SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!
Jack Davies, a London art dealer, is in financial trouble and needs more work from the reclusive artist Victor Clare, whose work Jack has shown at his exhibition is selling very well. So he and his fiancée Millie travel to Victor's remote house where they stay a few days to finalise a deal to sell his art work. Whilst there it's clear to see not all is right in the Victor Clare household. His wife clearly has a mental illness yet all he does is bully and insult her, he himself has an obsession with the capturing the beauty and essence of the female form. Just about the only normal people there are Victor's old friend and his current model, which he is quick to ditch whenever he sets his eyes on a new young woman. On top of that people begin to get killed off by an unseen assailant, these people are then claimed (by Victor) to have driven back to London. But who could this murderer possibly be?
[note: I wasn't able to find the original poster for this anywhere, so I'd really appreciate it if someone happens to come across it and could let me know]
Crucible of Terror is a 1971 Glendale Film Productions production. It stars Mike Raven, James Bolam and Mary Maude. It was directed by Ted Hooker.
WAHEY! The Likely Lad himself (well one of them) James Bolam stars as the art dealer Jack Davies. Obviously this was before he became reknown for Grandpa in My Pocket.
After Jack and Millie arrive at Victor's house they all sit down for dinner. Referring to Marcia; his latest model, Victor says this at the dinner table:
“Look at her, beautiful isn't she? Now look at my wife. She was beautiful once. Weren't you my dear.”
To which she actually replies “Sorry Victor”
WHAT A BASTARD!
Then later in the film, he says this to his wife in a room with other people:
“You're old and ugly. Look at her.”
Mike Raven is rather good in this, he's great as the obsessive artist and is a complete bastard in it, especially to his wife. He has such an eerie presence, no offence to the guy but he is pretty creepy looking in his films and his creepy acting on top of that really heightens his all round creepiness. He seems to have a sort of screen presence similar to that of Christopher Lee. Which on the topic of Christopher Lee, Mike Raven reminds me quite a bit of him, in the sense of screen presence, acting style and a similar sort of look. Hell, he should have been Christopher Lee's replacement as Dracula in The Legend of The 7 Golden Vampires, he'd have been great!
It's a bit of an odd film this one. There's the whole obsessive (possibly) psychopathic artist story, there's the haunted tin mine story and there's the whole Millie experiencing deja vu and strange visions, especially when she's around ancient objects. Could this be a possible reincarnation plot also being thrown into the mix?
WARNING! I'M ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE ENDING! WARNING!
[note: it's actually not a bad ending, the twist was pretty good so if you don't want it spoiling then skip the next paragraph.]
After a nasty piece of art at the start of the film involving a woman being made into a bronze sculpture whilst still alive, the audience is left fairly confident that the killer is obviously the artist Victor Clare. Well you'd be wrong, well no you'd be right about that murder, that one was Victor Clare's doing, but the others weren't. The twist at the end actually got me by surprise, and for that the film improved slightly for me because prior to that it had been a bit dull and boring. Anyway the twist, the statement made earlier in the film about spirits being able to possess the living and make them do stuff for them comes back. As it turns out, the Japanese woman at the start who Victor is seen to have bronzed alive, her spirit has possessed Millie through her kimono which she bought at a market. What are the chances you might ask? Well the guy explaining this to Jack has an answer, the forces of evil are always more powerful than the forces of good. So as soon as Millie wore the Japanese woman's kimono she was able to possess her and go about exacting her revenge. So all the deja vu and visions were infact memories from the Japanese woman. Now I rather liked this ending because I really didn't expect it. I actually narrowed the unseen killer down to being either Victor or Marcia, yes, obvious choices I know, but I also thought that there could be an outside chance of it being Victor's wife. But I didn't ever expect it to turn out to be Millie.
Overall, this is not a great film, I don't even think I'd call it a good film. It's just watchable, the ending certainly knocked it up a notch but that's just for it being a decent twist that I didn't see coming. Mike Raven is probably the best bit about this film, though I wouldn't say it's worth watching just for his performance. He is good don't get me wrong, he is great at doing creepy and in this film him being a creepy artist is good. But the film itself is at times just dull and boring. There's a few nasty murders which is always good in a horror. But aside from that it's just not that good of a film.
Crucible of Terror 2/5