#TerrorTuesday: The Terror (1963)

Salutations from the Other Side, Ho-rror Ho-unds! It’s a Terror-ific Tuesday here in Karloffornia, so why not take a look at The Terror with Boris Karloff?
What a tit-le! How intriguing! How vague! “The Terror” is like calling a film “Horror Movie.” And it sums up the appeal of this film pretty neatly! The plot concerns Andre Duvalier, a lost Napoleonic soldier (a very young Jack Nicholson) who is rescued by Helene (Sandra Knight), an enigmatic woman who is revealed to be a ghost possessed by a witch. Eventually, after being attacked by a large bird and being separated from Helene, he finds himself at the castle of Baron Victor Von Leppe (Boris Karloff), The Baron’s wife passed away some time ago, but Helene bears a strong resemblance to her. What dark secrets does the Baron keep, and what ghastly horrors await poor Andre?

If that synopsis reads like a game of Gothic Mad Libs, that’s because the film largely was. Director Roger Corman was working on The Raven and finished the picture a few days early.  Realizing he had a pretty groovy set going unused until its demolition, the pragmatic Corman decided to crank out another film in those last few days. Along with the sets, Corman recycled Karloff and Nicholson from The Raven. Karloff later said:

“Corman had the sketchiest outline of a story. I read it and begged him not to do it. He said ‘That’s alright Boris, I know what I’m going to do. I want you for two days on this.’ I was in every shot, of course. Sometimes I was just walking through and then I would change my jacket and walk back. He nearly killed me on the last day. He had me in a tank of cold water for about two hours. After he got me in the can he suspended operations and went off and directed two or three operations to get the money, I suppose… [The sets] were so magnificent… As they were being pulled down around our ears, Roger was dashing around with me and a camera, two steps ahead of the wreckers. It was very funny.”

All the scenes that required the castle and Karloff were filmed in three days. After that, the film was passed on to Francis Ford Coppola (yes… THAT Francis Ford Coppola ) for a couple of days, then it was handed over to Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, and perhaps others who will forever go nameless. Rumor has it that Jack Nicholson even took over for a day. Each new director was tasked with making some sense of the original footage and adding new plot points and twists to this Frankenstein.
Despite its slapped-together nature, The Terror is actually worth the watch. While its backstory is more fascinating than the film itself, The Terror is decent fright flick with a few fairly creepy moments. It’s not be a genre masterpiece, but it’s got atmosphere and thrills aplenty. For a dose of Gothic nonsense, this one will hit the spot. It ain’t The Masque of the Red Death (1964), but it’s got skeletons, ghosts, witches, and King Karloff. That’s good enough for me.

For some thrills ‘n’ chills with Jack and Boris, check out the film below:

Kinky Quickie: Return of The Poe Toaster?

The Poe Toaster has returned… kinda.

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From around 1949 until 2009, a mysterious person (people?) had been honoring the Master of Macabre by leaving three red roses and a bottle of cognac on his grave. Nobody knows why the Poe Toaster left cognac, but it’s been suggested that the three roses represent the three buried beneath the monument: Poe, his wife, and his mother-in-law. 2009 marked the last appearance of the enigmatic figure, but the tradition has been revived… without the mystery. The Maryland Historical Society resurrected the Toaster last year, with this being his second year toasting Poe. To this day, we still have no idea who the original Toaster was. This spectre of a man has become the perfect tribute to Poe: a fantastic mystery that will linger in the minds of many. May the new Toaster ho-nor Poe for years to come… and may the original remain a mystery.
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#TBT: The “The Tell-Toon Heart” Edition

(Submitted by our Poe-tic Pal, Mr. Dr. Anton Phibes. Thanks, Mac(abre) Daddy!! 😉 xoxox)

A darkly happy birthday to that American Master of the Macabre, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe!

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Students of the macabre are very much familiar with the work and influence of Mr. Poe. In fact, there are very few practitioners of the scary story that don’t owe something to the exquisite horrors spawned from his wonderfully twisted imagination. Even as a child, Poe’s stories captivated me with their melodramatic fancy and lugubrious mood, and I know for a fact that Mr. Poe’s tales have had the same effect on all the other Pugsleys and Wednesdays out there. To honor this High Priest of Gothic Fiction, I’d like to take a moment to discuss 1953’s The Tell-Tale Heart, one of the most extraordinary adaptations of the Master’s work to ever grace the screen.

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Narrated by the legendary James Mason, UPA’s animated retelling of The Tell-Tale Heart is a masterfully animated dive into the depths of pure insanity. The surrealist imagery, incredible colors, and limited animation perfectly illustrate the escalating madness of the nameless narrator, creating an unnerving atmosphere that is, in a word, scary. The British Board of Film Censors thought so too, making it the first animated feature to be given an “X” rating. Despite this controversy,  it was rightfully nominated for an Oscar in the “Best Animated Short Film” category. Capturing the gloomy spirit of Mr. Poe, it is as perfect an adaptation as one could hope for.

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In all its eerie glory, here is UPA’s The Tell-Tale Heart!

As a bonus cartoon, here is an episode of Cartoon Network’s Time Squad in which Poe gets his groove back! It’s decidedly lighter short than UPA’s short, but it’s still a delightful tribute to our dear Mr. Poe. 

Happy Birthday, Mr. Poe. Your influence and work will live on for evermore.

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