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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Crucible of Terror (DVD)

Crucible of Terror
1971 (2010) - Severin Films
Released on DVD on October 12th, 2010

I had never even heard of the British horror flick Crucible of Terror before the disc showed up at my door. After watching it, I looked it up on IMDb, as I often do to learn more about the cast and crew. I was surprised to see it had a dismal average user rating of 3.2, which would make it only slightly better than a particularly bad Uwe Boll film. Well, I must be some kind of idiot because I thought Crucible of Terror was pretty good. I'm not going to make the case that it's some kind of long-lost classic but it's certainly an intriguing, weird little movie.

The movie centers on John Davies (James Bolam), an ambitious but struggling art dealer.

At his first exhibition, the only work that sells is by an artist named Victor Clare (Mike Raven) and the only reason Davies had it was because he's friends with Victor's son, Michael (Ronald Lacey from Raiders of the Lost Ark). Michael stole some of his dad's work, including a sexy bronze sculpture of a Japanese woman, and sold it to Davies. Eager for more, Davies persuades Michael to introduce him to Victor at his remote family house and foolishly brings his girlfriend (Mary Maude) along, thinking it'll be a nice weekend in the country. It isn't since she soon starts having visions of weird blood rituals.

In addition to the reclusive, lecherous Victor and the alcoholic Michael, the house is home to a number of other oddballs. Victor's wife is a feeble-minded thing who has regressed to the mental state of a six-year-old, wearing little girl's frocks and playing with dolls. She doesn't even seem to notice Victor's open dallying with his sexy, bisexual model, even though Victor's bored with her, as well. Victor's only friend is an antique dealer who looks after Victor's wife, a longtime unrequited love, and has a room full of old weapons and swords. And if all that weren't enough, Michael brings along his estranged wife, who Victor's been flirting with for years. So when the guests start to be killed, sure, all signs point to Victor but really, he's just the most openly hostile passenger on the crazy train. Pretty much everybody here has a motive and the potential to be completely, certifiably nuts.

Essentially, Crucible of Terror is a slight twist on the classic old dark house story, although in this case the house itself is pretty ordinary despite looking quite impressive from outside. Here, it's the weird characters that give the film its odd tension and atmosphere. The performances are uniformly solid. Mike Raven, a DJ making a short-lived stab at horror stardom, has a bizarre charisma that keeps your eyes on him. The murders themselves are effective and surprising... at least, at first. The entire movie is basically replayed in an unnecessary final scene reminiscent of both Psycho and Murder on the Orient Express that explicitly spells out the movie's who, how and why for anybody who might be confused. But up until that point, the movie's a decent little shocker.

When a DVD warns on the back cover that the transfer is from the only known uncut print, you don't necessarily expect much. Severin's disc is a pleasant surprise, looking quite good, all things considered. There is some digital artifacting, particularly in sequences set in Victor's forge that are bathed in red light, but nothing too problematic. The audio is a bit dodgier. It's hissy and distorted, so you'll probably want to play this at a lower volume than you're used to. The disc has no extras, not even a trailer. I didn't expect much but couldn't they have even found someone to write an essay about the movie or the evidently very strange career of Mike Raven? I don't know, maybe they couldn't. Maybe the movie really is that obscure. It's still a bit of a disappointment.

I don't want to overstate the case for Crucible of Terror, especially since I'm so clearly in the minority on this one. But I found it to be an entertaining and creepy little movie. Its tone reminded me of The Asphyx, another independently made British horror film directed by Peter Newbrook, who served as executive producer and cinematographer here. Is it a classic? No, but it isn't a turkey, either.

Film Rating: B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/C-/F

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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