Monday, August 16, 2010

Film #36: The Terror (1963)

Horn-dog fellas, some words for the wise:
Some chicks just ain’t worth it.
If that hot babe you mysteriously met causally tires to lure you to your death – she’s not worth it.
If you hear from the locals she might just be the half-demonic spirit of a murdered baroness slut – she’s really not worth it.
And most importantly, if your luscious object of affection can’t stop picking her mouth sores or itching downstairs, seriously, take it from college-era Nick and Chris, it is NOT WORTH IT!

Unfortunately, perpetual skirt chaser Jack Nicholson doesn’t heed these warnings, and literally chases after a diseased, dead and deadly Casper-ette in this week’s adventure known as “The Terror.”

A baby-faced Nicholson plays Lt. Andre Duvalier, an officer in the marauding Napoleonic army who gets separated from his regiment and passes out from sunstroke near a nondescript, B.F.E. beach. When he awakens, before him is a beautiful raven-haired woman named Helene, who seemingly materializes like a mermaid out of the sea. He asks her for water, and she leads him to some, but as he drinks she disappears.

Duvalier runs around the woods searching for his new friend, and finds her again. Okay, stop, stop, stop the writing. This is Jack’s first mistake. If you are talking to someone, turn your head for a second, and then see they have disappeared, don’t pursue them. It only means trouble.
But she is just so beautiful! Yeah yeah yeah, whatever dude. Alright, where were we…

When Duvalier catches up with the woman, she is retreating back to the water just as the tide rolls in. He follows, but loses her in the mist. Suddenly, as the waves crash down on him, a menacing bird strikes at his head and attacks! He beats at the bird, beats at the waves, and soon beats himself, then passes out again.

He wakes up this time in an old woman’s crapshack, who tells him it was her bird he saw but it isn’t evil. It just likes to peck out eyes, no biggie. She also says there was no girl at the beach, but it was her servant Gustaf who found him alone.

That night, Duvalier sees the beautiful woman again, and she leads him out into the dark forest. Just as he is about to blindly follow her into deadly quicksand, Gustaf again saves him.

“Put it back in your pants, idiot!” Gustaf says. “That wench be a ghost who is trying to kill you, homes!” Gustaf explains that the woman Duvalier keeps trying to corner was once the Baroness Isla Von Leppe, who lived in a now abandoned castle up the hill. Her ghost has haunted these parts nearly 20 years after her murder.
Duvalier doesn’t believe him: how can someone that sexy be dead! And even if she is dead, that has never stopped Nicholson before!

Duvalier makes a trek up to the Von Leppe estate, and finds the Baron Victor Fredrick Von Leppe still in the house. There is no beautiful woman here, Von Leppe – played by Boris Karloff – insists. The only woman in the house lies in the crypt: the Baron’s long dead wife Ilsa Von Leppe!

After some prying, Boris spills the beans about how 20 years ago he returned from a long war campaign to find his beloved wife Isla in bed with another man named Eric. In a rage, Victor murdered both Isla and Eric, and decided to never leave his castle again out of pure shame. Ahhh, poor devil.

These last few weeks Victor has been haunted by Isla, who keeps insisting he kill himself and join her in the afterlife. It must have been Isla’s ghost that Duvalier is lusting after, Boris surmises. But the woman told Duvalier her name was Helene, so what gives!

Later it is revealed that the seemingly innocent old bird woman who first took in Duvalier is actually not only a notorious witch, but also the mother of Eric, the lover Victor killed in hot blood. The witch returned to those parts with Victor’s long lost daughter Helene, possessed the broad Helene with her dead mothers demonic spirit, and is using the girl to get her suicidal revenge on Victor!
But not if horn-dog Duvalier has anything to do with it!

Will Helene become fully possessed and cause the murder of her lost father? Will the witch finally avenge her beloved son? Will Jack get a piece of that sweet, rotting flesh?
Find out in the twisty conclusion of 1963’s low budget flick, “The Terror”!

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 2.8
Chris Dimick possesses:
“This movie seemed to have it all. A great cast, a notoriously bad/awesome director, and a twisting, somewhat complex story line. But for some reason the sum of those parts did not equal a great movie. But in their own, each of these aspects of The Terror made it fun to watch. Here’s why.

The Cast:
-You’ve got the RDHP’s old friend Boris Karloff playing the broken Baron Victor Fredrick Von Leppe.
Though he phoned in our last movie, here Boris is older but better, stealing every scene he is in. Sure, when he walks the 76-year-old horror legend looks like he is mimicking his role as Frankenstein, but he gives real emotion to a character who has lived in seclusion for 20 years following the rage-driven murder of his one true love. Boris still had it in this movie, and he flaunted it.

-Then there is Jack Nicholson, who I don’t think could ever really act, but there is just something special about seeing him on the screen. He has great presence, and that goes a long way in a horror movie. And that voice! Listening to him and Boris exchange dialog was like overhearing the back row of the United Nations. You couldn’t quite pin down their accent, but it sure sounds pleasant.

-Dick Miller turned in a brilliant performance as Baron Von Leppe’s devoted assistant. Dick is a character actor who has held many small, but memorable roles including the veteran neighbor in Gremlins, and the murderous artist in Bucket of Blood. This is probably some of his best work, which is a shame really that it is kind of lost in this unknown film.

The Director:
-Then you have director Roger Corman, a personal producer/director favorite of mine. Corman is a low-budget king of cinema, directing movies like “Little Shop of Horrors” and producing in some capacity over 200 trashy films like “Tales of Terror” and “X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes.” These are movies you watch when you don’t feel like thinking… and that is not an insult. Everyone needs a break from the world, and Corman can always deliver that well needed respite. In The Terror, Corman doesn't disappoint with a few shock scenes and a well paced movie.

The Story:
Though I just said Corman’s movies are shallow, this is one of the more deep Corman movies I have seen. The plot had Nick and I both asking aloud questions, serious questions, that came out of the somewhat involved story. The Terror left quite a bit open to interpretation, and that is one of its strengths. Many horror movies want to do all the work for the audience plot-wise, and don’t require much heavy mental lifting. But The Terror impressed me in that long after the movie, I was thinking about the various possibilities of the story.

Just who was that woman, was it really a ghost or a possessed daughter or what? There is a twist ¾ through the movie that throws the audience into a confused cloud of fun as well. Sprinkle in some unexpected gory affects that come just when you need them, and it is easy to say The Terror was an entertaining watch.

But, even though it was fun, this one still gets just a 2.8. Though it was interesting, the plot was muddled and could have been spelled out a little more. The print Nick and I watched was abysmal, and looked like you were watching the movie through gauze.

It was fun, but not more so than your average summer work gathering. You know, at first you are just happy to be out of work, there is an open bar, and you can catch up with work friends. But then you realize you can’t have more than one beer for fear of doing something stupid in front of the CEO, conversation with your work friends runs out, and you realize that although you are not at work you are still not at home.

The Terror is a take it or leave it type of flick. If you happen to see it, great! But don’t go out of your way for it.”

N-Rating: 2.4
Nick Rich possesses:
"What can you say about a movie that you couldn't actually see? Yes, that is an exaggeration, but not by much. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of The Terror is the terror I had to endure in watching a film where I literally could not tell what was happening in a good 17% of the movie (yeah, 17%... what of it?)!
Had it not been for the project, I dare say I would have thrown in the towel on this one due to frustration - I mean, I'm not a high def snob and I don't mind a few cigarette burns, pops and hisses with my cinema, but DANG! This film looked like it was stored out of the canister underneath a pile of McDonald's cheeseburgers for 35 years! There were many a moment where I had to ask Chris what he thought was going on, as I couldn't interpret what the shaded blurs were doing (especially the last 5 minutes of the film).

Viewing frustration aside, The Terror was a pretty entertaining film, entertaining enough to get Chris and I talking at least - although I could still be reeling from last week's Voodoo Island. Bah! Let's not let our minds wander back to that dark time...
Chris wasn't lying, Boris packs a mean punch in this film (performance-wise, although for an old dude I'm sure he still had a mean right hook), delivering a poignant portrayal of a tortured old soul. Add to that Dick Miller holding his own against a (debatable, i.e. Jack Nicholson) heavy cast and the acting in this film was a cut above what one would expect from a 60's B-movie. I honestly can't remember if there were a musical score, which could mean it was absent (which wouldn't surprise me) or so fitting that it melted into the background.

Well, now that I've mustered up some "compliments", let take a gander at the things that irked me about this film:
I hope Chris enjoys this film for many years to come (as he owns it as a part of one of his 50-pack horror DVDs)!

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you want proof that old guys can still 'kick it' or if you have perfect sight and have always wondered what it was like to have poor vision.

Things We Learned from The Terror:
-We really need to buy some awesome Karloff-esqe silk robes for night-night time.
-Pushing down an old man is easy, even for a ghost.
-God’s one unforgivable sin is suicide.
-The older Boris gets, the more he looks like Frankenstein.
-It is really hard to punch a flying hawk.
-Mute people like to vogue dance.
-Always look before opening a door in a creepy castle.
-1786 was only 20 years ago.
-Six shooters were totally around in 1806.
-Castle crypts come equipped with a 'flood switch' which lets the ocean in.
-Nick and Chris likes their graveyards extra smokey!

Quote of the Viewing:
[Spoiler alert! Andre leans in and gives a loving kiss to Helene, who meets this affection by melting into a mess of peanut buttery goo.]
Chris: “One kiss from Jack Nicholson is all it takes to make the ladies melt…literally.”

RDHP Go Bird-Watching!
An eye-pecking, possibly possessed hawk is a main character in The Terror. While some in the flick hate the winged beast, its old lady master just adores her feathered friend. Here we invite you to creep along in the Internet forest and spot these lovely fixtures of the sky. Look! I see one now…

Ohhh, my, what a wing-span!

Get 'er, boys!

This vision of beauty brings a tear to my black, dead eyes.

Birds: scaring the poo out of children since dinosaurs devolved into flying rats.

I"m sure there is a story here... but we don't want to hear it.

Looks like "The Trump" is catching on in Congress!

Oh my, just look at that beautiful plumage!

I think a little puke just seeped through my beak.

They were "so happy together"... until drugs, girls, greed and an incident with a turkey baster tore them apart.
Next, on the True Hollywood Story.

This one would pick your bones dry if you let 'em.

Every Cubs fan's favorite Byrd...Marlon.

The most ironic picture we have ever seen.

Don't play this video near Molly Dimick... she will punch you for it.

RDHP List:
Our Favorite Witches
They may be brides of Satan, but that doesn’t stop the RDHP from enjoying the antics of those silly, pointy hated ladies of the night – witches. In The Terror, a witch uses her evil powers to get revenge on the man who killed her son. She gets a pretty bad rap in the movie, so to counter this witch-a-phobia, we offer a list of wiccan wenches that always turn our heads.

Samantha Stephens
Chris once broke his nose trying to twitch it like Samantha.

Wicked Witch of the West
Who didn't hate that bitch Dorothy? You go sole sister, get that lil' brat!

Salem Witches
"Welcome to Salem. Oh, you don’t have a husband? That's nic...Burn her! Burn the witch!"

Charmed's Witches
Most men didn't mind when Alyssa Milano cast her tight pants spell on them.

Oh, she is a teenage bride of hell! How cute!

The Blair Witch
Yeah, we never saw this creeper in the hit 90s thriller, but we didn't need to.

Rita Repulsa
What drugs were the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers writers smoking when they came up with Rita Repulsa. A space alien witch? Really?

Kathy Lee Gifford
She is wicked, bossy, shrill, and sends children running for their mothers. Yep, this hag is a witch!

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