Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Jack Nicholson Before "Easy Rider": Roger Corman, Hells Angels, LSD and Four Monkees.

Before Jack Nicholson donned an old gold football helmet to ride with his friend Peter Fonda. Next to another, Dennis Hopper, in 1969's "EASY RIDER". He had a mixture of movie roles, wrote some screenplays, divorced, and took whatever came his way on film. This is that story:

John Joseph Nicholson was born on April 22, 1937 in Neptune City, New Jersey. The question  remains, who was his father? As a young boy, Nicholson was not being raised by his parents, but his mother's parents as their son.

We know his mother was June Frances Nicholson, a showgirl, who used the name "June Nilson". She was a combination of English, Welsh, Irish and German ancestry. At the age of 17, she married Italian-American showman Donald Furcillo, who used the stage name of "Donald Rose", only to discover that he was already married.

In 1974, "Time Magazine", did an extensive research on Nicholson. They informed the actor that his sister June, was actually his mother, and his other sister, Lorriane, his aunt. Further, the magazine discovered that his father may actually have been June's manager, Latvian-born, Edgar A. Kirschfield, that at the time, had been known as "Eddie King".

Back in 1954, Jack Nicholson came to Hollywood for a family visit. While on that visit, he took a job in the offices of animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Who were impressed with Nicholson work ethic and offered him a job as an intern animator, but he declined! The 17-year old Jack Nicholson wanted to become an actor. On May 5, 1955, the young actor in training, had his first acting role with a stage group called "The Players Ring Circle".

According to Patrick McGilligan, in his 1996 biography, "Jack's Life". While acting on both the small stage and television, in 1957, Jack Nicholson joined the "California Air National Guard" to avoid the draft. Not an uncommon practice at the time. During the 1961 "Berlin Crisis", the future "Academy Award Winning Actor", was called up for active duty. He ended his enlistment in 1962.


Hosted by actor John Conte was an early live television anthology series on NBC entitled "Matinee Theatre".

On September 3, 1955, in Season 2, Episode 5, entitled "Are You Listening?" Jack Nicholson made his first on-screen appearance in the role of the "Musician's Son". This was a live two-person play with actor Conrad Janis. Janis is probably best known for the 1978 to 1982 television series "Mork and Mindy". No photos, or Kinescopes appear to remain of "Are You Listning?"

We know between that program and his first feature film appearance. The young actor was on stage with "The Players Ring Circle" and other small companies. Nicholson also appeared on television soap operas, but in parts so small he apparently wasn't even listed as "Uncredited". However, in 1958, Jack Nicholson met Roger Corman.

THE CRY BABY KILLER released August 17, 1958

This was a Crime Film-Noir from Executive Producer Roger Corman.

According to Corman he was out of country during pre-production and Producer David Kramarsky, 1955's "The Beast With A Million Eyes" and two of Corman's Westerns, and Producer David March, his only motion picture, changed much of story in screenplay writer Leo Gordon's script. Gordon portrayed "Heavies" in many motion pictures and the occasional tough hero.

Roger Corman would claim this was the first motion picture he made that didn't make money as a result.

The Main Cast:

Harry Lauter portrayed "Police Lieutenant Porter". You may not know his name, but it was Lauter, as a small-town Sheriff, that is killed in Ray Harryhausen's 1955 classic "It Came from Beneath the Sea". He was a supporting actor on many early Western television series such as "Annie Oakley", "The Lone Ranger", "The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickock" and "The Gene Autry Show".

Above on the right is Lauter.

Jack Nicholson portrayed "Jimmy Wallace". 

Carolyn Mitchell portrayed "Carole Fields". She only appeared in three films and this was her third. Her second had been 1958's "Dragstrip Riot". That co-starred 58 years old "King Kong" actress Fay Wray and had the fourth on-screen appearance of teenage singer Connie Stevens. Along with Gary Clarke, who portrayed the "Teenage Werewolf" in 1958's "How to Make a Monster".

Brett Halsey portrayed "Manny Cole". Halsey had the title role in 1959's "The Return of the Fly", but spent the majority of his career on television.

Lynn Cartwright portrayed "Julie". Cartwright was a "Venusian Girl" in the Zsa Zsa Garbor and Eric Fleming cult 1958 Science Fiction "Queen of Outer Space". She was also in Roger Corman's 1959 "The Wasp Woman", from a Leo Gordon screenplay,

The Basic Plot:

Seventeen-year old "Jimmy Wallace" panics, after thinking he committed manslaughter while in a fight with a teenage gang. He takes a random woman, her baby, and a man hostage from outside of a food shelter by a local restaurant. This leads to a stand-off with the police, a sympathetic police officer, and a crowd of crazed on-lookers.

Dropping from co-star to fifth billing, found Jack Nicholson in his second feature film.

TOO SOON TO LOVE released in February 1960

The picture was Co-Produced and Directed by Richard Rush. Who would Direct the Annette Funicello, Fabian Forte and Diane McBain stock car racing picture, 1967's "Thunder Alley", and the Robert Walker, Jr. biker film, from 1968, "The Savage Seven".

The Two Leads:

Jennifer West portrayed "Cathy Taylor". West was a television actress and this was her second feature film. The first was 1958's "Mardi Gras" starring teen singers Pat Boone and Tommy Sands. West had ninth billing in that feature. 

Richard Evans portrayed "Jim Mills". Evans was mainly a television actor and this was his second feature. The same year he portrayed "A Cabin Boy" in Walt Disney's "Kidnapped".

The Basic Plot:

The story is typical for the 1950's and is about teenage lovers "Cathy" and "Jim". Who would not listen to their parents about being too young to really be in love and are at odds with them! Then, later, the two find out she is pregnant and afre faced with the consequences of their actions. Jack Nicholson had fifth billing as the troublesome "Buddy". Who has always wanted "Cathy" for himself! 

               Above Jack Nicholson as "Buddy".

In 1959 Producer Blake Edwards, televisions "Peter Gunn" and "The Pink Panther" motion picture series. Had created a television series that ran for only one season. Which was based upon the same story, by writer Milton Holmes, that became a 1943 Cary Grant motion picture of the same name, "Mr. Lucky". The first fifteen episodes were Directed by Co-Producer Jack Arnold, 1953's "It Came from Outer Space", "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" trilogy and 1957's "The Incredible Shrinking Man".

The Two Recurring Characters:

John Vivyan portrayed "Mr. Lucky".  Since 1949 Vivyan was and would remain only a television character actor.

Ross Martin portrayed "Andamo". In 1962, Martin's name would not show in the opening credits of Blake Edward's "Experiment in Terror", because he was the voice on the phone. Who was manipulating Lee Remick to steal from her bank, if she wanted to see her sister alive. In 1965, Martin became "Artemus Gordon" on televisions "James Bond" rip-off, "The Wild Wild West".

Above Martin and Vivyan.

Below, Jack Nicholson portrayed "Martin" in Episode 30, "Operation Fortuna", May 21,1960. He's the awkward waiter on the gambling ship "Fortuna". Who organizes a heist of the ship and its customers. In 1960, "Gambling Ships" still existed, but just outside of the nine-mile limit off California. People were taken from a dock out to the ships by small boats and although gambling wasn't legal in California. Being taken out beyond the nine-mile limit wasn't against the law. 

1960, was the last year of the motion picture craze for teenage movies about "Hot Rod's" and "Stock Car Racing". In two years, Annette Funnicello and Frankie Avalon would appear in "Beach Party" and the new teenage movie craze became "Surfing". 

THE WILD RIDE released June 17, 1960

The picture's Executive Producer was Roger Corm, but it was actually Produced and Directed by Harvey Berman. Not familiar with his name? That may be because Berman's only produced three movies and this was the only one he also directed. 

The screenplay was co-written by Film Editor Marion Rothman. The only other film she co-wrote was Berman's flashback look at Jack Nicholson in 1999. Which is good, because just some of her editing credits include 1968's "The Boston Strangler", 1970's "Beneath the Planet of the Apes", Woody Allen's 1972 "Play It Again Sam", Barbara Streisand's 1975 "Funny Lady" and Burt Lancaster's 1977 "The Island of Dr. Moreau'.

The other two credited screenplay writers were:

Ann Porter and this was her only screenplay. The third was Burt Topper, who would go on to Produce and Direct several movies for American International Pictures.

The Main  Cast:

Jack Nicholson portrayed "Johnny Varron".

Georgianna Carter portrayed "Nancy". This was her third and last on-screen appearance. Her first was in American International Pictures 1958 "Night of the Blood Beast". In which AIP recycled the same monster costume, used two months earlier, from the Roger Corman and Robert Vaughn "Teenage Cavemen". That both actor and director claimed never being associated with, because they had made a film entitled "Prehistoric World". That American International Pictures changed the title to get in on the "Teenage Monster Craze".

Robert Bean portrayed "Dave". Bean would only make four motion pictures, but two are notable. In 1961, he was part of Roger Corman's camp cult Horror entry, "Creature from the Haunted Sea". In 2010, Robert Bean as Bob Bean, was in the made for television "Dinocroc vs Supergator".

The Basic Screenplay:

The setting is still during what was known as "The Beat Generation" and amateur dirt track racer "Johnny Varron" is the typical movie rebellious punk. "Johnny" kidnaps "Dave's" girlfriend "Nancy", kills off a few police officers and sees "Dave's" life end in the tragedy he caused.

In 1999 "The Wild Ride" was re-edited, with added footage, to expand its original 59-minute running time to 88 minutes and renamed "Velocity". Nicholson impersonator Joe Richards was hired to be the older "Johnny" and the story is told, now, in flashback. This version is considered to be a cult film by some reviewers.

Jack Nicholson was about to play a small role in a small Roger Corman film. That small film would become part of a major hit Broadway musical and, later, a motion picture version of the musical.

THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORROS released September 14, 1960

Roger Corman Directed and Co-Produced from a screenplay by writer Charles B. Griffith. Among Griffith's thirty-five screen writing credits are one hell of a lot of Corman films. These include three in 1957, "Not of This Earth", "Attack of the Crab Monsters" and "The Undead". Charles Griffith wrote a favorite dark comedy of mine for Corman, This was 1959's "Bucket of Blood" with an inspired Dick Miller performance as a "Beatnik Sculptor". Griffith also wrote Roger Corman's 1966 "The Wild Angles" and his original 1975 "Death Race 2000".

The Main Cast were only three actors and did not include Jack Nicholson.

Jonathan Haze portrayed "Seymour Krelborn". Haze was part of Roger Corman's Stock Company and started with 1954's "Monster from the Ocean Floor". Among other Haze and Corman films are the 1955 Western "Five Guns West", 1955's "The Day the World Ended", both 1956's "Swamp Woman", and "It, Conquered the World". Plus the winner for best motion picture title ever, 1957's "The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent". Say that ten times fast!

Jackie Joseph portrayed "Audrey Fulguard". Comedian Joseph appeared in both movies and television programs. As a voice actress she was "Melody" of "Josie and the Pussycats" and provided voices for the "Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo" animated series. She also provided the voice of "Sandy" in the forgotten animated series "Dinky Dog".

Mel Welles portrayed "Gravis Mushnick". Among his film career, Welles was on the 1954 television series "Captain Midnight", seen in 1955's "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy", an episode of the 1956 television series "The Adventures of Fu Manchu" and was in both Roger Corman's 1957 "Attack of the Crab Monsters" and the same years "The Undead".

Jack Nicholson had fourteenth billing as "Wilbur Force", a dental patient.

As everyone knows, "Seymour" creates a man-eating plant called "Audrey 2", but it is during the screenplay that Jack Nicholson's small role came into play.

The set up has "Seymour" arriving at the flower shop with a toothache. His boss, "Mr. Mushnick", sends him to the dentist, "Dr. Phoebus Farb", played by John Herman Shaner, who is still upset about receiving wilted flowers. He attacks "Seymour", who defends himself by stabbing and killing "Farb". Enter "Wilbur Force", who loves pain and mistakes the other for the doctor. What follows is an over the top comedy sequence.  Below are stills from Nicholson's classic scene.

"Little Shop of Horrors" was followed by an appearance, in the fifth billed role, of "Bud", on televisions "The Barbara Stanwyck Show". The episode was entitled "The Mink Coat", September 19, 1960, and was the first show of the first season. It was Directed by Jacques Tourneur, Producer Val Lewton's 1942 "Cat People" and 1943's "I Walked with a Zombie". In 1957, Tourneur Directed "Night of the Demon" aka: "Curse of the Demon".

Back in 1932, author and poet James T. Farrell, wrote the first novel of a trilogy, "Young Lonigan". It would be followed by 1934's "The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan", and "Judgement Day" in 1935. The trilogy is ranked 29th of the 100 best English-language novels by "The Modern Library". 

In 1960 the films Producer Philip Yordan, known more as a screenplay writer, 1945's "Dillinger", 1951's "Detective Story" starring Kirk Douglas, and in 1954 both George Pal's "The Naked Jungle" starring Charlton Heston, and the Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden Western "Johnny Guitar", took all three novels of the trilogy and came up with a screenplay for:

STUDS LONIGAN released in September 1960

The film had music by the unknown Jerrald Goldsmith, before he changed his first name and became Jerry Goldsmith.

The Main Cast:

Christopher Knight portrayed "Studs Lonigan". In 1962 he made his only other motion picture, "If a Man Answers", that starred the married couple of Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. 

Frank Gorshin portrayed "Kenny Killarney". The future televisions "The Riddler", on the Adam West and Burt Ward "Batman", had been kicking around on different television genres and in low budget movies. He portrayed a drunk that gets killed by aliens in 1957's "Invasion of the Saucer Men" and appeared in the same years, "Dragstrip Girl".

Venetia Stevenson portrayed "Lucy Scanlan". The British actress appeared mostly on American television between 1954 and 1961. In 1959 she was in the cast of both "Island of Lost Women" and "Jet Over the Atlantic". Which was about a fire bomb on a passenger jet, Directed by Bryan Haskin, 1953's "War of the Worlds", and co-starred Guy Madison, Virginia Mayo and George Raft.

Carolyn Craig portrayed "Catherine Banahan". Among her feature films were George Stevens 1956 "Giant" starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. Along with William Castle's 1958 "House on Haunted Hill" as "Nora Manning".

Jack Nicolson portrayed "Weary Reilly".

On the left is Christopher Knight, Robert Casper as "Paulie Haggerty", Jack Nicholson, Venetia Stevenson and Frank Gorshin. 

The basic plot is set in 1920's Chicago and follows "Studs Lonigan's" attempts to get away from the nowhere of the South side of the city.

Above and below, Nicholson with Carolyn Craig.

The critics called "Studs Lonigan" a movie looking for a budget and some big names.

From 1957 through 1962, Dale Robertson portrayed Wells Fargo agent "Jim Hardie", in televisions "Tales of Wells Fargo". Jack Nicholson portrayed "Tom Washburn", in episode 21 of season 5, entitled "That Washburn Girl". "Tom's" sister, "Nora Washburn", played by Mari Aldon, worries that her brother is in love with "Ruby Cole", played by Anne Whitfield, the daughter of ex-outlaw, "Jonas Cole", played by Morris Ankrum.

Above Anne Whitfield and Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson next found himself in roles on five other television programs. They were as varied as Lloyd Bridges' "Sea Hunt" from Producer Ivan Tors to the religious, "The Hour of Saint Francis", based upon a 1940's radio show started by a Franciscan Priest.

Then back to a Western financed, without credit, by low budget king Robert L. Lippert's "Associated Producers". Along, also without credit, Roger Corman. Leonard A. Schwartz had Producer credit on the film. He only Produced one other motion picture, 1961's "Silent Call".

THE BROKEN LAND released April 2, 1962

The picture was filmed in CinemaScope and Directed by John A. Bushelman. This was his third film out of six, because Bushelman was really a film editor. Some of his notable non-television features in that profession are, the previously mentioned Fay Wray and Connie Stevens 1958 "Dragstrip Riot", the overlooked Boris Karloff, 1958 "Frankenstein 1970", 1960's "Dinosaurus" and Bert I, Gordon's 1965 "Village of the Giants".

Television writer Edward J, Lakso wrote the screenplay.

The Three Actual Stars:

Kent Taylor portrayed "Marshal Jim Cogan". Taylor was a solid "B" leading man and starred in the 1950's television detective series "Boston Blackie" and the Western series "The Rough Riders". He starred in the low budget 1955 Science Fiction film, "The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues", and the even lower budgeted 1962 ,"The Day Mars Invaded the Earth".

Diana Darrin portrayed "Mavera". Darrin was mainly a television actress, but portrayed the "Nurse" in 1957's "The Incredible Shrinking Man".

Jody McCrea portrayed "Deputy Ed Flynn". Actor Joel McCrea's son is probably best known to fans of "The Beach Party" movies as either "Deadhead", or with his characters name changed to "Bonehead".

The plot is about a cowboy who rides into a small town and takes on the corrupt sheriff. The role of the cowboy was portrayed by fourth billed Robert Sampson, another television actor, as "Dave Dunson". 

Jack Nicholson had fifth billing as "Will Brocious". I could not locate what this role actually was, but in some reviews of the picture, after the actor became a star, moved him up to "Co-Star" position with second billing.

Jack Nicholson is on the lower left, Robert Sampson is behind him, in the middle is Diana Darrin and Kent Taylor is on the right holding a gun against the mob.

In a failed 1962 television pilot entitled "Little Amy".  Nicholson portrayed the "Jefferson City Football Coach" with eighth billing. Then it was back to classic Roger Corman.

THE RAVEN released January 25, 1963

The motion picture was the fifth in Roger Corman's "Edgar Allan Poe" series. The entry was Produced and Directed by Corman from a screenplay by author Richard Matheson, "The Shrinking Man" and "I Am Legend". The two decided to have a little fun with the Horror author. Besides how could they make a 86-minute motion picture out of a poem?

My article: "Richard Matheson: The Screenplays and the Treatments" can be read at:

My article on the entire Roger Corman Poe Series: "Quoth the Raven: ROGER CORMAN" may be read at:

The Cast:

Vincent Price portrayed "Dr. Erasmus Craven". Price had been in all, but one, of the Corman, Poe films to date. Just before this production, he was seen in 1962's "Convicts 4". Playing, of course, an Art Critic. Along with Roger Corman's remake of the RKO 1939 "Tower of London". That had starred Basil Rathbone as Richard, Duke of Glouester with Price as the Duke of Clarence, but in the 1962 remake, Price was Richard.

Peter Lorre portrayed "Dr. Adolphus Bedlo". For "James Bond" fans, a piece of trivia. Lorre was the first "Bond Villain", "Le Chiffe", in the 1954 Live television production of Ian Fleming's "Casino Royale", on the anthology series "Climax". Just prior to this motion picture that actor was seen on a episode of televisions "Route 66", entitled "Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing".

My article: "PETER LORRE: Overlooked, or Forgotten Performances" will be found at:

Boris Karloff portrayed "Dr. Scarabus". In 1958 Karloff had the dual role, sort of, of  "Dr. Frankenstein" and is creation. This was in another forgotten, or at least overlooked, very good, motion picture "Frankenstein 1970". He was also in the same "Route 66" episode as Peter Lorre. Karloff was also in Universal Pictures, 1935, straight Horror film, "The Raven" with Bela Lugosi.

Above the "Frankenstein Monster", "Hans Beckert" aka: "M", and "Robur the Conqueror".

Hazel Court portrayed "Lenore Craven". A character name chosen by Matheson to play off Poe's other poem about the "Lost Lenore". The previous year, Court had portrayed "Emily Gault", in Roger Corman's Poe film, the "Premature Burial", with Ray Milland and not Vincent Price. My article: 
HAZEL COURT: Frankenstein's Bride and Roger Corman's Evil Lady" may be read at:

Olive Sturgess portrayed "Estelle Craven". Between 1954 and 1974 the television actress only had two feature films and this was her second.

Jack Nicoholson portrayed "Rexford Bedlo". This role was basically the straight man for Karloff, Lorre and Price.


The Screenplay:

A Raven flies into the home of "Dr. Craven", a so-so magician. The bird turns out to be another magician named "Dr. Bedlo" that was turned into this form by "Dr. Scarabus". The Raven wants his body back and gets "Craven" to help with a potion.

Once accomplished, "Bedlo" reveals to "Craven" that his "Lost Lenore", isn't really lost. She's living with "Scarabus" and both magicians now seek revenge on the third. Meanwhile, "Estelle Craven", has met the handsome, somewhat awkward, ""Rexford Bedlo", but romance must wait. As all four now go to the Castle of "Dr. Scarabus".

The four arrive at the Castle to find "Lenore" with "Scarabus" and their host invites them to dine.

However, he next ties them all up and it is up to "Dr. Bedlo" to become a Raven once more to free them.

All of this leads to a battle of magic between "Dr. Craven" and "Dr. Scarabus" for the hand of "Lenore". Who is enjoying the whole thing with the kids in the balcony.

Price and Karloff play this so straight that the laughs really work. Although, Price does "Ham-up" his character at the right times.

In the end "Rexford" gets "Estelle". "Dr. Craven" wins the duel, but dumps "Leonore" on "Dr, Scarabus". Who's delighted, she's not, because he's such a bore and "Dr. Bedlo" is still the Raven for the moment.

Roger Corman, Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson as a team were not done yet. Next came--

THE TERROR released June 13, 1963

The screenplay was by Leo Gordon and co-written by Jack Hill. This was Hill's first feature film and among his future work were 1963's "Dementia 13", 1973's "Coffy" and 1974's "Foxy Brown".

It was "The Directors" of this picture that are an interesting group. First of all was Roger Corman, but he had other commitments and four others did a day, or two of directing. There was Francis Ford Coppola, who was about to direct Corman's "Dementia 13" and was credited as the "Associate Producer" of this picture. Jack Hale in his only directing spot, Dennis Jakob, who also did some of the film's stunt work and would work as a "Creative Consultant" on both 1979's "Apocalypse Now" and 1991's "The Doors". Lastly, was Karloff's co-star Jack Nicholson as the final day of shooting director.  

The Cast:

Boris Karloff had the dual roles of "Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe" and "Eric". After this picture, Karloff went to Italy and appeared in the "I Wurdalak" segment of Director Mario Bava's "I tre volti della paura (The Three Faces of Fear)". That came to the United States in 1964 as "Black Sabbath" and was the source of the Heavy Metal band's name. For those of my readers interested in the Horror films of Mario Bava. My article: "Dario Argento and Mario Bava: Two Italian Masters" may be found at:

Jack Nicholson portrayed French "Lieutant Andre Duvalier" of Napoleon's Army. 

Sandra Knight portrayed the dual roles of "Helene" and "The Ghost of Ilsa The Baroness Von Leppe". At this point I must point out that Knight was actually Sandra Knight Nicholson, Jack's wife, since 1962, but the two would divorce in 1968. 

When I first saw Sandra Knight she looked like below. In her third on-screen appearance in 1958's "Frankenstein's Daughter":

In that movie, the character's Uncle's lab assistant is using her as a test for his formula. Knight's character thinks she's having nightmares, but in reality is being turned into this monster. Not the one of the title, that's a once beautiful woman's head on a male biker's body.

Actually Sandra Knight looks like this, below, when not under the formula. She's seen with John Ashley, one of the main actors in "The  Beach Party" movie series.

"Frankenstein's Daughter" is one of the many Teen Horror films, I've already been referring too, of the 1950's, with unknown actors. Such as Steve McQueen and Robert Vaughn, found in my article: "I Was A Teenage Werewolf: 1950's Teenage Horror Movies" at:

Dick Miller portrayed "Stefan". I mentioned Miller being in Roger Corman's 1959 dark comedy "Bucket of Blood". Among his other Roger Corman pictures are his  three Westerns, 1955's "Apache Woman", 1956's "Oklahoma Woman" and the same years "Gunslinger". Miller had roles in 1956's "It, Conquered the World", 1957's "The Undead" and "Not of This Earth". In fact, Dick Miller became a cult actor as a result and appeared in both James Cameron's "The Terminator" and Joe Dante's "Gremlins".

Dorothy Neumann portrayed the dual roles of  "Katrina the Witch" and "Eric's Mother". Character actress Neumann would end her forty-seven year career with over one-hundred and forty roles. 

Jonathan Haze portrayed "Gustaf".

In "How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime", we already know he did loose that dime, Roger Corman wrote that "The Terror":
began as a challenge : to shoot most of a gothic film in two days using left over sets from The Raven. It turned into the longest production of my career – an ordeal that required five directors and nine months to complete. But like Little Shop [of Horrors], it's a classic story of how to make a film out of nothing
After the segments by the five directors were edited together:
we all had interpreted the story differently and it showed. I saw two things working against it. There were some gaps in logic; and frankly it struck me as a little dull.
On the screenplay, Roger Corman said:
I was getting so familiar with the standard elements of Poe's material – or at least our adaptations – that I tried to out-Poe himself and create a Gothic tale from scratch.


The Basic Screenplay:

In 1806, a lost Napoleonic Soldier, in the German Rhine area, "Andre Duvalier", is saved by a young woman named "Helene".

"Helene" takes him to the Baron's castle, outtakes from 1961's "The Pit and the Pendulum". 

"Andre" meets "Baron Leppe" and starts to investigate who "Helene" really is and what's the "Baron's" secret?

This will lead "Andre", with the help of the Baron's Major Domo "Stefan", to a women in the village. Who is both a witch and the one controlling the ghost of the Baron's wife. 

"Helene" is a perfect copy of the Baron's wife, who died in 1786. However, the truth comes out, that the Baron murdered her after catching his wife with another man.

The witch will reveal that she's the mother of "Eric". Whom she believes the Baron also killed in 1786 as the other member of his wife's affair. Now she is seeking revenge for her son's death upon the Baron. 

However, it was the Baron who was killed and not the woman's son. The Baron, that "Andre" has met, is in reality "Eric". Whose mind snapped over the killing and he became "Baron Leppe" with only "Stefan" always knowing the truth.

At the climax, "Eric" now floods the crypt of the Baron's dead wife "Ilsa" with "Helene" and "Stefan" in it. "Stefan" is fighting him when "Andre" arrives. "Andre" is able to only save "Helene" and takes her to a tree outside of the crumbling castle.

Their moment ends as "Helene", possessed all this time by "Ilsa", becomes the rotting corpse she always had been.

Back in 1946, there was a Navy novel entitled "Mister Roberts" by Thomas Heggen, The novel was turned into a successful 1948 Broadway play by Josh Logan. In 1955, Logan turned the play into a motion picture starring Henry Fonda as the title character. James Cagney portrayed a modern "Captain Bly" on the Navy cargo ship "Mister Roberts" is on. One of the characters was "Ensign Pulver", who was always getting into trouble with the Captain. The role was portrayed by Jack Lemmon in his first motion picture.

Fast forward to July 31,1964 and the release of Josh Logan's sequel to "Mister Roberts" called "Ensign Pulver". The Captain was now portrayed by Burl Ives and "Pulver" by Robert Walker, Jr.. Whose father had been a major actor in the 1940's and passed away at the age of 33 in 1951. The "Roberts" character had been killed in action at the end of the novel, play and motion picture and the sequel takes place shortly after the news has been received, but is more a straight comedy than the original story that had dramatic elements.

With thirteenth billing, in his first "A" List motion picture, was Jack Nicholson portraying "Yeoman Dolan". 

Among the other members of the crew are names that would become very familiar in 1970's movies, or television, Larry Hagman, Peter Marshall, Gerald S. O'Loughlin, Al Freeman, Jr., Dick Gautier, James Farentino, James Coco and the non-credited Adam Roarke. 

Next came two motion pictures filmed, cheaply, in the Philippine Islands, back to back.

FLIGHT TO FURY released November 5, 1964

Both motion pictures were Directed by Rodger Corman alumnus Monte Hellman, 1959's "The Beast of Haunted Cave", the non-credited editor of 1960's "The Wild Ride" and perhaps the sixth director of "The Terror".

The screenplay was written by Jack Nicholson from a story by Hellman.

The Three Leads:

Dewey Martin portrayed "Joe Gaines". Martin was "Crew Chief Bob" in Howard Hawks' 1951 "The Thing from Another World", "Boone Caldwell" in the Kirk Douglas 1952 "The Big Sky" and "Senta, Vashtar's Son" in Howard Hawks' 1955 epic "Land of the Pharaohs" starring Jack Hawkins and a basically unknown Joan Collins.

Fay Spain portrayed "Destiny Copper". "B" Actress Spain had starred in 1957's "Dragstrip Girl". had fifth billing behind Jack Lord in Director Anthony Mann's version of the Erskine Caldwell novel, 1958's "God's Little Acre" starring Robert Ryan, co-starred with Rod Steiger and Martin Balsam in 1959's "Al Capone", but otherwise just appeared on television.

Above Fay Spain with Joseph Estrada as "Garuda".

Jack Nicholson portrayed "Jay Wickham".

The Basic Familiar Plot:

A plane flight out of the Philippines crashes in the jungle and the survivors face hostel natives moving toward the crash site. On board is a man, "Jay Wickham", who has been looking for diamonds in the possession of another passenger. "Wickham" will murder almost everyone else to find and keep them, but is killed, himself, by another passenger, "Joe Gaines", he met before take-off. The dying "Wickham" throws the diamonds into the nearby river. The story ends with "Gaines" awaiting his death from the approaching natives.

BACK DOOR TO HELL released November 5, 1964 ,as part of the double bill with "Flight to Fury"

The screenplay was co-written by Richard A. Guttman. This was the first of only six between 1964 and 1990.

The other writer was John Hackett's. Hackett was a television actor who portrayed "Al Ross" in "Flight to Fury" and would appear in Jack Nicholson's 1990 "The Two Jakes", 1992's "Hoffa", and 1996's "Blood and Wine". He was Nicholson's "Stand-In" for 2001's "The Pledge" and 2002's "About Schmidt".

The Main Cast:

Jimmie Rodgers portrayed "Lieutenant Craig". Rodgers was a popular singer with over forty "Top Ten" records in the 1950's and 1960's. Many of his songs like "Honeycomb" and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" crossed over the Country and Pop charts. Among his other hits were "The Battle of New Orleans" and "Sink the Bismarck". 

Jack Nicholson portrayed "Burnett".

John Hackett portrayed "Jersey". 

The Screenplay:

During the 1950's and 1960's, low budget World War 2 motion pictures were being turned out by film companies in the Philippine Islands and by Philippine movie companies themselves. "Back Door to Hell" fit the pattern and is about a three man commando unit sent to take out a Japanese communications center prior to an attack on Luzon Island. Again, fitting the formula, the three men make contact with a resistance group and, to formula, there is a girl among the guerilla's and the blatant execution of captured Japanese soldiers.


Above Nicholson and Annabelle Huggins as "Maria".

Next Nicholson appeared as "Jaime Angel" in four episodes of the Richard Chamberlain and Raymond Massey television series "Dr. Kildare". 

Nicholson returned to Director Monte Hellman for the first of two Westerns.

THE SHOOTING first shown at the "San Francisco Film Festival" October 23, 1966

The screenplay was by Carole Eastman using the name Adrien Joyce. Eastman was an actress and screenplay writer. This was her first of eight screenplays and in 1970, Eastman wrote "Five Easy Pieces".

The Cast:

Will Hutchens portrayed "Coley". Hutchens started on-screen acting in 1956 as a Warner Brothers contract player. In 1957 he first portrayed "Lawyer Tom 'Sugarfoot' Brewster" on the Warner Brothers Western television series "Sugarfoot" through 1961. As that character, Hutchens appeared in two episodes of the Warner Brothers television series "Maverick" and one episode each, of both the Warner Brothers Western television series "Cheyenne" and "Bronco".

                        Will Hutchens is on the left above

Millie Perkins portrayed "The Woman". Perkins portrayed the title character in 1959's "The Diary of Anne Frank". In 1964 she portrayed "Scotty" in "Ensign Pulver", but was basically appearing on television.

Jack Nicholson portrayed "Billy Spear".

Warren Oats portrayed "Willett Gashade". Just before this picture, Oats had been seen in a television episodes of both "Rawhide" and "Lost in Space". After the picture he made two guest appearances on televisions "The Virginian".

The Basic Screenplay:

Ex-Bounty Hunter "Willett Gashade" returns to a small mining camp to find his slow-witted friend "Coley" in a state of fear. Their partner has been murdered by an unknown stranger. The murder may have been revenge for the accidental trampling to death of a "Little Person" by "Gashade's" brother.

The two hear a shot from outside of the camp and find a woman standing over her horse. She claims the horse broke its leg and she needed to stop its suffering, but to "Gashade" the horse appeared healthy without a broken leg. The woman offers "Willett" one-thousand dollars to take her to a place called Kingsley.

Not trusting her, he still decides to take her. "Gashade", "Coley" and "The Woman" leave the mining camp. On their ride "The Woman" is rude and insulting to the two men, but having heard of his brother passing through a small camp two days before. "Willett Gashade" decides to keep going, but gets the feeling they're being followed. Further, "The Woman", who still refuses to state the purpose of this journey, seems to be signaling the follower.

Into their camp walks "Billy Spear" all dressed in black. "Spear", a gunfighter, has been hired by "The Woman", but for what purpose neither will tell "Gashade" and "Coley".

"The Woman" rides her horse very hard and it dies of exhaustion. "Coley" gives her his and rides double with "Gashade". When, "Gashade's" horse is showing exhaustion from being ridden double. "Gashade" tells "Coley" to ride double with "The Woman", but "Spear" tells him no. While "The Woman" adds that their journey would be much easier without "Coley" and to leave him. Reluctantly, "Willett" tells "Coley" he'll be back for him and the three ride away.

They come across an old man in the desert who lost his horse. He tells "The Woman" that the man she's looking for is only two days ahead of them. She leaves the man a canteen of water. The man's missing horse is found by "Coley" and he rides back to the group. He immediately charges "Spear", who shoots "Coley" dead and "Willett" buries his friend.

Next, all the horses die as the three run out of water, but keep going. "Gashade" sees that "Spear" is visibly weaker and attacks him. The two fight, "Spear" is knocked unconscious, and "Willett" picks up a rock, crushes the gunfighter's gun hands and walks after "The Woman". Who is walking up a hill following a man she sees at a distance. The man turns around and "Willett" sees his look-a-like brother "Coigne". "Gashade" attempts to stop "The Woman" from shooting his brother, but is too late. "Coigne" and "The Woman" kill each other. "Gashade" lies down next to "The Woman's" corpse and whispers "Coigne". As "Spears" is seen wandering in the desert facing his death.

RIDE THE WHIRLWIND released October 22, 1966

As I said this Western was also Directed by Monte Hellman. The screenplay was written by Jack Nicholson.

The Cast:

Cameron Mitchell portrayed "Vern". Mitchell had been working in the Italian motion picture industry at the time. He had just been seen in Italy in "I coltelli del vendicare (The Knives of Revenge)" Directed by Mario Bava. Mitchell would follow this picture with two episodes of Fess Parker's "Daniel Boone" and returned to Italy for "All'ombra della aquile (In the Shadow of the Eagles)", both in 1966.

Millie Perkins portrayed "Abigail". 

Jack Nicholson portrayed "Wes".

Harry Dean Stanton portrayed "Blind Dick". Before, and after this feature, Stanton was seen on television's "A Man Called Shenandoah" starring Robert Horton.

The story is also typical for the period. Three Cowboys are mistaken by a posse as outlaws they're after and are ruthlessly pursued.

Jack Nicholson's next motion picture was a direct result of a motion picture Roger Corman Produced and Directed for American International Pictures and was released on July 20 1966. The unexpected success of this little movie created a counter genre to American International's "Beach Party" movies and their  surfer rip-offs still flooding the market. Instead of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funnicello, the audience had Henry Fonda's son Peter, and Frank Sinatra's daughter Nancy.

"The Wild Angels" is part of my article, "Five Influential Vietnam Era Movies You May Never of Heard About" at:

HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS released December 1, 1967

In the lower right corner of the above poster is a tag line telling the potential viewer that the movie includes the real "Hells Angels" motorcycle club and their founder, leader Ralph "Sonny" Barger. Whose only in the opening sequence and never says a word.

The movie was Directed by Richard Rush of "Too Soon To Love".

The screenplay was by R. Wright Campbell. Campbell was an interesting writer for this film. As his work already included, for Roger Corman, 1955 "Five Guns West", 1958's "Machine Gun Kelly" starring Charles Bronson, the same years "Teenage Caveman", and he co-wrote 1964's "Masque of the Red Death". However, R. Wright Campbell, also co-wrote the excellent James Cagney biography of Lon Chaney for Universal International Pictures, 1957's "Man of a Thousand Faces".

The Main Cast:

Adam Roarke portrayed "Buddy". During the 1960's, Roarke would be associated with several biker pictures, but just before this film. He portrayed "Matt MacDonald", in Howard Hawks' first remake of his 1959 "Rio Bravo", "El Dorado", starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. The actor followed this film, in 1968, with both "Savage Seven" and "Psych-Out". Adam Roarke was in the cult biker movie "The Losers". Which was about a team of "Hells Angels" trained by the C.I.A. to rescue a Presidential aide and sent into Cambodia. At the time the movie was originally shot. The American military were not permitted into that country. The month before the film premiered, under orders of President Richard M. Nixon, we invaded Cambodia.

Jack Nicholson portrayed "Poet".

Sabrina Scharf portrayed "Shill". Scharf remained mainly a television actress. Her first motion picture role, in 1966, was described as: "The girl in bed with Eli". This was her second motion picture, but her fourth was portraying one of the two "Hippie Girls", "Sarah", in 1969's "Easy Rider".

The Basic Screenplay:

Like 1967's "The Devil's Angels", with actor John Cassavetes, from American International Pictures. "Hells Angels on Wheels" is basically a formula biker feature of the period, but with the gimmick of having the real Northern California "Hells Angeles" as a draw.

Gas Station attendant "Poet's" bike is accidently hit by a member of the "Hell's Angels" breaking the headlight. "Poet" challenges the "Angel" over the damage and this leads to him joining the group, but discovering how violent they really are and turning against them.

The secondary plot line has the "Hells Angels" chapter leader, "Buddy's", sometime girlfriend, "Shill" decide to start riding with "Poet". Eventually, this leads to a confrontation between the two men over her.

Once more Jack Nicholson was back with Roger Corman. Although his part received no on-screen credit.

THE ST. VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE released June 30, 1967

"The St. Valentine's Day Massacre"
 was Produced and Directed by Roger Corman. The screenplay was by television writer Howard Browne. Browne only wrote three feature film screenplays and his first was 1961's, "Portrait of a Mobster", starring Vic Morrow as "Dutch Schultz". This motion picture was his second feature film screenplay and in 1975 he wrote "Capone".

There was a five year period, starting in 1957 with Mickey Rooney as "Baby Face Nelson", through Vic Morrow as "Dutch Schultz" in 1961. During which Independent Hollywood Studios turned out 1930's Gangster movies. My article, which includes Roger Corman's "Machine Gun Kelly", entitled: "1957 To 1961 HOLLYWOOD GANGSTER MOVIES VS REALITY" can be read at: 

In 1970, Corman returned to the 1930's with "Bloody Mama". This fictional, like "Machine Gun Kelly", gangster movie, starred Shelley Winters as "Ma Barker" and with seventh billing, as "Lloyd Barker", an unknown Robert DeNiro. Now, Roger Corman wanted to tell the true facts revolving around one of the most famous incidents of the period. Besides, 20th Century Fox, actually gave him a budget.

The Two Main Participants:

Roger Corman cast two excellent actors as the rival gang leaders:

Jason Robards portrayed "Al Capone". Robards had just been seen in the 1967 Comedy "Divorce American Style" and followed this picture portraying "Doc Holliday". In Director John Sturges' sequel to his 1957 "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral", called "Hour of the Gun".

Ralph Meeker portrayed "George Clarence 'Bugs' Moran". Meeker had just been seen as "Army Captain Stuart Kinder" in Director Robert Aldrich's 1967 "The Dirty Dozen" and followed the picture with an appearance on the television series "Custer". Which was a fictional series about George Armstrong Custer.

Above Joseph Campanella as the real life Albert Wienshank and Ralph Meeker as "Bugs" Moran.

It should be mentioned that Roger Corman originally cast Robards as "Moran" and "Meeker as "Capone", but under pressure from his two stars changed their roles. Actually, "Moran" was built like Jason Robards and "Al Capone" like Ralph Meeker. However, otherwise this was an hour by hour, day by day, recreation of actual events naming real names.

There are twenty-six other major roles in the motion picture. Some of the actors in these roles are second billed George Segal, Bruce Dern, John Agar, Reed Hadley, Joe Turkel and Leo Gordon.

While buried in the list of forty-three uncredited roles are the names Jack Nicholson, Dick Miller and Jonathan Haze.

Jack Nicholson appeared in two episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show". The first was on the November 21, 1966, in the episode, "Opie Finds A Baby".


The second episode, "Aunt Bee, the Juror", premiered on October 23, 1967.

Next, Jack Nicholson wrote a screenplay for his friends Peter Fonda, Susan Strasberg, Bruce Dern and Dennis Hopper. The  motion picture would be Produced and Directed by Roger Corman, but Nicholson would not be in it.

THE TRIP released August 23, 1967

The title tells it all! Peter Fonda's, "Paul Groves", is a television commercial director. His wife, "Sally", Susan Strasberg, is in an adulterous affair that is putting stress on their relationship. "Paul" seeks help from his friend and guide "John", Bruce Dern, and takes LSD. Later, his guide now becomes, "Max", Dennis Hopper, and you have the entire plot. Which is nothing more than a psychedelic trip showing the audience what "Paul" is experiencing. In short, the picture was a "Sign of the Times".

Jack Nicholson went back to Director Richard Rush for another psychedelic motion picture, but as an actor and not writer.

PSYCH-OUT released March 6, 1968


The motion picture was Produced by Dick Clark, televisions "American Bandstand" and "The Dick Clark Show", and Norman T. Herman, 1956's "Hot Rod Girl", 1957's "Hot Rod Rumble", and 1967's "Teenage Rebellion".

The movie had three writers. Betty Tusher received no credit and seemed to disappear after this picture. E. Hunter Willett is known only for this motion picture. The third writer was Betty Ulius, a television writer since 1955, this was her only feature film and also her last screenplay.

The Main Cast:

Susan Strasberg portrayed "Jenny Davis". Strasberg was the daughter of the founder of the "Actors Studio" in New York, Lee Strasberg. Besides being in "The Trip", Susan had been appearing on television as her primary source of work.

Dean Stockwell portrayed "Dave". Stockwell had been acting since 1945, at nine years old, and appeared in the classic WW2 War Orphan picture, 1948's "The Boy with the Green Hair", and was in the 1950 motion picture, "Kim", with Errol Flynn. Afterwards he switched to television acting into the 1970's.

Jack Nicholson portrayed "Stoney"

Bruce Dern portrayed "Steve Davis". Dern had just been seen in the 1967 Charlton Heston Western "Will Penny" and immediately followed this picture with the Clint Eastwood, 1968 Western, "Hang 'Em High".

Adam Roarke portrayed "Ben". Roarke had just been seen in the aforementioned "Hells Angels on Wheels" and would follow this picture with 1968's "Savage Seven".

The plot is about a deaf run-a-way arriving in San Francisco's Haight-Asbury District looking for her brother "Steve Davis" and the people she encounters during her search.

The final on-screen appearance of Jack Nicholson, prior to 1969's "Easy Rider" was--

HEAD released November 6, 1968

There were three Producers on the film. Executive Producer Bert Schneider had produced fifty-eight episodes of the television series "The Monkees". The other two Producers were the co-writers, Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, who also Directed.

The screenplay was alleged to have come from a brainstorming session in Ojai, California, by Peter Tork, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith aka: "The Monkees", Director Bob Rafelon and Jack Nicholson, Oh, and a large quantity of marijuana.

Above actor Victor Mature is about to stomp on the boys. Below Jack Nicholson had a cameo as a television director. 

Some of the others just "Monkeying Around" were Annette Funicello, Timothy Carey, Sonny Liston, Teri Garr, Dennis Hopper, Tor Johnson and "The Radio City Rockettes".

On May 12, 1969, at the "Cannes Film Festival", a motion picture Directed by Dennis Hopper premiered and the rest was history for Jack Nicholson. 






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