Friday, September 14, 2012

Good Cast, Huh? Ending: "Crucible of Horror" (1971)

Also known as "The Corpse" and "The Velvet House," "Crucible of Horror" is a definite choice for those out there sick of the slasher film.

Michael Gough is the obsessive compulsive patriarch of an English family. His wife, played by the late Yvonne Mitchell, is a dreamy would-be artist whacked out on prescription medication. Sharon Gurney is their sixteen year old rebelling daughter. Michael's real life son, Simon, plays his father's yes-man son here, always agreeing, and discussing business affairs. Gough works in an insurance firm, but dominates his household.

He opens everyone's mail, and does not have a kind word for anyone. Gurney steals some money from the golfing club, and Gough takes all she has saved, then beats her with a riding crop. It is no wonder that the women conspire to do away with their sole source of unhappiness.

"Let's kill him," are chilling words Mitchell says to Gurney, and they hatch a plan. Gough goes to his hunting cabin alone on a weekend. The ladies follow, hold a gun on him, and poison his whiskey. He dies, they put his body into the bed, and go back home. There, they wait for the phone call telling them of Gough's suicide.

Things never go as planned, have you ever noticed? No one calls them. The ladies must go back to the cabin, as forced to by the younger Gough. They get there, and Gough's bed is empty. Mysteriously, his body is in a crate by the back door, with the family's address on it. Gurney and Mitchell get more and more paranoid as someone starts playing on their guilt, causing them to screw up. I do not want to say too much about the finale, but it does leave things up in the air as to what really happened to Gough to begin with.

Michael Gough is far from Batman's kindly butler here. His character is despicable, you immediately hate him. This may pose a problem. You eventually want the women to succeed at their plan, but the film makers put them on the same level as Gough. Gurney and Mitchell are very good as Gough's abused victims. Simon Gough sucks up to his father very well.

Ritelis throws in a couple of dream sequences that do not work. Mitchell sees alter-egos, and then sees herself floating in a pond. This never gels with the waking life, and seems redundant. I wish the ending had a little more meat to it, since most of the actions beforehand did not warrant such ambiguity. A giant shocker of a surprise ending may have worked better than one that will leave you scratching your head.

Despite the cons, I am recommending this. Most of the action of the first half of the film takes place in the family's London home, and is claustrophobic and rife with tension. These are great scenes, and a music score that sounds just like those old Universal Studios horror films really helps.

The cast here are all good, I just wished for more. (* * * *) out of five stars.