Well, for one thing, the movies may reside at the B level, but theyre not trash. For another, Cultra has given em a good scrub-over that theyve always deserved but have never had. If youve bought these before on budget DVD sets, dig them out and ditch. These new versions are spiffy, inexpensive and contain both a DVD and a Blu-ray. I hope many more follow, because Cultra has made the packages quite collectible.
The Terror is one of Cormans legendarily rushed pictures, and while it could be better, its simple pleasures are nonetheless plentiful. With no French accent present or attempted, Jack Nicholson plays Lt. Andre Duvalier, a self-described weary, disillusioned soldier who finds himself separated from Napoleons army. On the bright side, he meets a porcelain-skinned busty beauty on the beach (Sandra Knight) ... who quickly disappears.
Seeking shelter nearby, Andre knocks on the castle door of Baron Von Leppe (Boris Karloff) and learns that the girl is not only the Barons wife, but dead for 20 years. Hey, for a ghost, shes quite the dish, so good thing she keeps turning up, as does unexplained violin music. With an ugly witch, bloody bird attacks and the great Dick Miller, The Terror aims for Cormans Poe-picture greatness, only to fall short, but its minimal cast succeeds in mining the storys Gothic roots for all theyre worth.
Dementia 13 is better. It may have been born in response to Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho, but unlike other rip-offs, it stands well on its own. Luana Anders (Easy Rider) is its Janet Leigh, only inherently evil as a selfish, money-hungry woman out to dig for the metaphoric gold of her late hubbys in-laws who reside in Castle Haloran.
Coppolas teeth-cutting duties aside, its most known for the scene 33 minutes in, when Anders strips to her skivvies and goes for a midnight swim. She rigs a contraption to drive the Haloran clan mad when ... well, ax me about it later. Suffice to say, the black-and-white imagery works to Coppolas advantage, creating a creepy mood that permeates a number of sequences, from the opening boat ride and the wind-up toys to the chilling end. Geez, even its animated opening credits, bubbling ominously with Ronald Steins swirling score, elicit shivers.
The Terror also has a nifty animated credits sequence that recalls Karloffs Tales of Mystery comic book series of the era, but thats not the only thing the two films share. As Cultras brief restoration demos show, an admirable job of de-graining and de-scratching was done to both; theyre imperfect, but the best Ive ever seen them, and Ive seen numerous editions of Dementia since I first bought it on the cheap in 1986, in a Goodtimes Home Video VHS from the late Venture department store. The audio remains a tad scratchy in Terror and too subdued in Dementia, but neither to the point of interference or annoyance.
Besides, its the visuals that matter. The cleanup is harder to see in Dementias color-drained images, but after years of seeing Terror in transfers so cheap and muddy that they could be classified as monochromatic, its a joy to see it in gasp! primary colors.
Cultras two-disc sets for each carry the original theatrical trailer, also in great shape, plus a quality-stock, full-color postcard featuring the poster art. I dont dare mail it. Rod Lott