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!

4 Shots From 4 Dracula Films


4 Shots From 4 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!

Today, let us take just a few moments to pay tribute to one of the icons of Halloween.  He was born into nobility but he never let that stop him from visiting the village at night and getting a taste of the common life.  I’m talking, of course, about the original royal influencer, Count Dracula!  Everyone knows Dracula.  Everyone wants to either be with or even be Dracula.  It’s no wonder that he’s been the subject of so many biopics.

In honor of the Count’s legacy, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Dracula Films

Dracula (1931, starring Bela Lugosi as the Count, Dir by Tod Browning, DP: Karl Freund)

Horror of Dracula (1958, starring Christopher Lee as the Count, Dir by Terence Fisher, DP: Jack Asher)

Dracula (1979, starring Frank Langella as the Count, Dir by John Badham, DP: Gilbert Taylor)

Dracula 3D (2012, starring Thomas Kretschman at the Count, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Luciano Tovoli)

Music Video Of The Day: Keep The Streets Empty For Me by Fever Ray (2009, dir by Jens Klevje and Fabian Svensson)


Before anyone makes the obvious assumption, allow me to assure you that I did not pick this song as a way to comment on whether or not people should be sheltering in place.  I just like the song and I like the atmospheric music video.

Watching this video reminds me of this time when I woke up at 3 in the morning and discovered that a huge fog had rolled into town.  Even though it was probably totally foolish of me, I threw on a robe and then I went outside and walked around in the fog for a while.  It was the thickest fog I had ever seen, too.  It was ominous and frightening but kind of beautiful too.  I felt like I was walking through someone else’s dream.  This video brings back that memory.

Enjoy!

Horror Scenes That I Love: The Finale of Dellamorte Dellamore


Today’s horror scene that I love comes from the 1994 Italian film, Dellamorte Dellamore.

Viewed out of context from the rest of the film, this is not an easy scene to explain.  My suggestion is enjoy it for the beauty of the images and Rupert Everett’s mournful performance.  And, if you haven’t seen it, watch Dellamorte Dellamore as soon as possible.

Horror Scenes That I Love: The Chase Sequence from Jean Rollin’s La Vampire Nue


Today’s horror scene that I love comes from 1970’s La Vampire Nue.  This film was directed by the brilliant French surrealist, Jean Rollin.

What is this scene about?  To be honest, what it’s about is less important than how it looks and how it makes you feel.  As a director, Jean Rollin specialized in bringing dreams and nightmare to cinematic life.  (That said, as surreal as this scene may be, it’s actually one of the more straight forward moments to be found in Rollin’s filmography.)

Coogler, Jordan, and Stallone return with Creed!


The first trailer for Creed was released earlier today!  Now, I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of boxing.  Nor did I exactly love Rocky when I watched it on TCM.   (That said, I’ve always secretly felt that I was a bit too glibly dismissive of it in my review.)

But you know what film I did really admire?  Fruitvale Station.  Ryan Coogler’s directorial debut was a powerful and disturbing look at race relations in America.  It had its flaws but overall, Coogler crafted one of the best films of the decade.  Equally impressive was the film’s star, Michael B. Jordan.

So for me, my interesting has been piqued because Creed is another chapter in the careers of both Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan and I can not wait to see where they go.

However, I think a lot more people will want to see the film because it is another chapter in the story of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky.  So, before seeing Creed, be sure to check out our own Jedadiah Leland’s look back at the history of the Rocky franchise!

And watch the trailer for Creed below!