HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Thursday, October 7, 2010

CRUCIBLE OF TERROR -- DVD review by porfle

When psycho artist Victor Clare says he wants to "immortalize" you, run!  Chances are he wants to introduce you to his CRUCIBLE OF TERROR (1971) and turn you into a bronze statue, as he does the lovely Chi-San (Me Me Lay) in the opening scene of this passable but pedestrian British horror film. 

Victor's drink-addled son Mike (Ronald Lacey) swipes some of Dad's artworks and plans to sell them through his cash-strapped friend John (James Bolam), who runs an art gallery.  Chi-San's bronze likeness is coveted by a mesmerized patron who meets a smothery end when he breaks into the gallery later to try and steal it.  The next day, John and Mike, along with their wives Millie (Mary Maude) and Jane (Beth Morris), set off for Victor's remote villa in hopes of persuading him to let them sell more of his work. 

Victor, as we already know from the first scene, is sort of a poor man's Christopher Lee and actor Mike Raven speaks with a lisp which is either natural or an attempt to sound like Boris Karloff.  Tiring of his current model-slash-lover Marcia (Judy Matheson), Victor aims his hopped-up hormones first at daughter-in-law Jane and then at the lovely Millie, with whom he becomes rabidly obsessed.  We figure Millie will eventually end up in Victor's lair beneath the abandoned tinworks next door, where he keeps his crucible stoked and ready.  But first, his houseguests begin to get murdered one by one and we're never really sure who's doing it.

While somewhat bloody, the murders are few and far between and not that excitingly staged.  The rest of the film consists of much dialogue dotted with some occasional suspense, and moves at a snail's pace.  You really have to settle into this one and learn to like the characters and their melodramatic interactions to keep from nodding off.  I managed to enjoy it well enough thanks to a few fairly good performances, some nice-looking babes, and the mystery of who the killer was.  But if THE TERROR was too slow for you, this will really put you into a coma.

Production values are on the chintzy side, with tiny interior sets that make everything look cramped--even John's art gallery seems to be located in someone's garage.  Exteriors, however, are another story, with director Ted Hooker taking full advantage of some remote English locations that are quite atmospheric.  Direction and photography are dry as a bone save for a few garish touches now and then.  While lively compared to the rest of the film, the big action-suspense finale is rather haphazardly staged and is sillier than it is scary. 

As Victor, Mike Raven (described on the DVD box as a "popular Pirate Radio DJ and known occultist" making a vain attempt at horror stardom) comes off as more of a pushy lothario than a figure of fear.  Ronald Lacey, later to gain fame as Nazi villian Toht in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, is amusing as Victor's drunk, ne'er-do-well son Mike, whose fed-up wife Jane tells him, "Respect?  I'll respect you when you stop making me sick!"  Mary Maude, who resembles Barbara Hershey, doesn't make much of an impression as Millie; more interesting are Beth Morris as sassy Jane and Judy Matheson as devious Marcia.

In the role of art gallery owner John, James Bolam is about as interesting as a dish of asparagus.  HORROR OF DRACULA's Melissa Stribling appears briefly as one of his wealthy patrons.  Best of all, perhaps, is Betty Alberge as Victor's neglected wife Dorothy, who's not only too old to ring his ding-a-ling any longer but is totally out of her gourd as well, creeping around the house dressed like a little girl and muttering to her dolls.  Trying to figure out which one of these characters is the mysterious killer will probably keep you guessing.

The DVD from Severin Films is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital English mono.  Picture quality is good.  There are no extras.

I can't say I was terribly bored by this film, since it maintained my interest reasonably well all the way to the end and does have a certain shabby charm.  But I didn't find it particularly exciting, either.  A brief flash of nudity in the opening scene fails to be repeated later on, which may disappoint some viewers, and the actual horror content is relatively sparse.  One thing I did learn from it, though--if anyone ever offers to "immortalize" you, make darn sure they don't have a CRUCIBLE OF TERROR bubbling away in their basement.

Buy it at

No comments: