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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Terror [Blu-ray]


(Roger Corman, 1963)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: American International Pictures (AIP)

Video: HD Cinema Classics



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:19:16.626

Disc Size: 19,176,589,089 bytes

Feature Size: 18,416,338,944 bytes

Video Bitrate: 28.87 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: April 26th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 (original 1.85:1)

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB



Spanish, none



• Restoration Demo


DVD included and postcard of cover/poster





Description: A cult classic from the master of the B-movie himself, director Roger Corman, available for the first time in thrilling High Definition Blu-Ray! In one of his first-ever roles, a young Jack Nicholson stars as Lt. Andre Duvalier, a soldier in Napoleon s army in 19th century France, separated from his regiment. He awakens on a beach to the sight of a strange woman who leads him to the gothic, towering castle that serves as home to eerie Baron Von Leppe (Boris Karloff). But, as Duvalier soon discovers, nothing is what it seems in this ghastly, haunted mansion of death! This underground favorite was made in classic Roger Corman fashion, making the most of his resources to bring yet another film to life on a minimal budget for his producers at American International Pictures. AIP was a small, independent studio that specialized in low-budget teensploitation films, and Corman was one of their main men. Here, he squeezed extra mileage out of not only previously-used sets, but also actors and crew from two of his other recently-completed films (The Raven, The Haunted Palace). Short on time himself (there were more movies to be made!), Corman left it to a few of the aspiring directors within his crew (among them, Jack Hill, a young Francis Coppola, and even Jack Nicholson taking a turn behind the camera for a few scenes) to help see the film to completion. The Terror would go on to become a drive-in favorite and late-night TV staple, also appearing under the titles The Terror, Lady Of The Shadows and The Castle of Terror. Meanwhile, Roger Corman would go on to inspire an entire generation of film-makers, including many like Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, Ron Howard, Martin Scorcese and John Sayles--who worked under him while honing their skills.



The Film:

There might be more love for The Terror (1963) if cinephiles were able to think of it as less of a Roger Corman film and more of a Jack Nicholson film. The job came Nicholson's way relatively early in his career, post The Cry Baby Killer (1958) and The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) but well before his emergence as a standard bearer for New Hollywood with the success of Easy Rider (1969). Nicholson's performance in The Terror has drawn more than its share of brickbats ("hopelessly lost" crowed biographer Patrick McGilligan) but it's actually acceptable (if unexceptional) work, especially given the piecemeal nature of the project, with its domino line of directors calling the shots, and an impromptu script that trowels on outmoded vernacular to give the proceedings the stamp of antiquity.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

Notable mainly for being the film that was screened at the drive-in in Bogdanovich's Targets, this is the real dud of Corman's Poe cycle, largely because he said, 'I had the weekend off before the last week of shooting The Raven; I was going to play tennis and it rained'. Not wanting to waste the set he'd had built, he embarked upon an almost incomprehensible tale of an officer in Napoleon's army (Nicholson) who falls for a woman who keeps disappearing; it turns out she's the long dead wife of Mad Baron Karloff. The film, despite its elements of necrophilia, has nothing whatsoever to do with Poe, and the fact that it was directed by about five different people (including Coppola, Monte Hellman and Nicholson himself) hardly makes for coherence. There are, however, a few strikingly moody images that make effective use of the California coastline, and the general air of chaotic improvisation is not altogether without its own special charm.

Excerpt from TimeOut London located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

HD Cinema Classic are the ones who gave us Blu-rays of Welles' The Stranger and Kansas City Confidential.  The image quality is akin - soft DNR-ish but supports a minor-ly decent presentation probably outstripping the previous, and multiple, SD DVDs of the film that is in the Public Domain.  This is only single-layered and doesn't have much texture but I admit it gave me an okay presentation. Even plasticized detail has impressive moments. Skin tones seem true - but contrast has inconsistencies. In fact there is some wavering in the quality at reel ends (my guess) but I'll put that down to the source used. This Blu-ray his simply better than DVD but it certainly won't win any awards. Frankly, it may be even better than I was anticipating - which is the strongest compliment I can give at this stage.
















Audio :

HD Cinema Classics are going to have to get into lossless audio if they are going to continue - we get the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 bump and a flatter, but perhaps more true, 2.0 channel stereo track. It has some inconsistencies but nothing that should offend during standard viewing. Keep your expectations for depth and range at a minimum. There are only optional Spanish subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.



Extras :

A split-screen restoration demo that doesn't impress with its comparative quality and a trailer are all we get - but to be fair the price doesn't reflect a bevy of supplements. This bare-bones status has been a standard so far for HD Cinema Classics' adventures into the new format. There is a second disc DVD of the feature and a postcard of a poster of the film.



What is notable about this is the list of UNCREDITED directors of The Terror - including Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill and even Jack Nicholson! Other than that it doesn't rise to the expectations of the ominous Blu-ray cover/poster. There is some Corman cheese here - but I've never minded that in healthy doses and Karloff adds to the spooky-mansion aura. It's okay but I wouldn't get your hopes up for a true classic 'B'-level experience - even Jack can't save this to some level of respectability. Still indulging is so cheap it's hard not to succumb.  Deep fans of Corman and/or Jack may wish to obtain the Blu-ray - keeping expectations in check. It may not be as bad as I am letting on - to each his own. 

Gary Tooze

April 26th, 2011


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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