Alistair Sim stars in
this early British mystery chiller, a remake of Warner's lost film The Terror.
(1938/BIP./Associated British) 73mins. BW. UK.
Credits: Dir: Richard Bird; Prod: Walter C. Mycroft;
Sc: William Freshman; Ph: Walter Harvey; Ed: Lionel Tomlinson; Sets: Cedric Dawe. From the
play by Edgar Wallace.
Lawson, Bernard Lee, Arthur Wontner, Linden Travers, Henry Oscar, Iris Hoey, Stanley
Lathbury, Lesley Wareing, Alistair Sim, John Turnbull, Richard Murdoch, Edward Lexy, John
H. Vyvyan, Jack Lambert, Kathleen Harrison,
For those who appreciate the majority of films Britain churned out during the Thirties,
this production will certainly stand out. All the ingredients are here including a lavish
atmosphere, suspense, a sense of humour, and a cast of players recognisable only to those
afficianados who delight at the chance to name these character actors as they step onto
THE TERROR is a prime "whodunnit" with plenty of convenient red-herrings to
divert the average plot, until that all important final reel.
A hooded figure learns that a large shipment of gold is to travel from Paris to New
York via Southampton and recruits the services of Soapy Marks, (Alistair Sim), and Joe
Conner, (Henry Oscar), to hold up the bullion truck in a gas bomb attack. However, the
Terror keeps the gold, and using the alias of Mad Mike O'Shea, tips off the police causing
Soapy and Joe to be imprisoned for ten years.
After their release Soapy and Joe vow to have revenge and make their way to The Monks Hall Priory, a guest house owned by Colonel Redney, (Arthur Wontner). Amongst the odd
assortment of guests is a drunk named Mr. Fayne, (Bernard Lee),
retired tea merchant Mr. Goodman, (Wilfred Lawson), self confessed psychic Mrs. Elvery,
(Iris Hoey), and Colonel Redney's winsome daughter Mary who has just returned home from
Switzerland. All of them experience the eerie organ music being played during the night,
the mad cackle that resounds throughout the house and the appearance of a ghostly figure
in a monk's cowl.
Mr. Goodman explains that the spirits of the devil-worshipping monks that used to inhabit
the priory, haunt the bricked up, underground chapel beneath the house . When Joe Conner steals into the house, he discovers the
secret panel that leads to the chapel, but the residents later discover his murdered body.
Everyone seems suspect including Colonel Redney himself who confesses to the police that
Mr. Goodman is actually O'Shea and that he owes him the princely sum of £10,000.
Soapy Marks enters the house disguised as a kindly parson to try and identify O'Shea and
Eventually Mr. Goodman reveals himself to be The Terror when he kidnaps Mary, (Linden
Travers), and takes her to his underground lair promising "to take you from the
world of men, to a place where there is nothing but peace...eternal peace!"
next to the bound and gagged Mr. Fayne who the Terror has discovered is actually Inspector
Bradley of Scotland Yard, Mary endures insane
O'Shea's manic organ recital.
Suddenly Soapy Marks appears dressed as a monk from a priest hole and attacks O'Shea, but
in the ensuing fisticuffs accompanied by some rousing music, Soapy is knocked unconscious.
This leaves O'Shea at the mercy of the Inspector who Mary has freed, and thumps him so
hard that O'Shea falls under a tomb that collapses on top of him. Out pours all the
missing gold, so naturally, with the murderer now dead, Mary and the Inspector embrace.
This straight remake of Warner Brothers' unfortunately lost The Terror of 1928 demonstrates Richard Bird's flair for the already
familiar "haunted house" theme. The title role is ably filled by Wilfred Lawson (1900-1966) who revelled in the
many eccentric characters he portrayed.
Of course, any film featuring the superb Alistair Sim is immediately watchable, even in
these early days before he found international fame as Scrooge
In smaller, unbilled roles, Kathleen Harrison
and a youthful Irene Handl appear as maids during one brief scene.
As with many other films of this ilk, and also the many classic mainstream entries,
very few of them ever appear on television anymore. I would have thought that the
increased number of channels, including satellite and cable, would have made many of these
items more available. Unfortunately, the powers that be have probably never heard of half
the films we mention, and unimaginatively schedule re-runs of low brow soap operas in
several different languages, or awful films which we have all seen before only because
there was nothing else on at the time.
Please excuse my diversion onto a soap-box, but maybe, just maybe someone holding the
dubious title of "Programmer" might read this.
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