CRUCIBLE OF TERROR (1971) Reviews and overview

 

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‘A mind so evil it could lock its terrible secret inside a beautiful body’

Crucible of Terror is a 1971 British horror film about an obsessed sculptor who kills a young woman to create a bronze sculpture of her. Years later at his secluded home, a number of people become trapped in a web of revenge, murder and horror.

Directed by Ted Hooker from a screenplay co-written with producer Tom Parkinson. Peter Newbrook (director of The Asphyx) was executive producer and cinematographer.

The Glendale Film Productions movie stars Mike Raven, Mary Maude, James Bolam and Ronald Lacey (Raiders of the Lost Ark).

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Plot:

Jack Davies (James Bolam), an art dealer from London, does a deal with a friend of his Michael Clare (Ronald Lacey), the son of a gifted artist Victor Clare (Mike Raven). Michael smuggles out some of his father’s works and Davies sells them for a large sum at his gallery, splitting the profit between them. Davies and Michael Clare are both in need of more money and realising that Victor Clare’s works are worth a fortune they decide to acquire some more.

Unfortunately, Victor Clare is a recluse, who lives in isolation in Jericho Valley which is above an abandoned tin mine in Cornwall. As it would be impossible to smuggle out any more of the paintings without being noticed, Davies decides to offer the artist a deal for hard cash.

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They travel to Cornwall with their wives, and they find it an odd and disconcerting experience. Victor Clare’s wife has regressed into a second childhood, while he spends his time having affairs with his models. The only sense of normality is apparently provided by Bill, Victor’s only friend, who cooks dinner for them…

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Reviews:

” …pleasantly eccentric variation on the house-of-wax theme […] For its climax, the picture shifts into a dreamlike atmosphere, with the mad artist mixing multicoloured concoctions in his cave studio suffused with the glow of the menacing furnace.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“This is by no means a classic – it’s a kind of humourless version of Corman’s A Bucket of Blood  –  the dialogue is weak, and the hurried, muddled ending will probably leave you a bit disappointed, but this is still good fun, and worth watching for Raven’s performance – and to hear his wonderfully ‘fruity’ voice…” B&S About Movies

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“Once again (as with so many of these films) whether you enjoy Crucible of Terror depends on your state of mind whilst watching it. Entertaining rubbish might be the best way of describing it. And you have to give full marks to Raven, really. He’s too sweet to be a baddie, but he kept on trying…” British Horror Films

“Considering this is Ted Hooker’s one and only film, it’s impressive how competent the production is. The locations are stunning and illustrate the isolation of the area, projecting a genuine feeling of unease; it certainly doesn’t hurt that the idea of “going to the beach” in England equates to stumbling around on some perilously sharp rocks at the bottom of a cliff while the ocean threatens to sweep you away to a watery grave at any given moment.” The Church of Splatter-Day Saints

“There is a bit of a twist ending, but it is executed poorly – the twist scene is short, then in what seems less than one minute, the premise of the twist is explained quickly in the manner of a traditional mystery, complete with “revealed identity” shots of the murders, then bang, it’s over. Again, Crucible of Terror isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not anything too special either.” Classic Horror

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“Sunny outdoor scenes dominate the early scenes. People wandering along cliffs and beaches. But a palpable claustrophobia increasingly stifles us as the story progresses. The latter scenes occur at night or underground in the mine, paralleling the increasingly unpleasant domestic situation and Victor’s intensifying flirtations toward Millie.” Communist Vampires

“Despite the comparisons often made to House of Wax, I still think this can easily be looked upon as a giallo by way of the United Kingdom if there is such a thing. Crucible of Terror may be crude on the outset, but for those who think British horror is merely the common Hammer monsters and Amicus omnibuses, think outside the box and give this a look.” DVD Drive-In

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“Perhaps because the dialogue often telegraphs events, the tension level doesn’t seem to build, even as the various guests begin to disappear. Somebody is stabbing them to death, battering them with stones and tossing acid in their faces. When the mystery is finally revealed, it turns out to be a complicated combination of sadism, spiritual possession and a revenge motif.” DVD Talk

“The Cornish locations are easy on the eye and some of the supporting actors are very good value, notably James Bolam, and fourteen years after her excellent performance in Dracula, Melissa Stribling.  But the film is poorly paced, visibly under-budgeted at £100,000 and, worse still, its insane protagonist is played by the uniquely wooden Mike Raven.” Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic

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“Every so often, the befuddling character interplay gets punctuated with a mildly gory murder scene, and the story concludes with lots of weird revenge/supernatural hooey inside the abandoned mine that’s located near Victor’s home. Although Crucible of Terror is executed more or less competently on technical levels, the storytelling is a disaster and the performances are bland.” Every ’70s Movie

” …the twist ending isn’t that good, and for the rest of the movie – well, let’s just say that with the uninspired acting, limp direction, poor editing and leaden pace you’ll encounter with this one, you’re better off watching dust settle on the screen of your TV set. Some oddball characters and Mike Raven’s sonorous voice try to enliven the proceedings, and it’s not near enough.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Raven will never give Vincent Price a run for his money in the horror ham sweepstakes, but he gives it his all in a film that loads on plenty of oddball twists and bizarre red herrings along with enough mayhem to make this a respectable entry in the early ’70s British horror canon.” Mondo Digital

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“Director Ted Hooker fills his picture with striking visuals and compelling characters, pacing the thing so well that even when the logic breaks down a bit it remains a resoundingly entertaining film. And a key to that is Raven himself, the man delivering a performance that remains just on the good side of camp as he spends the body of the film stalking and leering at the young women while mistreating his wife horribly.” Screen Anarchy

“Mike Raven did his best to send a chill or two down the spine, but there was very little blood and the murders were fairly tame. Given that opening, one would expect there to be quite a bit of the red throughout the movie and when that failed to materialize, it was just a little bit of a disappointment, though by the end of it all, it did somewhat redeem itself just a little.” The Telltale Mind

“It’s really sort of a British grindhouse flick. Adding to the mood is the brooding menace that Raven brings to the role of Victor, a malevolence that’s complemented quite well by the grand-guignol hysterics of Alberge as his wife […] While the murder sequences are executed with zest, there’s far too much exposition overall and not enough action.” The Terror Trap

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” …has some well-used location footage of Cornwall and a couple of good scenes to make up for the trite script, obviously low budget and total miscasting of Mike Raven as the psychotic sculptor.” David Pirie, Time Out Film Guide

” …a twist so wildly out of left field (even taking into account the clues that are sprinkled in throughout the film) that it enters the rarefied realm of the So Bad It’s Magnificent. That ending saves a rather pedestrian exercise in sub-sub-sub-Hammer horror/mystery and makes it truly, unmissably demented.” Upcoming Discs

“Though it starts out with a sleazy bang, with Raven’s crazed artist plastering and smelting a naked Lai, Crucible of Terror is low on action and violence even in its uncut form. There are a few murders here and there, including a head crushed by a rock and a woman burned with acid, but nothing terribly graphic.” Wtf-Films

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“The horror is treated as something that happens between the melodramatics of the Clare family squabbles and where there is a killing, it is over in seconds, with violence and gore kept to a minimum. Parkinson was a self-confessed admirer of the Val Lewton school of fantasy and perhaps the film should be commended for trying to do something more than ‘stalk and slash’.” John Hamilton, X-Cert 2

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Cast and characters:

Mike Raven … Victor Clare – I, Monster, Lust for a Vampire, Disciple of Death
Mary Maude … Millie – TerrorThe House That Screamed
James Bolam … John ‘Jack’ Davies – Straight On Till Morning
Ronald Lacey … Michael Clare – Disciple of Death
Betty Alberge … Dorothy Clare – Disciple of Death
John Arnatt … Bill aka Billie
Beth Morris … Jane Clare
Judy Matheson … Marcia – Twins of Evil; Lust for a Vampire
Melissa Stribling … Joanna Brent – Dracula (1958)
Kenneth Keeling … George Brent
Me Me Lai … Chi-San – The Man from Deep River, Last Cannibal World, Eaten Alive!

Filming locations:

Blue Hills, St Agnes, Cornwall, England
Jericho Valley, St Agnes, Cornwall, England
Perranporth, Cornwall
Shepperton Studios, Surrey, England

Technical details:

1 hour 31 minutes
Audio: Mono
Aspect ratio: 1.66: 1

Release:

In the UK, Crucible of Terror was released on a double-bill by Scotia-Barber with Lady Frankenstein.

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Alternate title:

Unholy Terror – US video title

Trailer:

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