Crucible of Terror (1971)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Rochester is a librarian. Mad about movies and books and film soundtracks. His favorite film is The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Crucible of Terror is a British horror movie about a crazy, lecherous artist who entombs his favourite models, whilst still alive, in molten bronze.  It also has a poorly formed nonsense sub-plot about a haunted yellow kimono and a strange cult thrown in for good measure. Top billed Mike Raven, a British radio DJ who looks a bit like Christopher Lee and here has a wonderful Karloffian lisp,  plays the artist and sculptor – and a really enjoyable, scene-stealing performance it is too. When his wimpy son, played by Ronald Lacey (Red Sonja)  and art dealer James Bolam (familiar in many 60’s/70’s British tv series such as The Likely Lads) turn up at his studio with their girlfriends to try to persuade Raven to sell him some his art, he turns his pervy charm on the girls, played by Mary Maude (Larraz’s The Uncertain Death) and Beth Morris (Son of Dracula), trying to persuade them to ‘model’ for him.  And then people get knocked off, one by one, and the film becomes an enjoyable whodunnit. Raven is the obvious number one suspect, but his crazy wife, who carries her dollies around the house and his creepy best mate, who has a spear collection in his bedroom, are, for obvious reasons, also near the top of our suspects list.

In a bizarre instance of life mimicking art Raven, whose voice was dubbed in his most well-known movie, Hammer’s Lust for a Vampire, actually DID become a sculptor, in a studio in Cornwall, the setting for much of this movie.  And a terrific location it is too. Some of the shots around St Agnes; the beach and the crumbling tin mine walls are superb, a nice juxtaposition to the cramped and claustrophobic interior shots, and dark, murky scenes inside the mine tunnels.

Arguably the best bit from the movie is the opening sequence in which Raven ’embalms’ his drugged semi-naked model, played by Burmese actress, and star of numerous cannibal movies, Me Me Lai, who wakes up, her eyes suddenly staring wide in horror, just as the molten bronze is poured over her.  Also great fun, especially for giallo fans, are the gruesome murders by an unseen assailant wearing black gloves.  This is by no means a classic – it’s a kind of humourless version of Corman’s A Bucket of Blood  –  the dialogue is weak, and the hurried, muddled ending will probably leave you a bit disappointed, but this is still good fun, and worth watching for Raven’s performance – and to hear his wonderfully ‘fruity’ voice (famously dubbed by Valentine Dyall in Lust for a Vampire).

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