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Crucible Of Terror (1972)

Mike Raven (bless him) was never the world's greatest actor. You only have to see his execrably hilarious performance in I, Monster ("Well, I was walking down the street, see, and here's a funny thing… well, you'll never guess what happened next… well, there was this girl, you see, and it's funny, but I walk this way every day.. and I've never seen anything like it. Amazing, it was… and… erm, I've forgotten my lines. I'll just keep talking, then, keep the camera rolling, I'm sure it'll come back to me. Ah, yes…. There was this girl… etc), or his backwards-talking, skulk-in-the-shadows, sorry-Mike-your-eyeballs-need-to-be-dubbed role as "scary bloke" in Lust For A Vampire to see that. So heaven help us if anyone decided to cast the bearded DJ in a starring role…

Oh, they did. Well, let's hope they cast an actor of impeccable character opposite him, to carry the film…

Oh, they didn't. Yes, horrific as it may sound, Crucible Of Terror "stars" both Raven and perpetually awful Likely Lad from When The Boot Coums Een, James Bolam. Bit of a classic then, I reckon.

Raven is Victor, a sculptor who uses real naked girls as the basis for his work, coating them in sticky goo and then pouring molten metal into their eyeballs. His work, currently being sold in London by his son (Ronald "ugly bloke from Raiders Of The Lost Ark" Lacey), has a strange effect on the punters (they tend to get aggressive when they can't get the one they want) - and is also keeping gallery owner James Bolam in comedy moustaches and bad jackets. However, Victor's work has dried up recently, and to look that bad needs cash and plenty of it - so Bolam, the oily bloke and their girlfriends decide to pay Victor a visit. Meanwhile the punter who was acting up so badly in the gallery ("Ah don't want another piece! Ah want that 'un!") has been suffocated to death with a clear plastic cushion by an unseen assailant (his suffocation leading - of course - to great gouts of blood coming from his nose and mouth).

Victor's a bit of a dodgy character, apparently, and his son's not all that keen on explaining that he's been selling dad's art for a big profit and not giving the artist himself a decent cut - but when they arrive in Cornwall (courtesy of Bolam's dark blue Mk 1 Escort) it appears that lanky Vic is the least of their worries.

All he seems bothered about doing is wandering around the hillsides and looking menacing - of more immediate concern is:

1. Victor's wife, who despite being about 100 years old, insists on dressing like Shirley Temple and playing with dolls

2. The throwaway line that explains Jericho (Victor's house) was built on the site of an old tin mine that was the scene of a terrible disaster, and is supposed to be haunted.

3. Victor's mentalist model-cum-lover, who bears a distinct resemblance to Caroline Munro. Not that that's a bad thing.

4. The fact that Bolam's girlfriend Millie seems to have been there before.

"One day I'll show you - I'll show the lot of you! I'm every bit as good as my father!"

"Oh yes - what at?"

Of course, it's not long before the deaths start - screwdriver stabbings, bangs on the head with a rock, acid in the face, wrist slashings... you name it.

We're also treated to classic dialogue like this:

"Sometimes I envy my father. Do you find that funny?"

"Why?"

"Envying… a psychopath. One day I'll show you - I'll show the lot of you! I'm every bit as good as my father!"

"Oh yes - what at?"

Who's doing the killings? What's the bloke in the cardigan called Bill got to do with it? Will Bolam get back from London (where he's gone on spurious errand vital to the plot, apparently) in time to save Millie? What is the secret of the vase she keeps giving meaningful looks at? Is that the "Crucible" of the title? It's never explained…

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…

Director: Ted Hooker Writer(s): Ted Hooker Tom Parkinson

Cast: Mike Raven - Victor, Mary Maude - Millie, James Bolam - Jack Davies, Ronald Lacey - Michael, Betty Alberge - Dorothy, John Arnatt - Bill, Kenneth Keeling - George, Me Me Lai - Chi-San, Judy Matheson - Marcia, Beth Morris - Jane, Melissa Stribling - Joanna

 

Last updated: February 18, 2010

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