“The Terror” is a terrible, terrible movie, made by Roger Corman only to squeeze some more money out of the sets for “The Haunted Palace” before he sent them to the knacker’s yard. Not surprisingly the only good thing about this mess is the sets, though I must admit the cinematography is also quite adequate.
Overall, the film is a boring, unimaginative, extremely low-budget affair and features one of Nicholson’s worst performances. In this last fact, ironically, lies “The Terror’s” only true worth – any crap actor doubting that he will ever be any good at his chosen art can take great consolation from the 26 year old Nicholson’s totally crap acting. Looking at him in 1963, who the hell would have expected Nicholson to become one of the most respected and praised actors of the 70s and 80s? Outside of those with a crystal ball or a time machine, nobody, that’s who.
But despite the crap acting and the virtually non-existent budget what really made this thing tank for me was the ending. This is when we find out that the old witch woman who has been using the possessed body of a young woman (Sandra Knight, Nicholson’s then-wife, for those who care about such trivia) to torment poor old Baron Boris is in fact Boris’ mother! The problem with this twist is not the unlikely idea that after killing the real Baron her son lost his marbles and came to think he actually was the Baron. No, the problem lies in the casting, for the 76 year old Karloff’s mother is played by Dorothy Neumann, who at the time was only 49 years old! And she looks it, too! No “Little Big Man” style make-up here. No. Neumann is, and looks, a quarter of a century younger than her “son!” Seriously, as bad casting choices go this one is topped only by Anthony Hopkins playing a black man in “The Human Stain,” though unlike the Big Hollywood bozos Corman at least had a lack of resources as a viable excuse.
This one is a definite loser, and the only reason I took a look at it was because I have recently watched “Targets” and was surprised to see that there are prints of the thing out there that look quite sharp and saturated, as opposed to the crap print I watched on VHS back in the 80s. “The Terror” is a disaster and of interest only to Karloff, Corman or Nicholson completists – or people who like to watch crappy movies so they can make smartass comments about them.