Friday, June 19, 2015

The Terror - 1963

I have given the Corman formula in the past, for She Gods of Shark Reef and for The Beast with a Million Eyes.  It's all bland and whatever, he makes bad movies, however there is a "but" in there somewhere.  But, sometimes he had a higher budget, or accidentally made something good, or had someone else's script or whatever.  This is one of those cases.  Not to say this movie is good, cause it's not, but it is higher budget, doesn't follow the formula Corman sets, and is different.

This film is well known as one of Boris Karloff's few color films, and as an early starring role for Jack Nicholson.  Shot in a reported 4 days on a shoestring budget by the master of throwing cheap movies together, it was filmed in Big Sur, California in parts, and the scenery is beautiful. Additionally, some back up footage in the movie was directed by a young Francis Ford Coppola. Those things add up to this movie being slightly well known in terms of early 60's horror films.

Those ingredients, you'll notice don't spell out anything good though.  Sure, Jack Nicholson and Coppola and Karloff = good, but shot in 4 days = way too rushed, no cohesion, and a total mess.  The plot is loose, basically some ghost lady leads Jack Nicholson's character to a secluded castle where he encounters Boris Karloff as the old baron with a secret, a mysterious painting, and whatever.

It's all trying to capitalize on atmosphere, there are no truly scary or even thrilling moments.  It tries desperately to frighten with this bizarre ghost story, but just comes off as trying too hard in most parts.  Nicholson gives no sign that he would go on to become an actor worth noting and watching.  Here he sounds overly nasally, irritating, and his dialogue is bland.  Karloff comes off as the been-there-done-that, I only came cause you're paying me kind of acting.

The sets and the scenery are kinda cool.  As I said, filmed in Big Sur, CA (Google image search it) and using sets from some previously shot films, it looks the part.  The real bad part of it though is the pacing.  It's incredibly slow, it's all bad dialogue, and it just hurts.  Plus, we know how it will go so early on that most of the film just feels tedious.  I always wonder how much of me is jaded by modern films, and how much of me is just hating cause it is a bad movie.  Was this movie ever considered cutting edge?  I don't know, but maybe.  It could scare you, I guess.

Psychological horror for me is the worst kind, I like movies like Alien when it comes to horror.  I just don't care about psychological horror, and most other subgenres like that.  Ghost stories to me are some of the worst.  It's just such a bland, no frills type of horror.  Ghost movies like this almost always mean no effects will be had, no one is gonna die except the evil dude (Karloff), and it's a mystery that's painfully obvious to us as the audience the whole way through.  It just makes me want to smack someone.

I feel like I could say more about this movie, but fuck it.  Who cares.  A star for the actors and directors involved and for Big Sur.

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