There is so much wrong with this film. Jack and Barron henchman Dick Miller’s stilted and unnatural delivery appear to channel Keanu Reeves. There are extended shots of Karloff pointlessly walking, ape-like, around his underfurnshed mansion slowly coming to the realization that he will never again be in a good movie. The secrets of the movie are revealed in a haphazard way and the great twist at the end would make even soap opera fans groan.
What really happened here is that director Roger Corman finished early on The Raven (1963), sent everyone but Karloff and Nicholson home, then filmed random scenes of Karloff on existing sets. He then continued with Jack and a couple other actors trying to improvise a new movie. When the editors came back and said it was a mess, they had Nicholson and Miller do some exposition in a studio to try and fit it all together.
The core of the story isn’t bad. A witch mesmerizes a young woman who resembles the Barron’s dead wife to torment him for killing her son. Not great, but by B movie standards, not bad at all. But it doesn’t work because of the previously mentioned terrible acting, the ‘saved it in the editing’ filming schedule, and the mind numbingly stupid twists at the end (yea, that’s right, two stupid twists). Dick and Jack are fighting, then cooperate, then fight again. No reason. Fix those problems and you will have a serviceable if forgettable film. With those problems you have a film Jack Nicholson wants everyone to forget.
I remember a scene at the very end of a film I saw as a boy that stuck with me. I didn’t remember the content of the story nor the context of the scene. That film was this and that scene was dumb plot twist number two. I remember the actor reacting not with horror but with an ‘Ew, that’s gross!’ look on his face. That part was remembered correctly.
I’m sure Roger Corman turned a profit on The Terror. He was notorious for his tight shoots and tighter budgets. He wouldn’t spend a nickel to make a movie better unless it returned him a dime. He didn’t have the luxury of time here but I can’t help think that with a little better planning and some creative writing even the twists could have been successful. As it exists, however, AMRU 2.