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Ghost Canyon

'The Terror: Restored Classics' [Blu-ray]
(Jack Nicholson, Boris Karloff, Sandra Knight, Dick Miller, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1963) 2014 / The Film Detective)

Overview: The ghostly apparition of a young woman is witnessed by an 18th Century French Lieutenant in Napoleon's army. After two failed attempts to keep up with her, Lt. Andre Duvalier (Nicholson) heads to the castle of Baron Von Leppe (Karloff), where he notices a painting of the Baron's late wife Ilsa, who looks identical to the ghostly woman.

DVD Verdict: What a gem - whichever way you slice your cinematic history-telling - this film truly is! Legend has it that Roger Corman filmed 'The Terror' over a frantic four-day period; the truth is rather more interesting, as it undoubtedly contributed to the film's remarkable, incomparable, mesmerizing texture. After production wrapped on 'The Raven', Corman had Karloff, Nicholson, and the Raven's sets for four remaining days, so he hurriedly shot what he could before the walls came down and his stars departed.

He then dispatched various acolytes, including Francis Coppola, Dennis Jakoub, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, and Nicholson himself to produce enough footage to make 'The Terror' into a complete feature. The result is a unique, fascinating, intensely visual and cinematic experiment that makes Corman's previous Poe adaptations look overly literary, plot-laden, and dialog-bound. 'The Terror' may not be very logical, and its story will not withstand much scrutiny, but the film succeeds as a feverish nightmare of obsession and mad love.

The photography, especially of the Big Sur locations, and of the fog bound studio cemetery sets, has an intense eerie romantic beauty, and Ronald Stein's remarkable score underscores 'The Terror's uncanny equation of desire and death. Is it cheap? Yes. Are there mistakes and screw ups? Sure. Does the continuity falter? Absolutely. None of this matters for 'The Terror' is extraordinary in its palpable dream-like intensity. Oh, and by the way: an elderly, sick, practically crippled Boris Karloff, who could have easily tossed this off as an imposition, is terrific as always and a wonder to behold. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

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