The Terror (1928 film)

The Terror is a 1928 early American, pre-Code, horror film[1] written by Harvey Gates and directed by Roy Del Ruth, based on the play of the same name by Edgar Wallace.[1] It was the second "all-talking"[4] motion picture released by Warner Bros. (The first was Lights of New York). The film was also the first all-talking horror film, made using the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system.[5]

The Terror
Lobby card
Directed byRoy Del Ruth
Produced byDarryl F. Zanuck
Written byHarvey Gates
Joseph Jackson
Based onThe Terror
by Edgar Wallace
StarringMay McAvoy
Louise Fazenda
Edward Everett Horton
Alec B. Francis
CinematographyChick McGill[1]
Edited byThomas Pratt
Jack Killifer[1]
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • September 6, 1928 (1928-09-06) (Sound version)[2]
  • October 28, 1928 (1928-10-28) (Silent version)[1]
Running time
80 minutes (Sound version)[2]
85 minutes (Silent version)[1] (7,674 feet)
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,464,000 (worldwide rentals)[3]


"The Terror", a killer whose identity is unknown, occupies an English country house that has been converted into an inn. Guests, including the spiritualist Mrs. Elvery and detective Ferdinand Fane, are frightened by strange noises and mysterious organ music. Connors and Marks, two men just released from jail, have sworn revenge upon "The Terror". Following a night of mayhem that includes murder, the identity of "The Terror" is revealed.[1]


Cast notes


The Terror received mixed reviews upon initial release. In August 1928, Time said the film is "better than The Lion and the Mouse, [an] all-talk picture of which May McAvoy, Alec Francis, two of the terrorized, are veterans."[8] Three months later, John MacCormac, reporting from London for The New York Times upon the film's UK premiere, wrote:

The universal opinion of London critics is that The Terror is so bad that it is almost suicidal. They claim that it is monotonous, slow, dragging, fatiguing and boring, and I am not sure that I do not in large measure agree with them. What is more important, Edgar Wallace, who wrote the film, seems to agree with them also. "Well," was his comment, "I have never thought the talkies would be a serious rival to the stage."[9]

Box Office

According to Warner Bros records the film earned $1,221,000 domestically and $243,000 foreign.[10]

Preservation status

Two versions of the film were prepared, as most theaters in 1928 had yet to convert to sound. The "all-talking" sound version, featuring a Vitaphone sound-on-disc soundtrack, was released on September 6, 1928, and a silent version, which used screen-filling printed "titles" (as they were then commonly called) to supply the essential dialog, was released on October 20, 1928. Both versions have been considered lost films since the 1970s, though a complete set of the soundtrack discs still exists and is preserved at the UCLA Film and Television Archive.[2][11][12][13]


The Terror was partially remade by First National as Return of the Terror (1934).[14][15]

Four years later, in 1938, a new remake was directed by Richard Bird with a screenplay by William Freshman . It starred Wilfrid Lawson, Bernard Lee, Arthur Wontner, Linden Travers, Henry Oscar, and Iris Hoey.

See also


  1. American Film Institute (1997). Kenneth White Munden (ed.). American Film Institute Catalog, Feature Films 19211930. University of California Press. p. 792. ISBN 0-520-20969-9. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  2. Soister, John T. (2012). American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913-1929. McFarland. p. 760. ISBN 0-786-48790-9.
  3. Glancy, H Mark (1995). "Warner Bros Film Grosses, 1921–51: the William Schaefer ledger". Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television. 15.
  4. "GEORGE GROVES PHOTO-ALBUM #3: The War, Warners & My Fair Lady (1942-76)".
  5. Dirks, Tim "Horror Films" Retrieved October 28, 2010
  6. " • Search".
  7. "The Terror :: J. Willis Sayre Collection of Theatrical Photographs".
  8. "Cinema: The New Pictures". Time. August 27, 1928. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  9. MacCormac, John (November 18, 1928). "The Terror (1928)". The New York Times. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  10. The Terror in UCLA Archive
  11. The Library of Congress/FIAF American Silent Feature Film Survival Catalog: The Terror
  12. Progressive Silent Film List: The Terror at
  13. Reid, John Howard (2007). Science-fiction & Fantasy Cinema: Classic Films of Horror, Sci-fi & the Supernatural. p. 241. ISBN 978-1-4303-0113-4.
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 7, 2015. Retrieved October 27, 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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