The very humorous dreaminess finds the callow Napoleonic lieutenant (Jack Nicholson) on an exhausted horse at the beach, moments later heís trying to punch a swooping falcon while almost drowning. (Boris Karloffís twinkly leer as he creaks open the castleís gate buttresses the jocular tone: "Surely Iíve made enough noise to wake the dead!") The story goes that Roger Corman had Karloff for a couple extra days after wrapping The Raven, so he ad-libbed a scenario with Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman and Jack Hill, each of whom took uncredited directorial turns over the course of the week-long production. Characters creep around the same torch-lit cardboard dungeons over and over for padding, but, scene by scene, itís a delightful Ovidian creature. The pastiche of Poe -- soldier crashes at Baronís manse, dead wife (Sandra Knight) keeps sneaking out of crypt -- is sketched with quick, offhand brushes that accommodate the witchís frosted-glass, mesmerist wheel spinning for the camera, and Jonathan Haze with bloody eye sockets like Oedipus tumbling from a cliff. "The will of God... to endow and to deprive," such is the faith of low-budget auteurs. Bogdanovich's Targets sampled it as just the brand of horror made obsolete in the face of suburban psychopaths, Kubrick in The Shining virtually recreates the comely face turned into a molten death mask by Nicholsonís embrace. With Dick Miller and Dorothy Neumann.
--- Fernando F. Croce