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The early 1800s: A French officer, André (Jack Nicholson) has lost his
regiment somewhere in the middle of nowhere (but at the coast) but has
stumbled into young Helene (Sandra Knight), a girl he almost immediately
falls in love with, but who disappears into the sea before his very ees,
and when he tries to go after her, he is attacked by a bird and almost
Later, he wakes up in the hut of an old hag, Katrina (Dorothy Neumann),
who quite simply denies the existence of the girl. However, a villager,
Gustav (Jonathan Haze) directs him to the castle of Baron von Leppe (Boris
Karloff) to find some answers and maybe the girl ... but all André really
finds at the Baron's place is a mystery that somehow involves the girl -
only the girl is not called Helene here but Ilsa, the Baron's wife whom he
killed 20 years ago when he found her with another man, Erik. But for the
last two years now, the Baron has been seeing Ilsa's ghost, and it's only
now that someone else, André, can see her too.
Stefan (Dick Miller), the Baron's servant grows suspicious about the
whole affair, and soon he stumbles upon the ghost and finds out she's a
mere girl from the village who has been mesmerized by the old hag Katrina
to play an evil trick on the Baron. André and Stefan now try to find out
the truth, and learn that Katrina is actually the mother of Erik, the man
the Baron is supposed to have killed - but this isn't so, actually it was
the Baron who was killed in the first place, and Erik has merely taken
over his place, and, so it would seem, also his personality ...
Finding that out, Katrina now goes up in flames, while back at the
castle, the mesmerized Helene already tries to persuade the Baron to kill
himself - by flooding her crypt. It is only when the Baron opens her
coffin and finds her rotting corpse that he realizes he has been had ...
but by that time, flooding of the crypt has already begun, and Helene, now
totally convinced she is the spirit of Ilsa, violently keeps him from
closing the floodgates again. Soon, Stefan arrives at the scene and tries
to help the Baron, but by that time it's already hopeless. When André
arrives, all he can do actually is to save poor Helene's life, but later,
when they are both safe and in each other's arms, she starts to decay -
could it be she was dead Ilsa after all ?
Basically, The Terror is a quicky shot by five different
directors (of whom only Roger Corman is mentioned in the on-screen
credits) on the locations of Corman's earlier The
Raven and The Haunted
Palace - just to make sure these sets do not remain underused. It
seems though that nobody really believed in the film, at least the number
of five different directors for a simple formula movie would suggest that,
and it's true, the screenplay is underdeveloped and features way too many
plotholes plus no really strong characters (that the characters somehow
come across anyhow is mainly due to a small ensemble of strong performers,
first and foremost of course Karloff, Jack Nicholson and Dick Miller).
What saves this movie though (to a certain extent at least) is its moody
sets (even if they are recylced) and atmospheric direction that does not
betray the presence of five directors.
So if you are looking for an intelligently scripted shocker, don't even
consider watching this one, but if you are content with creepyness and
eerieness, this one might be just for you.