The Terror (1963 film)

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The Terror
film poster by Reynold Brown
Directed by Roger Corman
Francis Ford Coppola
Monte Hellman
Jack Hill
Jack Nicholson
Produced by Roger Corman
Written by Leo Gordon
Jack Hill
Starring Boris Karloff
Jack Nicholson
Sandra Knight
Dick Miller
Jonathan Haze
Music by Ronald Stein
Les Baxter
Cinematography John Mathew Nickolaus, Jr.
Floyd Crosby
Conrad Hall
Edited by Stuart O'Brien
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release date
  • June 17, 1963 (1963-06-17)

1991 (France)
Running time
81 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office 9,915 admissions (France) (1991)[1]

The Terror is a 1963 low-budget American NR Vistascope horror film produced and directed by Roger Corman. The plot concerns a French officer who finds an intriguing woman who is believed to be the ghost of the baron's long departed wife. It was filmed on sets left over from other AIP productions, including The Haunted Palace. The film was also released as Lady of the Shadows, The Castle of Terror, and The Haunting; it was later featured as an episode of Cinema Insomnia[2] and Elvira's Movie Macabre.

The film is sometimes linked to Corman's contemporary series of films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, but The Terror is not based on any text by Poe.[3]


In 1806, Andre Duvalier, a French soldier lost in the Confederation of the Rhine, is saved by Helene, a young woman who bears a resemblance to Ilsa von Leppe, the wife of the Baron von Leppe who died twenty years before. Andre sets out to investigate Helene's true identity and, in doing so, learns the Baron's darkest secret: After he found Ilsa with another man, the Baron killed his wife while his servant killed her lover.

Over the last two years, the Baron has been tormented by Ilsa's ghost, who has beseeched him to kill himself so they could be together. After much hesitation, the Baron decides to do so and atone for his crimes. Unbeknownst to him, Ilsa's ghost is being commanded to haunt him by a peasant witch named Katrina.

After preventing the Baron from killing himself, Andre and Stefan, the Baron's majordomo, capture Katrina and force her into compliance. Katrina then reveals herself to be the mother of a man named Eric, whom she believes the Baron killed twenty years before and hopes to avenge by damning his soul to hell. In a stunning revelation, Stefan reveals that the Baron died twenty years earlier and that Eric took his place, living his life until he deluded himself into thinking he was the true Baron von Leppe.

Realizing her error too late, Katrina goes with Andre and Stefan to stop Eric from flooding the castle crypt. Katrina's pact with the Devil, however, makes her unable to walk on consecrated ground and she ends up burning to death after being struck by lightning.

At the von Leppe castle, Eric floods the crypt as Ilsa's ghost attempts to kill him and Stefan struggles to stop her. By the time Andre gains access to the crypt, it is already starting to cave in and he is only able to save Helene. The two share a moment outside the castle before Helene turns into a rotting corpse.


Production notes[edit]

Corman decided to make the film to take advantage of sets left over from The Raven. He paid Leo Gordon $1,600 to write a script, and made a deal with Boris Karloff to be available for three days filming for a small amount of money plus a deferred payment of $15,000 that would be paid if the film earned more than $150,000.[4][5]

Boris Karloff later recalled:

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.[6]

Corman says he had "a previous deal" with Nicholson, Miller and Knight to work two days on the film.[7]

Karloff's scenes were shot in two days by Corman, who later said, "I didn't have the money to shoot the rest of the picture union, which meant I couldn't direct myself because I was personally signed with the unions. So I would say that at one time half the young filmmakers in Hollywood did pieces on The Terror."[7]

Corman says when he cut together Karloff's footage he realised "it didn't make sense" so he filmed a scene between Dick Miller and Jack Nicholson (in close up because the sets had been taken down) and got them to explain the plot.[8]

Corman sent Francis Ford Coppola to Big Sur for three days to shoot additional footage. He ended up staying eleven days. Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, Dennis Jacob and Jack Nicholson also directed some scenes. Corman says, "Jack Nicholson finally directed himself when we ran out of directors; and I think a couple of other guys worked in there."[7]

Leftover sets from other AIP films were used when shooting the film, notably those from The Haunted Palace, a Vincent Price horror film made earlier the same year. The tree against which Sandra Knight expires in The Terror is the same one to which Price was tied and burned in The Haunted Palace.

The uniform worn by Jack Nicholson was used by Marlon Brando in Désirée (1954).[4]


The film was released on a double bill with Dementia 13.[9]

The Los Angeles Times thought it was "spooky" with a "slow, lazy plot" and Excellent photography and settings... it moves like a stately pavan but the authors exhibit some of that old Edgar Allan Poe touch for haunted happenings".[10]

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes shows a 36% score based on 11 reviews, with an average rating of 5.0/10.[11]

Later version[edit]

Today, the film is in the public domain since there is no copyright notice in the credits for the film.[12]

In the early 1990s, actor Dick Miller, who plays Karloff's major domo, was hired to shoot new scenes to use as a framing sequence for an overseas version of The Terror. Under this scheme, the main action of the film is presented in flashback. This was done for Corman to establish some sort of copyright in the movie. Dick Miller says the payment for these scenes was the most he had ever received from Corman.[4]


In May 1966, Corman told Karloff he would not be getting his deferred $15,000 since the film never made $150,000. However, he said he would pay the money if Karloff worked on a new undetermined future project for Corman. This turned out to be the Peter Bogdanovich movie Targets (1968), which extensively used clips from The Terror.[5] Karloff was paid his deferred fee once he agreed to be in Targets.[4]

In 2010, the film was featured in the second episode of the revived, syndicated TV series Elvira's Movie Macabre. The climax scene was shown in the 2013 film Avenged.

Home video[edit]

The Terror, restored from original 35mm elements, was released April 26, 2011 from Film Chest and HD Cinema Classics. It is presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 16 x 9 and 5.1 surround sound mix. Enclosed is a collectible postcard reproduction of the original movie poster and special features include Spanish subtitles, before-and-after film restoration demo and trailer.[13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Box office information for Roger Corman films in France at Box Office Story
  2. ^ "Cinema Insomnia, with your Horror Host, Mister Lobo! - SHOW INFORMATION". Archived from the original on 28 March 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  3. ^ Jacobs, Stephen (2011). Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster. Tomohawk Press. pp. 452–454. 
  4. ^ a b c d Mark McGee, Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures, McFarland, 1996 p211
  5. ^ a b Fred Olen Ray, The New Poverty Row: Independent Filmmakers as Distributors, McFarland, 1991, p 50-58
  6. ^ Lawrence French, "The Making of The Raven", The Raven novelisation by Eunice Sudak, based on script by Richard Matheson, Bear Manor Media 2012
  7. ^ a b c Goldman, C. (1971). An interview with ROGER CORMAN. Film Comment, 7(3), 49-54. Retrieved from
  8. ^ By, V. C. (1966, Sep 18). Roger corman: A good man gone to 'pot'. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  9. ^ Horror bill announced. (1963, Sep 19). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  10. ^ Harford, M. (1963, Sep 28). 'The terror' karloff's latest film thriller. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  11. ^ "The Terror (The Haunting) (The Castle of Terror) (1963)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. 
  12. ^ Ray, Fred Olen (1991). The New Poverty Row: Independent Filmmakers as Distributors. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 51. ISBN 9780899506289. 
  13. ^ The Terror Press Release
  14. ^ Reviews

External links[edit]