The Terror (1963) is a low-budget American Vistascope horror film produced and directed by Roger Corman. It is famous for being filmed on sets left over from other AIP productions, including The Haunted Palace. The movie was also released as Lady of the Shadows, The Castle of Terror, and The Haunting; it was later featured as an episode of Cinema Insomnia and Elvira’s Movie Macabre.
The movie is sometimes linked to Corman’s series of “Poe films,” which were made between 1960 and 1964 based on the public domain works of Edgar Allan Poe, but The Terror is not actually based on any text by Poe.
Corman decided to make the movie to take advantage of sets left over from The Raven. He paid Leo Gordon $1,600 to write a script, and made a deal with Boris Karloff to be available for three days filming for a small amount of money plus a deferred payment of $15,000 that would be paid if the film earned more than $150,000.
Boris Karloff later recalled:
Corman had the sketchiest outline of a story. I read it and begged him not to do it. He said “That’s alright Boris, I know what I’m going to do. I want you for two days on this.” I was in every shot, of course. Sometimes I was just walking through and then I would change my jacket and walk back. He nearly killed me on the last day. He had me in a tank of cold water for about two hours. After he got me in the can he suspended operations and went off and directed two or three operations to get the money, I suppose… [The sets] were so magnificent… As they were being pulled down around our ears, Roger was dashing around with me and a camera, two steps ahead of the wreckers. It was very funny.
Corman says he had “a previous deal” with Nicholson, Miller and Knight to work two days on the film.
Karloff’s scenes were shot in two days by Corman, who later said, “I didn’t have the money to shoot the rest of the picture union, which meant I couldn’t direct myself because I was personally signed with the unions. So I would say that at one time half the young filmmakers in Hollywood did pieces on The Terror.”
Corman says when he cut together Karloff’s footage he realised “it didn’t make sense” so he filmed a scene between Dick Miller and Jack Nicholson (in close up because the sets had been taken down) and got them to explain the plot.
Corman sent Francis Ford Coppola to Big Sur for three days to shoot additional footage. He ended up staying eleven days. Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, Dennis Jacob and Jack Nicholson also directed some scenes. Corman says, “Jack Nicholson finally directed himself when we ran out of directors; and I think a couple of other guys worked in there.”
Leftover sets from other AIP films were used when shooting the film, notably those from The Haunted Palace, a Vincent Price horror film made earlier the same year. The tree against which Sandra Knight expires in The Terror is the same one to which Price was tied and burned in The Haunted Palace.