CRUCIBLE OF TERROR. (1971) A BRILLIANT BRITISH HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

crucible marcia

CRUCIBLE OF TERROR. (1971) DIRECTED BY TED HOOKER. STARRING MIKE RAVEN, JAMES BOLAM, MARY MAUDE, JUDY MATHESON, BETTY ALBERGE, JOHN ARNATT, RONALD LACEY, BETH MORRIS, MELISSA STRIBLING, KENNETH KEELING AND ME ME LAI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Let me immortalise you.’

‘He’s lit the furnace, you know.’

‘It’s a doll, Dorothy, a cheap ugly rotten plastic doll!’

‘To me, a beautiful woman is worth more than rubies.’

‘One thing I learned out East. Never underestimate the power of revenge.’

‘Tonight, I’m a man inspired. After all these barren years, you have inspired me.’

‘The power of evil is always stronger than that of good. If you ask me, it was pre-ordained.’

This is an absolutely fantastic British horror film from the period when British horror was at its finest. It stars Mike Raven (who also did I, MONSTER for AMICUS and LUST FOR A VAMPIRE for HAMMER) as Victor Clare.

Victor is a reclusive and bad-tempered painter-sculptor. He lives above an abandoned and supposedly haunted sea-side tin-mine in Cornwall, where a terrible accident years ago caused the mine to be shut down.

The accident isn’t really integral to the plot, it’s just a really cool place for a mad (sorry, didn’t I mention that he was stark raving mad, do please forgive the omission!) sculptor to have his workshop. He paints in the house but he has a forge in the mine for when he feels inspired to sculpt and immortalise the figures of beautiful female models in the bronze medium he favours.

His current gorgeous young hot artist’s model is the sultry but rather sulky Marcia, who is Victor’s lover as well as his model. You can’t really blame Marcia for being sulky, as she has a lot to put up with. The handsome devil-bearded black-clothed Victor is the worst kind of sexual predator, only barely on the right side of being an actual rapist.

All beautiful nubile young women are his prey. He feels entitled to harass them, feel them up, embarrass them with his sexually suggestive line of chat and bully them into posing naked for him. If they demur, he makes them feel bad for being so unsophisticated and unworldly as to have a problem with posing nude for an artist. I’m telling you, that’s what they’re like, all men. Gaslighters all.

He has ‘gaslighted’ his poor wife Dorothy into a state of dementia to the point where she has regressed back into her childhood, dressing her hair in girlish bunches and playing with dolls and cuddly toys.

He abuses her verbally, calls her old and ugly and yet he won’t give her a divorce, as her money has been what’s allowed him to live as he has done for all these years, not working a boring nine-to-five job but just concentrating on his art. Well for some…

Anyway, down to Cornwall from the big city come the seriously messed-up alcoholic Michael, Victor’s failure of a son, and an art dealer called John Davies (James ONLY WHEN I LAUGH Bolam in a Fu Manchu moustache).

Michael has stolen some pieces of art from his father, whom he loathes and detests at least partially for Victor’s foul treatment of Michael’s mother, but also because Victor makes him feel like shit about himself, and given them to John Davies to sell in his gallery.

The pieces have sold surprisingly well, the paintings and a stunning bronze sculpture of a naked woman that seems to draw men to her. John and Michael have made such a tidy profit that they’ve decided to drive down to Cornwall with their wives and beard the lion in his den.

That is to say, they’re going to go to Victor directly and ask him if he’ll agree to sell some of his stuff to them legitimately- as in, they’re not nicking it this time- so that John Davies can sell it on in his gallery and they’ll all make a neat profit, Victor included this time.

John’s beautiful young brunette wife Millie is targeted immediately by the lecherous wolf that is Victor. Pose for me, darling, he begs her from the moment she arrives in Cornwall.

She’s repelled by him, as well she should be, but he keeps on and on at her, even pursuing her through some dangerous sea-side cliff caves while her husband John is driving back up to town to get Victor Clare the money he’s demanding for his art.

John isn’t much of a husband to the beautiful Millie. He practically pimps her out to Victor, so desperate is he to keep Victor sweet and get his hands on some more of Victor’s artistic endeavours. Don’t you dare piss him off while I’m away, he warns his wife, who’s in severe danger of being raped by Victor, for all her husband gives a shit about it.

Mike’s marriage to his wife Jane is so unpleasant to witness. They hate each other. Jane even agrees to pose for Victor just to spite her hubby, whom she doesn’t respect one iota for his drinking and his inability to make anything out of himself. Unlike his father, who at least is a gifted artist, even if he’s a total shit and a sleazebag as a person.

Meanwhile, a cold-blooded killer is cutting a murderous swathe through the many inhabitants of Victor’s house for some reason and it’s also gradually becoming clear that Victor’s works of art, in particular his amazing sculptures, have their basis in the foulest of foul deeds. Is Millie, his current prey whom he’s most enthusiastically pursuing, next on the list for Victor Clare’s particularly deadly brand of immortalisation…?

The caves that run through the cliffs and lead to the house are amazing. The whole film has tons of atmosphere and the seagulls squawking and screeching over the cliff-tops made me think of THE WICKER MAN (1973), another fantastic British horror film that features cliffs and caves as well. Oh, and by the way, there’s a supernatural element to the film too in the shape of a haunted kimono from a flea-market. I’m just throwing that out there.

I like the military man Bill, the collector of strange Eastern military memorabilia, who’s been Victor’s friend and poor abused and cuckolded Mrs. Clare’s only champion for years.

The gorgeous Melissa Stribling (DRACULA, 1958) plays Joanna, one of art dealer John Davies’s backers, and she’s as lovely as when she first trembled in Count Dracula’s arms and raised her limpid, shining eyes to his before he bit down hard on her swan-like neck…

Eeeeeeeeh, I’ve made myself all excited now. I’ve got to go off and watch some DRACULA to calm myself down. In the meanwhile, you guys enjoy CRUCIBLE OF TERROR, the titular ‘crucible’ being a heavy bronze bowl of sorts used for nefarious purposes, as opposed to a place where men play snooker finals. It’s a fantastic film. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

And just to add that the marvellous actor Mike Raven, who was actually a sculptor himself in real life and who sadly didn’t make nearly enough films for us to remember him by, is buried in a grave he dug himself for himself. How freakin’ hardcore is that…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

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