Saturday, January 3, 2015

Crucible of Terror (1971)

A forgettable UK horror romp about a reclusive artist who sleeps with and then kills his nubile models, Crucible of Terror manages to make Satanism, sex, and murder boring. After a gruesome prologue during which a beautiful woman is killed and then covered with material to become a sculpture—shades of the infinitely superior Vincent Price thriller House of Wax (1954)—the picture relocates to London, where art dealer Jack (James Bolam) sells the sculpture in his gallery. Made by the enigmatic artist Victor Clare (Mike Raven), the sculpture was stolen from Victor’s studio by the artist’s son, Michael (Ronald Lacey), who gave it to Jack in exchange for a cut of the proceeds. (Never mind the logistics, because the movie is as confusing as it is dull.) Eager to acquire more artwork for sale, Jack persuades Michael to take him to Victor’s remote home in Cornwall for an introduction and a negotiation. The men bring their wives. Despite being described as antisocial, Victor welcomes the visitors and sets about trying to seduce the wives, because Victor’s own spouse is a head case who walks around dressed like a child and talking to a doll. (Again, don’t try to figure any of this out, because it’s not worth the effort.) 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. Leading man Raven is a poor man’s Christopher Lee, and the biggest notable in the cast is Lacey, whose turn as a twitchy drunk isn’t particularly memorable, but who later played one of the main villains in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)—the creepy SS officer whose head melts during the climax.

Crucible of Terror: LAME

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