Jack Nicholson is wandering Napoleonic officer Andre, who finds a lovely female named Helene(Sandra Knight)who has the uncanny ability to vanish as she so wishes. He follows her into a pounding ocean, only to awaken in the bed of a witch named Katrina(Dorothy Neumann)who has made a pact with “the dark powers” to avenge the death of her son at the hands of Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe(Boris Karloff), an aging aristocrat who resides in a castle nearby. Von Leppe has a loyal, brutish butler Stefan(Dick Miller)who is quite protective of his Master. Andre presses for knowledge regarding a woman named Helene who shares a frightening resemblance to Von Leppe’s dead wife Ilsa, the Baroness he murdered after catching her with another man, Erich..Erich, we’ll later discover, plays a very important role in the grand scheme of things as his relations to Katrina and the Baron impacts the plot greatly. There’s a gravel-voiced peasant, Gustaf(Jonathan Haze) who seems to know a great deal regarding Helene..and specifically Katrina’s plans using witchcraft..and will try to assist Andre in learning all the facts he can in discovering just who the woman’s identity is he seeks. The film has many secrets buried within the plot and Andre is our aloof guide into finding the answers.
It’s really amazing that the film comes out as good as it does considering the history. It plays best as slick-looking camp, the film is more about delivering ghoulish occurrences and I think this is the film’s main strength. The story overall is a bit silly, even a bit confusing. I never really could figure out what Helene ever was..was she ever human to begin with? I couldn’t quite understand the finale as a central figure melts away to bones. I think this is the kind of filler that plays well on Chiller Theaters late at night..flashy nonsense regarding the past coming back to haunt those who committed grievous acts in the past. The spooky castle with Karloff delivering his dialogue with that splendid voice of his proclaiming the psychological damage that has occurred after every “visit” from Ilsa. You get a watery finale as a crypt is destroyed with members of the cast fighting for survival.