall)

The Cotton Club (1984, dir by Francis Ford Coppola, DP: Stephen Goldblatt)

The Two Jakes (1990, dir by Jack Nicholson, DP: Vilmos Zsigmond)

Sliver (1993, dir by Phillip Noyce, DP: Vilmos Zsigmond)

Scenes That I Love: Jack Nicholson’s Freeway Performance in Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces


Today, the Shattered Lens wishes a happy 89th birthday to Bob Rafelson, who was one of the first directors to not only truly recognize the genius of Jack Nicholson but also one of the co-creators of the Monkees.  (In fact, Rafelson brought the Monkees and Nicholson together when he made his directorial debut with 1968’s Head.  The Monkees starred in the film while Nicholson wrote the script.)  After getting his start on television, Rafelson became one of the leading figures of the Hollywood counterculture that came to power in the late 60s and the early 70s and a business partner of producer Bert Schneider, Rafelson also played a role in the creation of such classic films as Easy Rider, The Last Picture Show, and Hearts and Minds.  Like Nicholson, Rafelson was never a hippie.  Instead, his vision was closer to the vision of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady.  Rafelson and Nicholson brought the sensibility of the Beat Generation to Hollywood and, for a while at least, they changed the face of American culture.

In honor of Bob Rafelson’s birthday, today’s scene that I love comes from his 1970 film, Five Easy Pieces.  In this Oscar-nominated film, Jack Nicholson plays Bobby Dupea.  Born to a wealthy and music-obsessed family, Bobby currently works in an oil field and is alternatively angry, cynical, and idealistic.  (That both the main character and the director shared the same first name is probably not a coincidence as Rafelson also came from an artistic family.  Though many of Bobby’s famous outbursts — especially the famous one involving a chicken sandwich — were based on things that had actually happened to Nicholson, the character was equally based on Rafelson.)  After Jack Nicholson’s Oscar-nominated turn in Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces featured Nicholson playing the type of role for which he would be best-known in the 70s, the wayward rebel who must choose between being a part of society or being forever an outcast.  

In this scene, Bobby and his oilfield co-worker find themselves stuck in a traffic jam.  Bobby gets a chance to show off both his temper and his talent.  It’s a great scene and Nicholson gives such a strong performance that it’s only later that you realize that Bobby’s anger didn’t really accomplish much.  That was a recurring theme in Nicholson’s early films.  With this scene, Bob Rafelson captures both a man and a country in conflict.

Five Easy Pieces would be nominated for Best Picture, though it would lose to Patton. After his supporting nomination for Easy Rider, Nicholson received his first best actor nomination for this role here. (Again, Patton triumphed, though George C. Scott famously refused to accept his Oscar.) Sadly, Bob Rafelson was not nominated for Best Director.

Equally sadly, Rafelson’s subsequent films received mixed reviews (though most have been positively reevaluated in recent years) and struggled at the box office. With Hollywood becoming more concerned with finding the next blockbuster than producing films about existential wanderlust, Rafelson often struggled to bring his vision to the screen. He hasn’t directed a film since 2002’s No Good Deed. However, his work lives on amongst serious film students and historians of the 70s. If any director’s work is worthy of rediscovery and reevaluation, it’s Bob Rafelson’s.

Scenes That I Love: Peter Fonda Explores The City In The Trip


Today’s scene is from Roger Corman’s 1967 film, The Trip. Corman dropped acid himself before filming Peter Fonda doing the same thing in this film. Regardless of how one views Corman’s cinematic recreation of Fonda’s experience with acid, The Trip is considered to be one of the first nuanced drug films. While it doesn’t endorse drug use, it also doesn’t descend into the hysterics of a film like Reefer Madness. Interestingly enough, the script was written by Jack Nicholson.

Here is Peter Fonda, exploring the city on LSD, in The Trip:

Horror Film Review: The Terror (dir by Roger Corman, Monte Hellman, Francis Ford Coppola, Dennis Jakob, Jack Hill, and Jack Nicholson)


Can you follow the plot of the 1963 horror film, The Terror?

If so, congratulations!  You’ve accomplished something that even the people who made the film have admitted to being unable to do.

The film opens in 19th century Europe.  Andre Duvalier is an earnest French soldier who has somehow gotten lost in Germany.  Andre is played by a youngish, pre-stardom Jack Nicholson.  Nicholson, that most contemporary, sarcastic, and American of actors, is thoroughly unconvincing as an idealistic Frenchman from 1806.  Obviously unsure of what do with the character, Nicholson delivers his lines stiffly and does what he can to downplay the naturally sardonic sound of his voice.  This is probably the only film where Jack Nicholson is a “nice young man.”

Andre meets a mysterious woman named Helene (played by Sandra Knight, who was Nicholson’s wife at the time).  Helene appears to live in a castle with the Baron (Boris Karloff) and his servant, Stefan (Dick Miller, who makes no effort to come across as being, in anyway, European).  However, Helene bears a distinct resemblance to the Baron’s long-dead wife, Ilse, who the Baron killed after discovering her with another man.  However, a witch in the village claims that Ilse’s lover was her son so she put a curse on the Baron and the presence of Helene is a part of that curse.  However, Stefan claims that the Baron isn’t actually the Baron and and that Ilse’s husband isn’t actually dead.  However….

Yes, there’s a ton of plot twists in this movie, which is probably the result of the fact that the film was shot without a completed script.  In fact, the only reason the movie was made was because Roger Corman had access to Boris Karloff and a castle set that he used for The Raven.  When he discovered that he could use the set for two extra days, he shot some random footage with Boris Karloff and then he tried to build a movie around it.  As a result, the cast and the directors largely made up the story as the filmed.

Yes, I said directors.  While Corman shot the Karloff scenes, he no longer had enough money to use a union crew to shoot the rest of the film.  Because Corman was a member of the DGA, he couldn’t direct a nonunion film. So, he assigned the rest of the film to one his assistants, an aspiring filmmaker named Francis Ford Coppola.  Coppola shot the beach scenes and, in a sign of things to come, he went overbudget and got behind schedule.  Coppola was meant to shoot for three days but instead went for eleven.

Though Coppola shot the majority of the film, he got a better job offer before he could do any reshoots.  Coppola suggested that a friend of his from film school, Dennis Jakob, take over.  Jakob shot for three days and reportedly used most of the time to shoot footage for his thesis movie.

Still feeling that the movie needed a few extra scenes to try to make sense of the plot, Corman then gave the film to Monte Hellman and, after Hellman got hired for another job, Jack Hill.  Hellman would later go on to direct films like The Shooting and Two-Lane Blacktop.  Jack Hill would later direct Spider Baby and several other exploitation films in the 70s.  Reportedly, on the final day of shooting, even Jack Nicholson took some time behind the camera.  It was Nicholson’s first directing job.  (Nicholson, for his part, has often said that his original ambition in Hollywood was to become a director and not an actor.)

So, yes, the film’s a bit disjointed.  The plot doesn’t make any sense.  Nicholson shows little of his trademark charisma.  But Dick Miller has a lot of fun as the duplicitous Stefan and Boris Karloff brings his weary dignity to the role of the Baron.  Oddly, even though the Baron’s scene were shot before the script had even been written, they’re the ones that make the most sense.  It’s a messy film but it plays out with a certain hallucinatory style.  It’s a piece of Hollywood history and a testament to Roger Corman’s refusal to waste even two days of shooting.  If you’ve got a star and a set for two days, you’ve got enough for a movie!

Horror on the Lens: The Little Shop of Horrors (dir by Roger Corman)


(It’s tradition here at the Lens that, every October, we watch the original Little Shop of Horrors.  And always, I start things off by telling this story…)

Enter singing.

Little Shop…Little Shop of Horrors…Little Shop…Little Shop of Terrors…

Hi!  Good morning and Happy October 29th!  For today’s plunge into the world of public domain horror films, I’d like to present you with a true classic.  From 1960, it’s the original Little Shop of Horrors!

When I was 19 years old, I was in a community theater production of the musical Little Shop of Horrors.  Though I think I would have made the perfect Audrey, everybody always snickered whenever I sang so I ended up as a part of “the ensemble.”  Being in the ensemble basically meant that I spent a lot of time dancing and showing off lots of cleavage.  And you know what?  The girl who did play Audrey was screechy, off-key, and annoying and after every show, all the old people in the audience always came back stage and ignored her and went straight over to me.  So there.

Anyway, during rehearsals, our director thought it would be so funny if we all watched the original film.  Now, I’m sorry to say, much like just about everyone else in the cast, this was my first exposure to the original and I even had to be told that the masochistic dentist patient was being played by Jack Nicholson.  However, I’m also very proud to say that — out of that entire cast — I’m the only one who understood that the zero-budget film I was watching was actually better than the big spectacle we were attempting to perform on stage.  Certainly, I understood the film better than that screechy little thing that was playing Audrey.

The first Little Shop of Horrors certainly isn’t scary and there’s nobody singing about somewhere that’s green (I always tear up when I hear that song, by the way).  However, it is a very, very funny film with the just the right amount of a dark streak to make it perfect Halloween viewing.

So, if you have 72 minutes to kill, check out the original and the best Little Shop of Horrors

Batman (dir. by Tim Burton)


Here on the Shattered Lens, the love for Batman is very strong. There are too many Batman related articles to fully list, but for a good start, go with Ryan’s Which Way Forward for the Batman Franchise.

This isn’t so much a review for Batman as it’s just me looking back on the film.

I spent the Saturday Morning of June 24th, 1989 standing on a line that snaked around the white walls of the Sunrise Multiplex Cinema in Valley Stream. Thankfully, by the time I arrived, there were only a few people there. Most of them were my friends, so we were close to the door. The following year, the Sunrise would go down in history as being the only movie theatre I’ve ever known with metal detectors after a shooting around the release of The Godfather Part III prompted tighter security. Before then, anyone going into the theatre had a free run of the place. From that incident to the theatre’s shutdown in 2015, you always had to pass the metal detectors.

You knew Tim Burton’s Batman was going to be something grand when they first put up the posters in bus stations. The character was so well known that the poster was simply a black and gold Batsymbol with a date – June 23. In my neighborhood, the poster lasted a week before the bus stop’s glass was broken and it was stolen. This was how mad people were for the film. Although merchandise was already available, it moved at an incredible pace. For a film made before pre-Internet, the buzz was just amazing.

“Okay, Everyone, we know you’re looking forward to seeing the movie.”, came the announcement over the theatre’s loudspeaker, which caused a few murmurs from everyone. It was a smooth, business like voice, probably from someone who had never even heard of The Caped Crusader. “We’re going to open up the doors and we want everyone to proceed to the ticket booths in a nice, orderly fashion.”

I was 14 at the time. Batman was the first movie I ever saw without my family. My parents, a cop and a bartender, saw so much of the worst of NYC that they figured the best place for me was home. Still, since I was among friends they knew, I gave me a pass. It was a big deal. My friend Pierre and I had a plan, along with the 4 others that came with us. We’d head in, make for the ticket booth and go right in for our seats near the back right side.. No refreshments were necessary, since we could all go eat at the mall later on after the move was done. To make sure I didn’t miss anything, I had already read the novel for the story beforehand.

Anyone close to the door could see the theatre workers as they approached, keys in hand. The layout of the Sunrise was such that after stepping through the front door, you could cut to your immediate left or right down a open path to separate ticket booth. As the door unlocked, was pushed open and secured, someone from near the middle of the line decided it was time, declaring in a loud scream.

“Batman!!!!!”

It was madness. Utter madness. Bodies piled into the theatre in a mad scramble for the ticket booth. On the way there, I was shoulder blocked and fell to the floor. I instantly curled into a ball to keep from getting trampled, wondering if my parents were right about not letting me out. ‘Here lies Lenny…”, my epitaph would read. “…he died at the movies after being let outside on his own just once.”

Thankfully, I was scooped up to my feet a few seconds later by one of my friends.

“Go on! We’ve got your tickets! Head for the ticket guy, we’ll meet you there!” he yelled over the crowd passing us on sides.

“Okay!!” I’d been to the Sunrise tons of times, so I knew it well. I moved through the crowd, bypassing the concession stand, which was already developing a line of its own. I thought they were going to go in without me and leave me there. I don’t know they did it, but within a few minutes of reaching the ticket taker. most of my group caught up, tickets in hand for all of us.

The actual experience of Batman was a packed crowd with almost non-stop talking throughout. After all, the audience was made up of teens and DC fans that that were ravenous for anything Batman related. Superman had about four films by the time Batman premiered. I think the only real time the entire audience hushed was near the beginning when we first see Batman grab the one robber and they ask him what he is. After that, the crowd pretty much erupted in applause.

Of course, that line would become famous and reused over the years, such as it was with the WB’s Supernatural.

Even before the film was released, the buzz for Batman was immense.

Batman focuses on Gotham City, a grand town with a great deal of crime. Reports are coming in of a mysterious vigilante figure resembling a giant bat that’s taking down random criminals. Crime in Gotham is run by Boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance, City Slickers), with his right hand man, Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson, The Departed). After discovering that Napier’s spent some quality time with his girl, Alicia (Jerry Hall, Urban Cowboy), Grissom sets him up so that he’ll be caught by the cops. Things don’t go as planned, and after falling into a vat of chemicals, Napier is reborn as The Joker. Can the Dark Knight defeat this new menace?

One of Anton Furst’s designs for Batman.

For me, one of the most interesting elements of Tim Burton’s Batman is how Jack Nicholson was the main draw for the film. Nicholson stands front and center in this film. If any real eyebrows were raised, it was over casting Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight. Keaton and Burton worked together on Beetlejuice, so there was some chemistry. However, when the announcement for Keaton being cast in Batman, most people were pretty skeptical. Keaton was known for playing more comedic roles, and playing the Batman required a more serious attitude. However, I’ve always felt that comedians are the most shocking when they take on a serious role. Some examples of this are Patton Oswalt in Big Fan, Robin Williams’ Academy Award winning performance in Good Will Hunting and most recently, Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems. I feel that worked for Keaton, and most viewers underestimated what he could bring to both Bruce Wayne and Batman. As Wayne, Keaton seems a bit subdued. As Batman, he’s a little scary simply because he doesn’t quite look like the kind of individual who would roam the streets at night dressed as a bat. My parents would later argue over Batman’s drop of Jack Napier at Axis Chemicals. I thought it was a situation where he just couldn’t hold on to him. My parents’ viewpoint was that Batman deliberately did it. We never really know for sure, but it did seem a little convenient that Batman couldn’t hold on to Napier. Overall, Keaton’s Batman plays second fiddle to Nicholson’s Joker, who also had a some sway in the design of the nemesis for the film.

Batman’s cast also includes Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) as Vicki Vale, Robert Wuhl (Bull Durham), Billy Dee Williams (Nighthawks) and Pat Hingle (Sudden Impact) as Commissioner Gordon, The cast is pretty perfect here, without anyone really falling out of step. Batman stories would grow more serious by the time Nolan would step in, but for the 1980s, it was just fine.

Anton Furst would win an Oscar for Best Art Direction for his design of Gotham City, which was for its time, quite dazzling. On par with some of the designs from Blade Runner and The Crow, Furst’s rendition of Gotham was dark and brooding, compared to the more modern backdrop of Batman Begins. In addition to Gotham’s look, Furst also helped design the Batmobile, which was based off the Chevy Impala (another Supernatural connection). When the film was released on home video, my family caught sight of the Batmobile up close on the street as it delivered VHS Copies to a video store in Manhattan. Although he died some years later, Furst’s work on Batman remains an influence on both the comics and future installments of the movies.

1989 was also a big year for Danny Elfman. His score for Batman would earn him a Grammy, and the main theme would become a definitive one for the Caped Crusader throughout the early 1990. Shirley Walker would build on the theme with her music from Batman: The Animated Series. It was also something of a surprise for Prince. With songs like Trust, Electric Chair and Vicki’s Waiting, Prince’s Batman Soundtrack is full of great hits that you really wouldn’t think would fit in a story like Batman. Still, they manage to do just fine, and even elevate scenes like the Joker’s entry in the Gotham Museum and the Balloon Parade.

Batman is not without a few problems. It gets a little long in the tooth in the film’s second half, particularly in the scenes leading up to the Monarch and Bruce losing his parents. It’s not a terrible slowdown, since it has to set the tone for some of the more spectacular fights later on. It could have been edited just a little tighter. Additionally, when compared to some of the modern versions, 1989’s Batman can feel a little bit dated (to me, anyway). That’s more of a nitpick, or where you stand on the Batman universe as a whole. Everyone has their favorite adaptation on the Caped Crusader.

Burton and Keaton would later reunite in 1992’s Batman Returns, and the franchise on a whole would take a different turn with Joel Schumacher’s takes in 1995’s Batman Forever and 1997 Batman & Robin.