Top critical review
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on 22 September 2014
On the back of the international horror movie renaissance of the late 1950s, Hollywood legend Boris Karloff saw something of a brief career resurgence in the genre; after headlining a couple of decent British-made chillers around the turn of the decade and teaming up with Italian auteur Mario Bava for his highly regarded anthology flick Black Sabbath, in the early 1960s he found himself employed by Roger Corman and American International Pictures on a handful of films, of which The Terror (1963) is by far the worst.
A confusing mess that nominally returns to the necromancy theme Corman had already mined several (increasingly tiresome) times in his numerous Edgar Allan Poe-themed efforts, this has Karloff as an apparently Germanic, castle-dwelling old baron tormented by his `is-she-or-isn't-she-dead?' wife, whilst a young Jack Nicholson plays a French soldier (!) trying to get to the bottom of what is going on. Made on the fly on sets that had been first used for Corman's The Raven, it was apparently pieced together from fragments of footage shot, literally, even as those sets were being torn down, directed variously by half-a-dozen different Corman stooges including Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, and Nicholson himself. The kind of laughable drive-in dreck that gives low budget horror movies a bad name, The Terror is a total dog that is best known today as the basis for Peter Bogdanovich's awesome Targets (1967), which uses several of its scenes to double for what is supposedly the `latest movie' starring Karloff's semi-autobiographical character Byron Orlok. Indeed, the best one can say about sitting through this dross is that it makes you appreciate just how brilliant Targets is by comparison.