The Terror (1963)

Booze: Jack Nicholson Martini

1.5 oz Vanilla Vodka
1.5 oz dark rum
1.5 oz butterscotch schnapps
¾ oz Kahlua

Shake over ice and serve in a martini glass.

B-Movie: The Terror (1963)

Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson star in this forgettable horror(?) movie about . . .a ghostly girl? A murderous revenge? A haunted castle? I’m still not sure what the titular terror was supposed to be. Jack Nicholson is a French lieutenant (despite his complete lack of French accent) who gets separated from his regiment, sees a girl in a low-cut blouse who then mysteriously disappears into the ocean, and immediately abandons all efforts to return to service and instead starts roaming the countryside in search of answers and, presumably, some nookie. He ends up at the castle of the Baron Von Leppe, who has lived alone with his houseboy, Stefan, ever since they murdered the Baroness and her lover some 20 years earlier. Spoiler—the dead Baroness bears a remarkable resemblance to Jack’s mysterious woman. Honestly, though, none of the plot matters. What’s more interesting is the backstory of the film itself. Boris and Jack had just finished filming ‘The Raven’ and director Roger Corman realized that he had a contract for two more days of filming with Karloff, as well as access to the sets from the previous film, which were about to be torn down. So he quickly filmed some scenes with Karloff in the castle, and then handed the film off to five other subsequent directors (one of them being Nicholson himself) who had to somehow splice together a plot for a movie that was about a castle and a baron, without being able to use the castle or the baron in any of their scenes. It’s entirely possible that The Terror refers to the feeling each of these directors had in their collective stomach pits while filming.

Best Line: I’m going to go with “Impossible. You’re lying. Why.” Delivered in a monotone for maximum humor, of course. But I also liked “Don’t speak of the dead. You’re with me now,” and “In Paris, they’re doing wonderful things to discover the nature of the mind,” which is really code for ‘I think you’re hot, but you’re also nuts.’

Biggest Laugh: Jack Nicholson punching a bird

Best Time to Freshen Your Drink: While Jack wanders the castle, opening doors poking around and violating all kinds of privacy. Don’t worry, he says he’s under orders from the French government. And anyway, he doesn’t find anything.

Take a Drink Whenever:

  • The girl disappears. Bonus drink if she immediately reappears!
  • The bird shrieks like a girl. Bonus drink if the bird attacks someone!
  • Someone mentions Eric. Bonus drink when you finally figure out who Eric is!
  • The mute Gustav speaks. Bonus drink if he says “Poe-ssessed”!
  • Jack barks an order at anyone – Stefan, the Baron, a ghost
  • You can’t tell if it’s supposed to be day or night

Finish Your Drink When: Jack and Helene share their last kiss.
But drink quickly. Just like Jack, you’ll regret having anything in your mouth when that kiss is finished.

Cocktail Rating: 
I adapted this recipe from a shot called the Jack Nicholson, and while I have no idea of the significance of any of the ingredients, they pair well together. A perfect martini – not too sweet, not too bitter, it packs a punch and goes down much too easy!

Movie Rating: 🐝🐝1/2
I have no idea why this ends up on ‘Best of the Worst’ lists. It isn’t so much ‘so bad it’s good’ as it is ‘so scattered and confusing it’s meh.’ Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to watch baby Jack Nicholson being mediocre, before his career took off. But the real draw here is the crazy backstory of the film itself. This is a case where the story of how the movie got made is much better than the story the movie is trying to tell. Maybe they should have filmed that instead.