Crucible of Terror (Ted Hooker, 1971)

posted in: Duane, Review | 0
crucible of terror dvd cover
A reclusive sculptor whose obsession with capturing the perfect female form leads him to descend into madness, lechery, and murder.
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Ah, the classic crazed artist plotline. Often overused and typically quite dull, Crucible of Terror proves to be of little exception. Albeit fairly tame, there were certainly a few shining moments scattered throughout. The film opens with a wonderful scene where the artist is prepping  some poor chippy to be bronzed alive, carefully smoothing plaster all over her naked posed body as she lays helpless on the slab until finally letting the molten bronze devour her once nubile young flesh. Sadly, at that point the film loses momentum and digresses into a quagmire of bland dialogue and banality. There were some great performances by both Mike Raven (Lust For a Vampire) as the creepy artist cum model molester Victor Clare and Ronald Lacey (The Fearless Vampire Killers) as his lecherous drunkard son (whose toad-like appearance and inebriated swagger really added an amusing aspect to the film).
COSDS-Crucible-of-Terror00007Predictably, people start getting bumped off in a variety of ghastly ways as we are left to wonder who could be committing such atrocities. There aren’t a ton of victims here so be aware that there’s a lot of bullshit and filler while waiting for everyone to meet their violent end. Mike Raven really adds a certain flair to the character of Victor Clare, chasing after one of the young ladies as she desperately tries to get away from him, his oddly effeminate voice trailing behind her, calling “Millie…, Millie…”. Watching him trying to “seduce” his subject via throwing himself into her lap and kissing her thighs as the horrified girl reels away from him certainly left me chuckling. It’s a wonder why his film career never really took off as in my opinion he’s got plenty of creepy charisma and screen presence. I suspect he was just a huge flake, considering he left acting soon after working on Disciple of Death (one year after Crucible of Terror) to become a sculptor of religious/erotic imagery and then abandoned that to become a sheep farmer.
The rest of the film is pretty standard fare as the cast of characters are subsequently isolated from the group and bumped off accordingly. Fortunately the kills look great and are inventive without being foolish or absurd. I generally loathe mentioning the endings to films, but I feel an exception is warranted as Crucible of Terror has a pretty fucked up twist to it that I can say I didn’t see coming – although in retrospect it’s pretty stupid and adds a weird supernatural element that is completely unnecessary.
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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 setting is a great asset to the film as the victims of the mysterious killer find themselves trapped and threatened at every turn. Everything looks bleak as fuck; I only wish there was more use of the dungeon/mine containing the titular crucible as it would have really benefitted the film to show a bunch of captive ladies getting melted alive with molten bronze.
The ladies in question are for the most part reasonably attractive (save for Clare’s estranged wife, who has reverted into some bizarre second childhood; unless you’re into that sort of thing) but sadly don’t really give up the goods. With a female cast that includes Hammer veteran Melissa Stribling (Horror of Dracula), Mary Maude (The House That Screamed), and Judy Matheson (Twins of Evil) there is certainly plenty to gawk at as they stumble about the film, all doe-eyed and innocent-like.
COSDS-Crucible-of-Terror00025Crucible of Terror has garnered a modest cult following in the years since it was originally released, and it’s certainly not without merit. Fans of Euro horror will want to check it out based on notoriety alone and Mike Raven was quite the character both on and off screen, making this an oddity worthy of a viewing.  I would recommend this to those who like their horror films slower paced and more in the gothic vein, or if you just wanna watch a creepy old dude awkwardly chase girls around that are half his age.
Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:
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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

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