REVIEW: THE TERROR (1963)

CAST

Boris Karloff (Frankenstein)
Jack Nicholson (Batman)
Sandra Knight (Thunder Road)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Dorothy Neumann (The Snake Pit)
Jonathan Haze (The Little Shop of Horrors)

Set in 1806, the film tells the story of a lost French soldier in the Confederation of the Rhine named Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson) who is saved by a strange young woman named Helene (Sandra Knight). She looks like Ilsa, the wife of the baron (played by Boris Karloff), who died twenty years before. Investigating who the woman really is, Andre stumbles upon a hidden secret of the Baron: After he found Ilsa sleeping with another man named Eric, the Baron killed his wife while his servant killed Eric, or so he explains. All the while, the phantom of Ilsa remained under the control of a peasant witch (Dorothy Neumann), who has commanded the ghost to torment the Baron for the previous two years. Over the course of the film, Ilsa’s ghost beseeches the Baron to kill himself, so they could be together. After much hesitation, the Baron decides to do so, perhaps to atone for his crimes.During the climactic scenes, Andre, as well as the Baron’s butler Stefan (Dick Miller), try to stop him, eventually forcing the witch into compliance. Here it is revealed that the witch Katrina is in fact the mother of Eric, who she believes was killed by the Baron twenty years before, and that is why she has tried to make him commit suicide and damn his soul to hell. In a stunning revelation, Stefan reveals that Eric never died, that it was the Baron who was killed. Eric then took the Baron’s place, living his life until he deluded himself into thinking he was the Baron. Katrina, realizing her folly only too late, goes with the two men to stop Eric from flooding the castle crypt and killing himself. However, she is unable to go into the mausoleum and ends up being struck by lightning and burning to death to the ground as she tries to escape. In the climax of the film, Ilsa’s ghost attempts to kill Eric while the crypt floods, and Stefan joins the struggle. However, by the time Andre gains access to the crypt, it is already flooding and crumbling, and he is able to carry only Helene’s body away. the film ends as the two share a touching moment together outside before Helene begins to rapidly dissolve into a rotting corpse.This is quite a Gothic tale of horror, including sundry gory bits. The castle is expectedly dark and brooding, and Corman creates an eerie atmosphere very well. Jack Nicholson said of the film, ‘This is the only Hollywood film with a complete script that has absolutely no story.’ This about sums it up. It should be watched for the camera-work and the ambiance.

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REVIEW: THE GHOUL (1933)

CAST

Boris Karloff (Frankenstein)
Cedric Hardwicke (Nelson)
Ernest Thesiger (Number 13)
Dorothy Hyson (Soldiers of The King)
Ralph Richardson (The Heiress)

Gaumont British borrowed just the vaguest outline from the 1928 source novel by Frank King (and subsequent play by King and Leonard J. Hines). King’s novel is sub-par Edgar Wallace in which a master criminal popularly referred to as ‘The Ghoul’ has been responsible for a London crime wave. Betty inherits an estate on the Yorkshire moors from a mysterious benefactor, Edward Morlant, a dabbler in mysticism who years before had been her mother’s paramour. But the will requires Betty to take up residence in the old house, where Morlant’s corpse soon appears, walking and talking. Morlant tells her that he is an immortal adept and demands the return of his secret diary. The usual suspects and interlopers converge on the house, and upon Morlant’s next appearance his resurrected self is killed anew, unquestionably stabbed through the heart. Morlant is soon perambulating again, as people begin turning up dead. All supernatural trappings are dispelled as ‘The Ghoul’ is penultimately unmasked as Edward Morlant’s twin brother, James, a criminal mastermind whose fictive guises included not only his brother, but a bogus police sergeant and his brother’s solicitor, Broughton. In a final act of madness, James torches the mansion.The film screenplay uses the merest skeleton of the story and characters and blends it with the Egyptian mysticism of The Mummy while capitalizing on the “thunderstorm mystery” mood of The Old Dark House (1932), Karloff’s two previous Universal Pictures. Eccentric Egyptologist Professor Morlant believes that if he is buried with a jewel called “The Eternal Light”, in a faux Egyptian tomb he has constructed at his English country estate, Anubis will manifest before him, accept his offering of the diamond, and grant him eternal life. Morlant appears to die, but the jewel is snatched by his servant before the interment. No sooner do the heirs arrive for the reading of the will, than Morlant rises from his tomb, finds his bauble gone, and attempts to punish the thieves. The jewel is punted from servant to lawyer to niece to Egyptian fanatic to spinster to mock vicar and eventually back to the revenant Morlant, who makes his blood sacrifice to Anubis before properly expiring. Morlant, it is learned, had merely suffered a cataleptic seizure, and had been buried alive. The mock vicar (Ralph Richardson) is revealed to be the chief villain, and having obtained the Eternal Light sets fire to Morlant’s tomb. Betty and her lover manage to escape.This is a rather entertaining, early British Karloff film from the 1930s. Its available on a number of DVDs. it  looks like it was printed only yesterday and if you have seen other dvds of this film you will know how often an old, scratchy print is used, this one though has to be seen to be believed. A great classic movie