#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:

Happy May Day: The Wicker Man (1973)

(Submitted by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks, Ho-rrorday Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

*Spoilers*


Happy May 1st to all you wicked witches and groovy ghoulies out there! For most, today is known as “May Day,”  and is primarily associated with sweet flowers and baskets full of small delights. To others, it is known as Beltane, a day in which faeries and spirits are uncommonly active. Magick is strong on this day, and protective bonfires are spread. Generally speaking, human beings are not at the literal center of these bonfires. However, if you are on the isle of Summerisle,  it’s entirely possible that things may get a little hot for you or someone you know…
The Wicker Man (1973) is a weird film. “Weird” is a word we have used numerous times on this site, but it’s a word that fits The Wicker Man better than most films. Even other “weird” films fail to be as weird.  For starters, The Wicker Man is not really a horror film until its last twenty minutes. Instead, it is best described as a “musical.” Hardly a traditional musical, mind you, but a musical. That’s not to to say the film is not unnerving, but it does it more with an overwhelming sense of things being off than with something that is obviously creepy.  However, once it reaches its conclusion, it does earn that “horror” label that it is associated with.

The plot concerns police officer Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl from the island Summerisle. Howie is shocked when the island’s population denies the missing girl’s existence. Being a devout Christian of the puritanical sort, Howie is even more perturbed when he learns that the inhabitants are worshipers of a form of Celtic paganism. As the officer continues his investigation, the officer’s unease escalates when he suspects that the girl’s disappearance may be linked to a ghastly public festival.


Anthony “Frenzy” Shaffer’s screenplay is brilliantly crafted, making its finale (which I will get to very shortly) all the more powerful. its weird folk musical sequences and use of Pagan imagery make for a chilling atmosphere that doesn’t resort to crumbling castles, foggy graveyards, thunderstorms, or any of the classic horror tropes. The performances are all aces, especially Christopher Lee as the charismatic Lord Summerisle. Lee, who reportedly did the film for free, often said that Lord Summerisle was one of his favorite roles. While I’m partial to his work with Hammer, it is certainly an impressive performance in a career full of remarkable roles.
The ending is, understandably, the most talked-about part of the film. It has been parodied/referenced by just about everyone, is regularly cited as one of the greatest endings in horror history, and was even included in Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie MomentsUnfortunately, that means that, even if you haven’t seen the film, you have a pretty decent idea of how it goes. Nonetheless, this overexposure can’t really diminish is just how effectively it plays out. No parody, spoiler-filled review, or single image online can capture just how powerfully disturbing it is or how horrifically real the performances seem. That is the ultimate testament to how masterful The Wicker Man is. Even if it isn’t completely unexpected, it still gets under your fingernails.

There isn’t a lot of competition, but The Wicker Man is definitely the greatest May Day/Beltane horror film of all time.  I highly recommend you give this classic shocker a view today. There’s just no better way for a ghoul to celebrate the occasion.

Happy May Day, creeps! MAY your dance around the Maypole be a pleasant one and may your Wicker Man burn bright.