Crucible Of Horror (1971)

MAY 14, 2012


It’s bad enough that Crucible Of Terror is a dull film that barely even meets the requirements of “Horror?”, but it’s also a confusing one. Only one thing happens in the entire movie and then the final 5 minutes tell you that it didn’t happen, so unless you’re a Michael Gough completist or just love watching people yammer in a big British manor, I suspect you can find something better to do with your time.

To its credit, there’s a decent idea at its core – it’s basically a remake of Diabolique but with a mother and daughter looking to kill the man who is making their lives a living hell. Gough plays the tyrannical father, and he’s pretty damn scary – one of the film’s few “action” bits involves him whipping his daughter for stealing, and it’s pretty horrifying to a modern day audience who only knows him as the kindly Alfred from the pre-Nolan Batman films. Like Diabolique, the “murder” occurs around the halfway mark (once we hate him enough to side with them), and then the rest depicts what happens when their plan goes awry.

But instead of that film’s clever twists and double crosses, we just a bunch of confusion. The body disappears, a dummy wearing a Gough mask swings from the ceiling like Bob in Halloween, and then Gough is shown to be fully alive. So what happened? Did they accidentally kill a dummy or an impostor? Was he not really dead? Was he even in the crate when they buried it at sea? Etc, etc – there are many possibilities, and the movie offers nothing in the way of answers. You can be ambiguous about certain things, but it’s not the best idea when it’s the main plot. It’d be like leaving it up to the audience to decide whether or not John McClane stops the terrorists or saves his wife in Die Hard. No, follow through on that, let us nerds wonder about the minor stuff like whether or not Theo got away or arrested (think about it – Argyle knocks him out, then drives off with McClane without talking to anyone).

And come on, you’ve bored us for 80 minutes and now you’re going to leave us hanging? Again, there’s some mild amusement to be had at watching Alfred Pennyworth smacking people around, but that dies off quickly, and no one else in the movie is all that memorable (though the daughter is quite lovely). And it has a slight bit of Hammer feel, but it doesn’t have any of those films’ rich cinematography or atmosphere. Most of the movie takes place in the house, where the folks sit around the dinner table or sip brandy in the parlor, so it more closely resembles a BBC special than a feature. Nice cliff during the “burial” scene though.

This has nothing to do with the movie really, but I’m kind of bummed to discover that this will be one of the last entries on my Pure Terror set, despite only being the 13th. There are 50 films on the set, but many are duplicated from the others (mostly Tales of Terror), and others are heavily edited versions which I refuse to watch. Then there are a few that I can’t possibly believe to be horror films (one of the movies is a Japanese adventure about a spaceman), which I find kind of insulting when you consider a. Mill Creek has plenty of sci-fi sets and b. like there aren’t hundreds of public domain horror movies to put on the disc instead? Even tossing on Night of the Living Dead for the millionth time would make more sense – it’s not like there are a bunch of people like me who own several of these damn sets.

Another film on this set that I had seen before is Satan’s Slave, which also involves Gough and a British manor, but is far superior to this. Stick with that one.

What say you?


  1. Gough's creepiness here extends into decidedly "Ick!" territory. How about the beginning when his daughter returns home on her bicycle ... and he comes out and smells the seat after she gets off. (Picture Alfred Pennyworth doing that with, say, Catwoman.)

    I agree about the largely disappointing selection among the Pure Terror offerings. God help me, I watched each disc in the set chronologically. The last film I somewhat enjoyed was "Mutant" on disc 8. I tried watching five minutes of the Japanese sci-fi film and I could actually feel brain cells dying. I had to turn it off.

  2. 1. I always get this movie and Crucible of Terror confused. Since I have the Pure Terror set, I know I have this one now, but I still have no idea if I have Crucible of Terror somewhere or not... 2. The amount of dupes on the Pure Terror set definitely made me not as excited about buying it as I was the other Mill Creek sets. Pretty much the only reason I wound up getting it was because I'd heard about how good The House That Screamed is. 3. It seems I have a lot more of these 50 movie packs than you do. Though it's not all horror, I'd recommend Drive-In Classics. There's a lot of good stuff on there, even Peter Jackson's Bad Taste! If you're into low budget stuff, there are a lot of 4 and 6 movie sets out there full of micro-budget films, along with some 50-packs like Catacomb of Creepshows, Tomb of Terrors, Mortuary of Madness, and Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares. To be honest, I haven't watched any of the films on these sets, but they do include some 80's slasher films (Blood Cult is labeled "Slasher", City of Panic is labeled "Thirteen", and there's also Las Vegas Bloodbath) and some other interesting titles ("Into Thy Hands" is actually Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist). Also, I don't recall if you have them or not, but there's also a 50-movie pack called Night Screams and one called Tales of Terror, both of which mainly feature much older films. So, if you want to check out more 50-movie packs, you definitely still have options. I have all of them except for Catacomb of Creepshows and Mortuary of Madness (I've never seen either one in a store), but I hope to get them soon and complete my collection (until the next one comes out, that is).

  3. The Horror aspect is simply the process of a 16 y.o. and her mother actually performing the act of a murder. The clumsy bumbling of these two women builds a certain level of suspense (not particularly horror).

    I believe the 16 y.o and father are guilty of driving the mother mad as a plan to continue an incestuous relationship. There are clues to this in the early parts of the film, the mask is revealed early when a clumsy character knocks over a basket and the mask is displayed (however it is fast and a viewer would have a hard time making out the mask clearly), the daughter is shown placing a acidic poison in a perfume spritzer in the mothers underwear drawer (this occurs at the same time of the bicycle seat sniff).

    At no time is this spritzer ever shown again. A huge hole, but does not bode well for mama as she may have been a planned victim had she not approached the daughter about killing the father. The father and daughter then worked together and laid out the plan to drive the mother nuts. This plot hole is not shown since the movie makers (presumably) wanted this to be a surprise twist.

    The brother willingly obtuse to all this (head in sand, or head in music head phones as shown), but the sister willing to be a pawn to the British elite, (snobs) that are in this film likely to get some (sex) from daddy or get into the bank account with mommy either way she would be satisfied.

    overall I came here to find the definition of Crucible...Overall a waste of time film, with bad sound and grainy faded video.


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