Click here for the introduction and the first review in my Jack Nicholson Retrospective.
The 5th entry in the Jack Nicholson retrospective takes us into the new genre of horror, and is another proper lead role for the young star. It’s been three years since his last lead role, so here’s hoping his acting has taken a step up!
Washing up on a deserted beach in 1806, French solider Andre (Jack Nicholson) encounters a beautiful young lady called Helene (Sandra Knight), though she disappears after only the most minuscule of conversations.
Suitable intrigued he tries to search for her, but comes up with nothing except a local peasant (Dorothy Neumann) telling him he’s delusional.
Overlooking the local village is the castle of Baron Von Leppe (Boris Karloff) and young Andre decides to continue his search there. While the Baron isn’t very accommodating, Andre does find a portrait of the young lady. It turns out this is the Baron’s wife and she died 20 years ago. But how could that be true?
As history has recorded, the previous Jack Nicholson/Roger Corman movie finished filming early. And so Mr Corman, the genius he is, decided to shoot an entirely new film in the few days they had left without a proper script.
And man does it show.
To be fair, it could have been worse. But there’s not a lot to recommend.
Visually speaking, it’s a little bit of a step down, even though they’re using the exact same sets as The Raven. The bland colour scheme mixed with the uninteresting set design leads to nothing more than a sense of boredom.
Jack Nicholson, while still not anywhere near approaching a great performance, does at least show some range. His role as an unlikable soldier is worlds apart from the comedic downtrodden son he played previously.
Karloff, as you would expect, brings the strongest performance from this ragtag ensemble. From his evading conversations with Nicholson, to his delirious confrontation in the finale, Karloff shows exactly why he was a master of the craft.
While the film does wear its B-grade horror influences on its sleeve, its accompanied with a rather mawkish sense of dialogue which feels like it was made up on the spur of the moment. (which, to be fair, might be true considering production started without a complete script.)
In the end, all I can say is this isn’t the worst film of Jack Nicholson’s career. (That honour still belongs to this extravaganza!) But, goddamn it, it comes pretty close.
Next time: My Review of Flight to Fury (1964)
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