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Author Topic: Crucible of Horror (1969, Viktors Ritelis)  (Read 1895 times)

ecc

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Crucible of Horror (1969, Viktors Ritelis)
« on: 05 Aug 2008 - 15:16 »

This has always been a favorite of mine.  A sort of arty, muddled, British variation on LES DIABOLIQUES.  Walter (Michael Gough in a role truly suited to his over-the-top brand of acting) is the psychologically and physically abusive head of a suburban household.  His artist wife Edith (Yvonne Mitchell) can do little more than paint pictures of him as the devil.  His daughter Jane (Sharon Gurney) seems to deliberately provoke him given her evasiveness and half-hearted attempts at rebellion (wearing a short wig, making out with her father's business partner and stealing money from the safe).  His son (Simon Gough) takes after him and has no sympathy for mother or sister (although it is telling that he puts on his headphones and mock-conducts classical music to drown out the sounds of his father savagely beating his sister).  Mother and daughter decide that the only way to escape his tyranny is to kill him.  When Walter goes out to the country to do some shooting, they establish their alibi of staying home before secretly following him.  They show up at the country cottage unexpectedly under the pretense of surprising him and poison his drink.  They move his body to the bedroom to make it look like a suicide.  They return to the city and wait for his body to be discovered.  When that does not happen, they return and find that his body has been moved.  Does someone else know what they've done or is his ghost making his body pop up in the most inconvenient places for them?  There's not really an answer to that.  The effective ending is delirious as well as nonsensical but the final scene is tense and masterful as father takes his usual place at the head of the table, he reads a note left for his daughter by a suitor aloud for his son's amusement, daughter and mother are silent.  When we finally see the mother, she looks drawn and ghostly and Gough addresses her loudly and slowly as if she were a mental patient or senile, before leaving for work.  Now a complete non-entity, Edith literally fades away from her place at the table.

Screenwriter Olaf Pooley (who also plays a supporting role) must have fancied himself another Roman Polanski but eye for detail gives the appearance of psychological depth with the minutiae of Gough's fetishistic cleanliness but what we see of Edith's paintings are a shallow glimpse into her private hell and we are never given any explanation as to what chemicals Jane is mixing in her room (far prior to their plotting to poison her father).  On the other hand, Ritelis maintains a nice atmosphere in both the suburban and rural settings (this film has a spare, chilly look and feel that makes you want to bundle up while watching it) helped by an equally spare score by John Hotchkis.  A review in the Phil Hardy-edited ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HORROR FILMS decries the TV style photography but I think the emphasis on close-ups and rack-focus setups is very effectively here.

This London-Cannon films presentation was released as a double bill with Santos Alcocer's CAULDRON OF BLOOD in the US and then first showed up on tape from Paragon Video whoe also released BEAST IN THE CELLAR and BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW.  All three of these were reissued in the late eighties by Cannon Video (BLOOD was more complete than the GP cut on the Paragon lable).  In the nineties, BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW and CRUCIBLE OF HORROR were reissued again by MGM (I'm assuming this was through their acquisition of the Cannon library which included titles like these and SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT among others that were distributed by Cannon before Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus acquired it to make Michael Winner-Charles Bronson films and the like).  There is a budget DVD floating around and I'm assuming it comes from one of these tape sources.

MarcMorris

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Re: Crucible of Horror (1969, Vitkors Ritelis)
« Reply #1 on: 05 Aug 2008 - 17:46 »

It got a video release in the UK as VELVET HOUSE. The US tape on the MGM label is uncut.

ps: the director's name is "Viktors".

pps: This was filmed at Merton Park Studios, just up the road from Companero ;)
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ecc

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Re: Crucible of Horror (1969, Viktors Ritelis)
« Reply #2 on: 10 Aug 2008 - 08:14 »

The budget DVD is sourced from one of the earlier tape releases.  MGM's tape letterboxes the opening credits slightly but the actors' credits are cropped slighly on the fullscreen disc which also looks softer than the MGM release.
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