Chronological Jack: The Terror (1963); Dir. Roger Corman

One random sunny day along the coast of ….. France, Lieutenant Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson), separated from his regiment in Napoleon’s army, encounters a beautiful woman, who leads him on a mysterious chase through a forest, across a field, up some stairs, among the surf. It is quite a diverse landscape. As is the coast of California. I mean France. She does not speak. Her lipstick is perfect. Her eyeliner even more so. Her bosom heaves. Who is she?? Is he in love with her? What the hell is going on? I was too distracted by the sight of Jack Nicholson wearing a flowing black cloak like the Headless Horseman, a blue military uniform with gold epaulettes, and a bicorne hat, for God’s sake, to really focus on the emotional impact of the encounter.

He becomes obsessed with this woman (I mean, who wouldn’t with that eyeliner and that feathered hair), especially after she disappears into the roiling surf, and then, out of nowhere, he is attacked by a giant furious hooked-beaked bird. The attack is so vicious that he passes out on the beach, and the surf rolls in around him. He wakes up in a cottage out of a fairy tale, being taken care of by an old crone with a head scarf (Dorothy Neumann), and the scary bird is in the room. Our handsome Lieutenant with the hipster haircut of the early 60s, and the shimmering gold epaulettes, is confused, and wants to know “who that woman was”. The crone is baffled. There is no woman. There is a mysterious mention of a castle down the coast, and a man who lives there, the Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe. But, the crone warns, “I can say no more. There is great danger.” She hisses at Lieutenant Andre, “You are getting now into things beyond your understanding. Leave now while you still can.”

Does he take the crone’s advice? Naturally he does not.

Directed and produced by Roger Corman (with a young Francis Coppola listed as Associate Producer), The Terror is so overwrought that I feared I would have a heart attack merely from listening to Ronald Stein’s score, which is omnipresent, underneath every moment. There’s a campy aesthetic here, something I very much appreciate, because it is sincere. Sincere and ridiculous, everyone committed to the same absurd thing. You can feel the dedication in The Terror. You can feel how quickly they shot it, how little money they had, and yet the movie’s got heart. A ridiculous heart, yes, but sometimes that’s the best kind.

Lt. Devalier goes straight to the castle, an imposing San Simeon structure huddled on a giant cliff, and bangs on the door, shouting, “I am a representative of the government of France!”

Of course you are, Jack.

The castle door finally opens, and there, in a shiny blue smoking jacket, is Boris Karloff. A dignified elderly man, with haunted eyes, and an unfriendly aspect, he denies that there is a “young woman” living here at the castle, “you must be mistaken, young man”, and although he tries to close the door in the Lieutenant’s face, Andre manages to talk his way inside. “Surely you will not turn away a soldier in France’s army.”

I was just so in love with the image of Jack Nicholson, gorgeous and intense, early 60s hipster hair, slicked down, with the already-familiar wrinkled lines of cynicism and humor in his forehead, but dressed like this.

… and saying words like “surely”.

He has the following monologue:

“My father was the Comte Duvalier. Was, until they spilled his head into a basket one morning in the Place de la Concorde.”

Hearing Nicholson say the words “Place de la Concorde” helps me to rest easy at night, certain that the world makes some sense.

Recognizable Jack already, (especially with the second emphasis on was, you can hear his “persona” there, or at least an echo of it), but strange in this situation. Nicholson, to me, seems 100% 20th century. His sensibility, his face, his attitude. Your father was the “Comte Duvalier”? Really? Because you look like a Beat poet gone to seed to me, strictly American, strictly mid-century, coming down off a hangover, emanating pot smoke, and hoping to hit the surf later that afternoon to catch some waves and bag some babes. “My father was the Comte Duvalier.” But that’s the awesome fun of these Roger Corman movies. The concerns are story, mood, and also, frankly, just getting the damn thing done. Print, wrap, let’s party, and move on to the next one.

It’s fun to see Nicholson here, pre-fame. He’s been famous longer than I have been alive. There are so many important films, and groundbreaking moments, and funny/specific/angry performances that it seems as though he must always have been so in charge of himself, so confident, so cocky. In The Terror, Nicholson does not really inhabit himself yet as an actor (although there are glimpses, as in the “was” inflection I already mentioned). He’s certainly not “in” his voice, meaning: there is a flat recitation feel to his lines, which perhaps could be due to the ridiculous dialogue, but also shows that Nicholson was still working it out, still figuring it out. He sounds like an actor. Every film presents a problem to be solved. And here, he has to gallop along on a horse, checking his compass (why?), black cloak billowing behind him, squinting up at the ominous castle, and then, randomly, for no immediately apparent reason, get all righteously angry at the aged Baron when the Baron won’t show him the Von Leppe crypt. I wanted to say to Lieutenant Duvalier, “What business is it of yours? This is my house, you barge in here in your absurd bicorne hat and your shiny boots. My crypt is my business. Get the hell off my property!”

But Lieutenant Duvalier will not be dissuaded! That woman he saw in the woods … in the surf … in the fields … up the down staircase …. it’s not every day you meet a country-wench with perfectly applied lipgloss and shiny black eyeliner. Who doesn’t speak. She’s perfect, and she is in this castle, he is SURE of it. There are secrets behind every corner, and he will get to the bottom of it!

Karloff is a touching figure here. He is secretive and mysterious, as the character warrants, and touchy about his past, but there’s something about his walk, and how he favors one leg over the over, an old man’s walk, that tore at my heart. Not for the character, but for the actor: an old man, who had been in show business since the silents and before. Karloff had a bad back his whole life, and struggled with pain management. Yet the dignity, the inherent honor, in an old actor such as himself, who has seen so much, been through so much, and can automatically transfer that life experience into his performance, elevates the Baron into something almost mythic. It’s all balderdash, honestly, but so much of theatre is made up OF balderdash, and there is no shame in that. Karloff could commit to anything, and would. To see him here, acting the shit out of the Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe, having sinister asides with his French butler (who has a Bronx accent), and reprimanding Lt. Duvalier repeatedly for overstepping his bounds, is to see what it means to be a pro. Karloff, at the end of The Terror, is in the crypt, begging and pleading with his there-and-then-not-there dead wife, and he has a moment where he seems truly mad, hope and fear and denial struggling in his big wounded eyes.

The crypt is flooded at one point, and there is a struggle between three people in the onslaught of water, Karloff in the rushing water with the rest of the actors, and it made me think of … so many things: Nina in the last scene of The Seagull (“When I think of my vocation … I am not afraid of life”), “Bela Lugosi” wrestling with the giant octopus in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, the two old theatre queens in Slings & Arrows who devoted their lives and careers to Shakespeare, but never would play the leads, all the old theatrical workhorses I have known, putting on their makeup, their wigs, their ruffs, their doublets, with their bad knees and their bad backs, and walking out into the hot lights of make-believe. Because that is the only life they could possibly lead. I worried for Karloff in that moment where he was up to his neck in what was probably freezing water. No money for stunt-doubles here.

But there is still … a dignity … in the decidedly undignified pursuit of acting. Karloff has always embodied that for me.

The Terror is so loaded with atmosphere that you are threatened, at all times, to drown in it. A cemetery is not a cemetery if it is not wreathed in fog and long blue shadows. A house is not a home without a Persian rug the size of a city block and a fireplace you can stand in. A cliff is not a cliff without a rocky avalanche. Surf boils and rages and crashes. Nicholson skulks through the castle in his knee-high shiny boots, and the butler stares at him with hostile eyes, as only a tough guy from the Bronx can stare. The score seems to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Also OCD. The crone from the fairy-tale cottage hovers over bubbling blue and orange concoctions in the middle of the night (to what purpose, I ask you??), and Boris Karloff, in his shiny blue jacket, lopes awkwardly through the empty house, eyes mad with grief and guilt.

Put it all together into 80 minutes and you get …. a campy nervous breakdown, with Karloff being Karloff, because that is what is required, and Jack not really being Jack yet. An interesting glimpse for those of us who have always known Nicholson as famous, as confident, as “Jack”.

George Cukor said, in regards to Cary Grant as Jimmy Monkley in the weird little picture Sylvia Scarlett, considered Grant’s breakthrough (it made The Awful Truth possible):

Sylvia Scarlett was the first time Cary felt the ground under his feet as an actor. He suddenly seemed liberated.

In The Terror, Nicholson isn’t liberated yet. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun to watch him stalk around in the blue shadows carrying a silver pistol and wearing a bicorne hat.

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40 Responses to Chronological Jack: The Terror (1963); Dir. Roger Corman

  1. Phil P says:

    Now you did it Sheila. You made me add this to my Netflix queue. They don’t think I’m going to like it. Well, we shall see. But I take full responsibility for my actions and absolve you in advance of all blame.

    When a few years ago I rented the Corman Little Shop of Horrors, I found it extremely amusing to find Nicholson listed 14th in the cast (out of 15) among a group of total unknowns.

  2. sheila says:

    // They don’t think I’m going to like it. //

    hahahahahahaha What do “they” know??

    And feel free to blame me. I can take it!!

    And re: Little Shop: I had a similar strange response when I watched Psych-Out, in the middle of my Dean Stockwell phase, and saw Stockwell and Susan Strasberg listed before Nicholson, who has the other lead. He was just on the cusp of Easy Riders there, and he is RIDICULOUS in that movie, as a sort of Jim Morrison archetype (but a lot of fun, too). Stockwell is great.

  3. george says:

    Sheila,

    Wow! Where else can one get Andrei Tarkovsky and Roger Corman? Done anything on Ed Wood that I might have missed?

    How I got a kick out of Corman’s movies – my favorite The Pit And The Pendulum with the king, well after Boris, of course, Vincent Price. And The Masque of the Red Death also. Saw The Terror many years after its release and only due to Nicholson’s presence – vaguely remember it – so thanks for the memory jogging. And thanks for the honorific paragraph to Boris Karloff.

    Oh and…
    “Recognizable Jack, (especially with the second emphasis on was, you can hear his “persona” there already)”

    Well now, ain’t you just some kinda incredible – to pick that up.

    Oh and finally, Roger Corman; looked over at IMDB to double check him as director of The Pit and The Pendulum and wow! Still going as a producer, two movies in post production, 392 movies as producer/exec producer.

    A most enjoyable post.

  4. Brendan says:

    This is hilarious.

  5. Phil P says:

    //What do “they” know??//

    You have the temerity to question the wisdom of Netflix? Quelle audace!

  6. sheila says:

    As someone who adores both Blue Crush and Magnificent Ambersons, perhaps even equally, Netflix doesn’t know what to do with me.

  7. Phil P says:

    Blue Crush – I had to look that one up. Is that a guilty pleasure movie? Oh wait, I forgot – you don’t suffer from that kind of guilt.

    Sometimes I think Netflix is on the verge of figuring me out, but then I throw them a curve. Their computers can’t cope with truly devious minds.

  8. sheila says:

    Phil – hahaha Yes, I genuinely like Blue Crush. I’ve written about it a bit before. I like a movie that is successful in whatever goals it puts for itself, and Blue Crush is a great example of that. It’s not perfect, but it also doesn’t need to be. The performances are good, the scenery is gorgeous, and it has an internal conflict with the main character that is quintessential Sports Movie formula (a formula that I happen to love). I also love surfing movies, in general. I also love Girl Power movies, where an underdog girl shows the boys who scorn her efforts at first that she can compete. And I love Sports Formula movies, the underdog coming from behind to take the win, or at least win a MORAL victory (ie: Rocky).

    Blue Crush is successful in ALL of these things.

    I have taken shit for liking that movie, but I stand by it!! I’m not saying it’s a hidden masterpiece, but in its modest formulaic goals, it is VERY successful – and in a way that’s even HARDER to do, because you have to work within a bunch of cliches.

    Also, my friend’s sister lives on that very beach in Hawaii portrayed in the movie – and my friend says that the movie gets the specific culture just right: the conflict between the local Hawaiians and the big-wig surfers who swoop into town seasonally – the fights over who “owns” the beach – the rich vs. poor – the subtle and not so subtle racism that is underneath some of these fights (from both sides) – all of that stuff is very alive for those who live on that particular popular surfing beach. The movie actually has something to SAY about class.

    Okay, so now I’m going on and on about Blue Crush. hahahahaha I’ll stop now. But no, I don’t feel guilty!

  9. sheila says:

    George – Thanks! Nothing on Ed Wood although I do love those movies! And thanks for the response to my little word on Nicholson’s persona. I am actually quietly starting a project, of which this post is the first one, where I go (as chronologically as I can) through Nicholson’s work, to watch his development as an actor and then a star. I am going to do my best to keep it up through the following month – and it’s interesting to see someone who is not FORMED yet. Someone who is so instantly recognizable now – his voice, his leer, his laugh – we don’t even need his last name, he’s just “Jack”. I love him to death, and I haven’t written nearly enough about him, so I’m about to gorge myself.

    I hope it’ll be fun!

    And with that second “was” in his little speech about his beheaded father, you can see a glimpse of the sort of weary realistic quality that Nicholson can bring to his best parts. It reminded me of some of the funnier moments he had in Terms of Endearment, where he needs to make his points, even though the woman he is sleeping with is driving him batshit crazy (with love, lust, and frustration). That’s what that “was” reminded me of, even in the midst of all the Gothic brou-haha.

  10. Ken says:

    Funny little detail — Nicholson’s hair actually isn’t all that out of place. Put longer sideburns on him and maybe a mustache, and he’d fit right in (look at Sean Bean’s Sharpe films, where they did more of their homework).

  11. sheila says:

    There is no way that his haircut had anything to do with what they call, in the biz, “period detail”. You can FEEL the aura of blue jeans and a Tshirt around him, the clothes he just took off, in every scene. I find it charming.

  12. sheila says:

    However: Sean Bean. mmmmmm.

  13. Ken says:

    Oh, no, I wasn’t clear — not that it had anything to do with period detail, just that he coulda got away with it. It’s not as egregious as, say, the disco haircuts on some of the alleged marines in Black Sheep Squadron.

  14. sheila says:

    hahahahahahahahahaha Egregious!!! Love it.

    Just add the haircut to the black cloak and the epaulettes and you’re in Napoleonic-era France, and I ain’t questioning it. His father was the Comte Duvalier, dontcha know.

  15. Greg F says:

    Well if you ever do write a post on Ed Wood it’s getting added to my Ed Wood Blogathon from last summer. Doesn’t matter how late the arrivals are, I’ll add them on.

    As for The Terror, I love Roger Corman’s sixties technicolor films. Tales of Terror is a favorite trilogy of mine. And about the period detail you mention, well, the thing about almost all sixties period movies is that no one ever looks very period. I’m still working on a post on this (so don’t do it! I have to get more images) but basically, even in the high budget stuff it’s pretty obvious. No one but no one is going to look at the strikingly gorgeous Faye Dunaway with her perfectly set wedge haircut in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde and say, “Oh yeah, this movie was probably made in the thirties!” I mean, they didn’t even attempt to make her look like Bonnie Parker. I don’t care how many period cars they’re driving, that movie is obviously made in the sixties. If Bonnie and Clyde had really looked like that they would have never become bank robbers, they would have become models.

  16. sheila says:

    I love that anachronistic stuff. There’s one scene in The Searchers where Laurie (long-suffering girlfriend of Martin) cooks breakfast for Martin, then gives her his horse for him to go off searching again, and she is angry and resentful – she wants him to be her boyfriend – and yadda yadda – In every other single scene in this movie, she is dressed like a pioneer woman, in calico dresses and aprons. In this one scene, she has her hair in fat braids, and she wears a checked shirt and rolled up Levis. You could easily transport her into Bye Bye Birdie, no problem. It is so obviously a 1950s moment – the “teenybopper” love birds – it always makes me laugh. A small concession to the modern day. Or maybe a large concession. “This is what a teenager in love looks like. Yes, our movie takes place in 1868, but you would never know it right now …”

    And the best part is? It doesn’t matter at ALL.

  17. sheila says:

    Oh, and you have to write that post, Greg!! I’m already dying to read it.

  18. Greg F says:

    There are so many offenders in the fifties and sixties too! I mean, there are plenty in every decade but for some reason, the fifties and sixties seemed to have the worst, or is it best? I’d swear Debra Paget is wearing Capri pants and pumps in Love Me Tender. She isn’t, but they do their best to make her denim pants (read: modern jeans) and shoes look like Capri pants and pumps. And there’s nothing better than seeing the old gang return to their Georgia farm in 1865 as their horses kick up the dust, tumbleweed and the scrub brush of Southern California. You don’t have to suspend your disbelief to get through Love Me Tender, you have to take it outside and strangle it.

  19. sheila says:

    Right, there’s not even a PRETENSE. Which is part of the fun of it. Like, “Guys, can’t you even go through the motions here??”

  20. sheila says:

    Yeah, so The Searchers is 1956, so suddenly – in post-Civil War Texas, we have what amounts to an extra from American Bandstand playing an insulted angry pioneer woman, circa 1868. I love cinema.

  21. Bruce Reid says:

    If you haven’t read it, Corman’s memoir How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime contains a marvelous account of how giddily slapdash the production of this film was (Coppola did direct some scenes, as did Nicholson and Monte Hellman). You’d expect no less for a film made solely because the set for The Raven had to be torn down and Corman figured for the two days it would be left standing after they wrapped he could shoot all the interiors on a new story and fill out that spine later on.

    The book also features running commentaries from Corman’s collaborators, and here’s Nicholson’s reminiscence; it’s a bit long, but captures that “beat poet gone to seed” spirit you describe so well:

    “I believe the funniest hour I have ever spent in a projection room was watching the dailies for The Terror. You first saw Boris coming down this long hallway in the Baron’s blue coat. Then he’d move out of the shot. Then I’d come down the hallway and after I’d cleared the frame–Roger didn’t even bother to cut the camera and slate the shots–Sandra would come down the hallway. Then it was Dick’s turn looking weird in his black servant suit. And then Boris would come down again, this time in his red coat. All of this shot as if in one take with no cut.

    “Then we went up to Big Sur with Francis for the stuff along the beach and the rocks with Jackie Haze, the horse, Helene, the young woman, and the witch’s raven. Sandra got pregnant up in Big Sur with our daughter, Jennifer. I think Roger went wild with Francis because no one ever went over budget and he was supposed to be up there for three days and we stayed eleven or something like that. We all thought we’d be machine-gunned or fired forever out of the business.

    “I almost drowned out there in the ocean. I was supposed to go out in to the water to find Helene. This was Francis’s idea. I went out into that big fucking arch up there in Big Sur. This is wintertime and there’s no stunt doubling. I had been a lifeguard so I wasn’t that afraid but that arch is quite a ways out.

    “The water never gets deep. So in order to look disappeared–I made this up as I was going out there–I sort of crouched down to my knees so that when the first white water waves hit me, it did not hit me in the dick but all over. ‘Cause that water was freezing. And the water knocked me under. When I went under with Lieutenant Duvalier’s huge Fifth Chassuer uniform on, I felt I couldn’t stand up. I was pinned to the ground from the weight of this uniform. I had that split second of panic because I was out a ways already. I came flying out of there and just threw that fucking costume off while I ran, freezing to death.

    “When we got back to town, Francis tried to blame me for going over budget. I might add, and, of course, he didn’t know that I was pretty close with Roger, from having worked with him and being in Jeff Corey’s classes. Roger didn’t believe I was to blame. Neither was Francis, really. It had more to do with shooting in Big Sur–and trying something you never do on a Corman picture, which was run cables up from the rocks into the mountains. Roger’s way would be to just shot from up on the road. But Francis hadn’t worked with Roger that much so he hadn’t had that disdain for any kind of production expenses burned into him yet. So he went ahead and just did whatever he wanted.

    “Then, moving south down the coast, Monte came on board and we shot in Santa Barbara and Palos Verdes, more raven stuff, more scenes with Jackie Haze. When we did the flood scenes, I had to dive from the stairs leading to the crypt in two and a half feet of water, which is why that dive looks a little funny. And by then, Sandra was like seven, eight months pregnant and her body was obviously quite different. And there I was, carrying her upstairs, soaking wet, with her very pregnant.

    “I remember standing behind Roger when I wasn’t in the shot, because he was holding one of the big fire hose nozzles over his head, squirting the actors as the crypt filled up. I grabbed the hose without him knowing it, being almost hysterical with laughter as I pulled the hose and jerked him around while he sprayed these people, making it seem like tremendous water pressure. I mean, this was my fucking wife and it looked so hysterically goofy. Roger always had that grin on his face. He knew something was up. I had a great time. Paid the rent. They don’t make movies like The Terror anymore.”

  22. sheila says:

    Oh Bruce.

    That is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever read.

  23. sheila says:

    // I mean, this was my fucking wife and it looked so hysterically goofy.//

    Dying.

  24. Blue Crush is the Magnificent Ambersons of surfer girl movies. I’m firmly in the Gidget camp, especially when I found out about the real Gidget.

    Oh, The Terror? Well, I did see this one at the Kips Bay Theater at a Corman retrospective back in 1971. Had I seen this film first run, I would have never guessed that Jack Nicholson was a future Oscar winner. As far as I’m concerned, Nicholson showed more promise in Cry Baby Killer.

  25. sheila says:

    // Blue Crush is the Magnificent Ambersons of surfer girl movies. //

    hahahahaha I wonder if this is the first time in history that “Blue Crush” and “Magnificent Ambersons” appeared in the same sentence.

    I thought Nicholson was terrific in Cry Baby Killer, too – that was 1958, I think – it pre-dates The Terror. That one is also in the queue, so I can re-watch it.

  26. sheila says:

    Also, I’d love to go to a Corman retrospective – I’d love to see some of these in a crowded movie theatre, which seems, ultimately, the point. Should keep my eyes open for one in the NY area.

  27. sheila says:

    And Bruce – I haven’t read Corman’s book (looks like I need to rectify that immediately) and I did find myself wondering: where the hell did they get this SET? Those interiors, that stairway and the main room, are marvelously huge and gloomy – and I wondered: is this someone’s actual house? Like, where the hell did they find this place? Now that I know that they threw this together to utilize the set for one more movie … Awesome detail.

  28. The set? The magic of set designer Daniel Haller. In the Corman retrospective that I went to, one could recognize basic elements, additions and changes from film to film starting with House of Usher. Every film used the same shot of lightning.

  29. sheila says:

    Speaking of Nicholson’s remembrances of nearly drowning: I’m not surprised. That scene looks completely out of control. It is clear he is really there and really struggling.

  30. Bruce Reid says:

    The book’s delightful. Corman gets a bit self-serious at times, going on about how important Freud was to his progress as a director, but as you’d expect the showman in him never allows him to dwell on such matters long before moving on to a chipper anecdote. Besides, at the rate he churned films out he’s got a lot of stories to get through in a couple of hundred pages (Corman’s the last gut who’d put out a ponderous doorstop of a tome).

    Peter’s right about Haller’s magic. The sets in Corman’s Poe films (and some earlier efforts, including my personal favorite Bucket of Blood) are sparse, but never bare or tremblingly insubstantial, like you find on other skid-row productions. There’s just enough solidity to buy the substance, just enough detail to support the imagination.

  31. Bruce Reid says:

    “the last guy,” obviously.

  32. sheila says:

    Bruce – or “the last gut”, that makes sense as well. :)

    Yes, you can see in these productions that you really shouldn’t over-think it. The point is to make a movie with people you like, and then make another movie with people you like – and nurture talent (young and old) – that’s one of the most interesting things about Corman’s stuff – the factory of talent that it was. I look forward to reading his book very much!

    I laughed out loud reading the excerpt you posted – with Corman shooting all four leads walking down the same hallway without a cut. Dying!!!

    It reminds me of doing late-night crazy shows in Chicago, where you got paid nearly nothing, you always always had to be naked onstage at some point, whether it was justified or no, everyone involved was talented (many of them are now basically running late-night television), the theatres were packed, the shows were often terrible but with a lot of energy and FUN. Only in Chicago.

  33. nightfly says:

    I’ve got to get into the 20th century and get me some Netflix. Man the times I’m missing. The very first thing that comes to my mind when I hear “Roger Corman” is “Gunslinger,” immortalized by Joel and the ‘bots on MST3K. It was their first Western on the Satellite of Love, and as Dr Forrester warns, “Your heads may explode before Frank’s.”

    But what a career for Corman… we should all be so lucky to spend so many long years doing what we love.

  34. sheila says:

    Gunslinger also has Dick Miller in it!! – the butler in The Terror who has a Bronx accent even though he lives in Napoleonic France.

  35. nightfly says:

    I was trying to remember who in Gunslinger may have had a Bronx accent… Had to fire up the episode. I think he may have been the Pony Express guy; only two short scenes. Hard to tell. It was very early in his career.

    Mr. Miller has also done well for himself, according to imdb. Bits in the first Terminator, the Howling, poor Murray Futterman in Gremlins, a role in Pulp Fiction that wound up on the cutting room floor, lots of early TV and recent voice-over work. There’s a Star Trek connection, as Mr. Lileks would say – roles in Next Generation and DS9. A lifetime of working at what you love…

  36. sheila says:

    I imagine that Tarantino was well aware of the guy, knowing his love for Corman’s stuff – I wonder what part he played in Pulp Fiction? He’s a very good-looking guy.

  37. nightfly says:

    One of the wonderful things about Tarantino is that his own film geekery has leant him an appreciation for actors like Dick Miller, and he brings them into his own films. I believe that you mentioned Robert Forster in one of your posts as an example; Laurence Tierney is another.

    Dick Miller was Monster Joe in Pulp Fiction, but his whole role was cut according to imdb. I don’t know if you can see him in the deleted scenes of the DVD.

  38. Pingback: Chronological Jack: Too Soon to Love (1958); Dir. Richard Rush | The Sheila Variations

  39. Phil P says:

    Just wanted to let you know, Sheila, that I finally saw it. I enjoyed it a great deal, once more confounding Netflix’s computers. I did like the bicorne hat, though it wasn’t as funny as Nicholson demanding entry to the castle in the name of the government of France. But my favorite line is the last line of this choice bit of dialogue:

    Helene: I am possessed of the dead.
    Andre: You’re a warm living woman. Who has told you these things?
    Helene: The dead.
    Andre: In Paris, they’re doing wonderful things to discover the nature of the mind.

    This kind of writing is an instant cure for depression. How it got overlooked at the Oscars I’ll never understand.

    I also learned the true meaning of the phrase “guilty pleasure.” It’s when you find yourself laughing at an old woman being hit by lightning and being burned to a crisp. Jack’s reaction was priceless.

    I like your description of Jack as a “beat poet gone to seed.” You said he doesn’t really inhabit himself as an actor but maybe his flat recitation is due to the ridiculous dialogue. I don’t see anything in his performance predictive of future greatness, but I suspect he made a deliberate decision to underplay his role. He’s the ordinary guy, the straight man among all these loonies. I think it works.

    Thanks for posting about the movie and once more expanding my cultural horizons. I have to go now. I need to check out the latest psychological discoveries from Paris.

  40. sheila says:

    // This kind of writing is an instant cure for depression. //

    Laughing out loud!!

    “You are a warm living woman!”

    Oh what balderdash! I agree – with dialogue like that, the best thing to do is underplay it as much as you can. So psyched you finally saw it!

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