Per Matt
Ah, Roger Corman. If ever there was a filmmaker who could create more with less, it’s clearly him. Now, suppose you wanted to crank out an entire movie within two days on a whim with zero budget… then, he’s your man. And that film would ultimately become The Terror!

Featuring Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson and Sandra Knight (Nicholson’s first wife), this Gothic B-movie filled with A-listers receives an all-new HD restoration from 35mm archival elements on the 60th anniversary of its release, thanks to Film Masters. But that’s not all. The Terror Special Edition Blu-ray is actually a savagely sinister Roger Corman double feature, which also includes The Little Shop of Horrors. That means you get two opportunities to witness Jack Nicholson’s youthful performances under the direction of the indie filmmaker who depicts horror stories like no one else.

This two-disc collector’s set releases on December 12th and is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

The Terror is an 18th century tale starring Lt. Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson), a French soldier separated from Napoleon’s army, who wanders upon the dreary castle of Baron Von Leppe (Boris Karloff) after making a mysterious encounter with a young woman (Sandra Knight) on the beach. Who is this mystery lady and why is she acting so strange? It’s a supernatural love story scattered with psychological horror and plenty of dark secrets, all found within the walls of a former noble house.

“You should never believe everything your eyes tell you, young man…”

As this was the first time watching The Terror (originally released in 1963), I had a great time attempting to (unsuccessfully) predict its conclusion. That credit could be shared by screenwriters Leo Gordon and Jack Hill and the primary director, himself. But it could also have something to do with the five directors in total who contributed to the movie, including Nicholson, Hill, Monte Hellman and Francis Ford Coppola!

Mostly filmed within two days, but taking many years to complete and release, much-needed insight is found within the documentary/visual essay, “Ghosts in the Machine: Art & Artifice in Roger Corman’s Celluloid Castle,” which I quickly devoured without hesitation. These Film Masters docs really are chock-full of entertaining info, quickly becoming my favorite featurette of the collection. And this one, by The Flying Maciste Brothers (Kevin Marr and Howard S. Berger), didn’t let me down.

“Roger Corman is a total filmmaker and The Terror is a wild, personal celebration of his unique mastery of the cinematic medium.”

I have to say, the original version of The Little Shop of Horrors (originally released in 1960) initially grabbed my attention upon learning of its inclusion in this release. Full of dark humor, this Skid Row tale (also mostly filmed within two days) focuses on an inept horticulturist with dreams of becoming a botanist. After Seymore (played by Jonathan Haze) attains mysterious seeds from a Japanese gardener, his boss (Mel Welles) gives him orders after seeing the sickly plant: Nurse the unusual flytrap back to health within a week or lose your job at the floral shop. Nicknamed Audrey Jr., the killer hybrid plant brings great fame to Mushnick’s Florist. But the fame is fleeting, as Seymore soon learns this plant is actually a man-eating monster.

How will Seymore deal with the building pressure from his boss and his girlfriend (Jackie Joseph), as well as Sgt. Joe Fink (Wally Campo), who believes he’s tailing a homicidal maniac? He’ll take it one bloody drip at a time!

This horror comedy, originally filmed for $28,000, is either Corman’s most famous or infamous, depending on whom you ask. And it also features the scene-stealing Jack Nicholson, whose character enjoys pain just a little too much. Paired together, the tortured tale of romance from beyond the grave works great opposite the insanity of a blood-thirsty plant that inspired a Broadway musical, and eventually a big-screen remake of Corman’s black-and-white original.

Both films are presented with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and the discs are region free, which include English SDH. The audio is DTS-HD/Dolby AC3s. Special features include recut theatrical trailers for both films, which are based on the originals. C. Courtney Joyner and Dr. Steve Haberman produce the commentary track on The Terror, while author Justin Humphreys joins the film’s star, Jonathan Haze, to provide commentary for The Little Shop of Horrors. Joyner also includes an essay on the Karloff/Edgar Allen Poe connection, while Mark McGee pens liner notes for The Little Shop of Horrors. And Ballyhoo Motion Pictures continues Hollywood Intruders: The Film Group Story Part Two by Howard S. Berger, which follows Corman’s filmography up to The Little Shop of Horrors.

The deep dives of deception and possession, along with a carnivorous love story exemplify the no-nonsense filmmaker’s style, whose work was quite creative, given all of his limitations. As a cinema aficionado, it’s fun to pick out the familiar faces in his films, as many of the same actors appear in different projects. And after Berger breaks down Corman’s storytelling techniques and stylistic tendencies, which are adapted to several of his chosen stories, I’m ready to discover even more of Corman’s hidden horror gems of the past.

Please visit Film Masters for The Terror Special Edition purchasing information, so you, too, can discover these classics from yesteryear.