Movie Review: The Terror (1963)/The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) – Film Masters Blu-ray

March 9, 2024

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

You may remember 1963’s Roger Corman fright flick The Terror from a shit-ton of bargain basement “horror collection” DVDs… hell you may even remember it’s presence in the discount VHS bins of decades past… but yeah, it’s been around the block a few million times, which brings us the newest release of the picture courtesy of Film Masters…

The long and the short of The Terror goes as follows: in 1806, a French soldier named André Duvalier (Jack Nicholson, The Shining) encounters, and becomes enchanted by, a dark-haired, mysterious beauty named Helene (Sandra Knight) who bares a striking resemblance to a woman named Ilsa; the dead wife of a local known as Baron Victor Frederick von Leppe (Boris Karloff, 1931’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein).

Attempting to learn more about Helene, Duvalier encounters the town’s witch, Katrina (Dorothy Neumann) before arriving at the door of the Baron’s Gothic castle… and come to find out he’s haunted by Helene/Ilsa as well, and she’s all fired up to have the Baron off himself!

Before Duvalier’s time in that arcane abode is at an end, he’ll discover folks may not be who/or in some cases what he believed them to be and surviving this outré ordeal may be more difficult than he could ever imagine!

Speaking of “imagining”, The Terror works way better than one would think given it’s absolutely ridiculous production history…

Not content to let the sets he had built for his 1963 adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven be torn down directly after filming, director/producer Roger Corman snuck back on the set for two days of shooting that could lead to an all-new picture (once a concept and story were dreamed up of course) that while spiritually in league with his various Poe terror tales, would be it’s own thing.

Later, additional footage was filmed by Francis Ford Coppola (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) at Big Sur, along with Monte Hellman (Beast From Haunted Cave), Jack Hill (Switchblade Sisters), and more (including Nicholson himself) to flesh out the narrative concocted by Corman, Hill, and screenwriter Leo Gordon (The Wasp Woman).

It certainly didn’t hurt to have a rock solid cast on hand as well, and Nicholson, Karloff, et. al. sell this monstrous material like there is no tomorrow, plus we get an appearance from Corman regular Dick Miller (Gremlins, The Terminator), so we are in capable hands there cats n’ creeps!

Adding to the ghoulish good-times are heaps of Gothic ambience, fun twists, an insanely awesome animated opening title sequence, a solid streak of paranormal hijinkery, and a lighting scheme that makes some scenes look like a Basil Gogos painting!

And while we are discussing looks, the transfer utilized here makes The Terror look better than I’ve ever seen it (with the Big Sur-shot material looking particularly crisp), and the colors throughout are vivid… though at times the image can be soft; but when this thing is on, it’s dead-center on!

As for special features, first up we get an audio commentary courtesy of writer/film scholar Dr. Steve Haberman P.H.D. and novelist/screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner that details the film’s unorthodox production in an enjoyable listen.

After comes Ghosts in the Machine: Art & Artifice in Roger Corman’s Celluloid Castle; a nearly forty-five minute visual essay detailing Corman’s output as a Director, followed by a modern re-cut of the film’s trailer.

Over on Disc Two we get 1960’s The Little Shop of Horrors… a tale you may already be familiar with thanks to Frank Oz’s 1986 cinematic version of the off-Broadway musical, all of the same name… but if not here goes a lil’ recap action…

Seymour Krelborn (Jonathon Haze) toils away in Gravis Mushnick’s skid row flower-shop, and he is constantly on Mushnick’s shit-list.

Soon Mushnick gets it into his head that his rather unpopular flower shop might be more profitable if it had a plant no one else has to attract customers to the store… an idea suggested by the shop’s nearly-only customer, Fouch (Dick Miller once again); a man that eats flowers as if it’s no big thing.

It’s a lucky break that Seymour has just such a strange and unusual plant at home, Audrey Jr.; named after Seymour’s crush/co-worker Audrey (Jackie Joseph, Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch), as his continued employment depends on nursing the plant back to health making it a star attraction.

Not so lucky for Seymour is Audrey Jr.’s food source; namely human blood… but once that ghoulish greenery gets a taste it becomes the picture of health, so the blood must keep a flowin’ no matter how it’s obtained!

Will Seymour continue to fall sway to Audrey Jr.’s demands… and continue to be Mushnick’s golden boy… or will he be able to stop the evil and escape skid row?

Coming hot on the heels, and on the same sets, of the Corman directed/Charles B. Griffith penned A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors brings the laughs and lacerations in equal measure (from the same duo) in a absolutely bonkers blend of Borscht Belt humor, lunatic characters, creature feature action, and bargain bin gore that coalesces into a ghastly goulash of daffy deliciousness!

As a personal aside, I’ve been a devotee of this film and it’s style since first viewing it as a monster-kid back in the eerie eighties on a discount VHS from the local Woolworth’s in my nowhere mountain hometown… and it was mind-blowing. Everything about it seemed like a fever dream, and it made me realize that this is the exact type of cinema that I would come to adore and emulate in some of my own work… but I digress…

Anyway, all of this madness is presented here in a damn good transfer that features deep, rich blacks that provide a solid chiaroscuro, and plenty of detail, though some scenes display large amounts of film grain.

As for special features, we once again kick things off with an audio commentary featuring Haze and moderated by author Justin Humphreys which takes us through the film’s production with plenty of first-hand anecdotes.

Also included is the second part of Holywood Intruders: The Filmgroup Story which examines Corman’s early company in detail, and a 2023 re-cut of the film’s trailer.

Additionally this release features a booklet containing essays by Joyner and author/screenwriter Mark McGee.

Two classic low-budget fright flicks for the price of one lookin’ better than they ever have; you simply can not go wrong with this release!

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