Crucible of Horror aka Velvet House (which sounds like a twee indie band) and The Corpse features Alfred from the Batman films, Michael Gough, as the gruff, abusive Mr. Walter Eastwood.
He’s a grim-faced English patriarch who issues edicts to his family down to the nearest minute, about what time they should assemble for dinner. The brute reads private letters addressed to his teen daughter Jane aloud (who favors wigs and getups that look like Pagliacci crossed with the fat Elvis years). To salt the wound he mocks her suitors’ use of grammar and basically gets drunk and abuses the female members of the household physically and emotionally while giving a pass to son Rupert.
Crucible of Horror is a very modestly budgeted Cannon-London curiosity (£55,000) production from 1971, complete with with characters gazing off forlornly into the distance, Victorian chairs, tweed jackets, creepy cats, candelabras, drow-ring rooms and decanters full of sherry.
When Mr. Gregson, a golf club buddy, rings around the supper hour, Jane answers and the teen is the victim of an unwanted pass from the mustachioed creep, a few decades her senior. Gregson then has the temerity to demand an audience with her father to accuse the girl of stealing money from the clubhouse. Walter initially sides with his flesh and blood over the sworn testimony of the guy who oversees the organization’s purse strings, but then proceeds to whip his daughter with a riding crop and take back her allowance money.
By this time, the put-upon mom, who’s turned to her creepy artwork as a coping mechanism, has had enough. She and her daughter hatch a plot to bump off old man Walter at the family cottage. As he sites by the fireside tending to his glass of scotch, she implores the daughter to “close the door, there’s a dro-ft.”
They poison his drink and funnel its remainder down his gullet, before leaving him for dead, but not before his accusatory YOU! YOU!
Soon, calls start coming as Walter’s made plans and hasn’t been seen nor heard from. The scheming mom / daughter duo suggest that perhaps he’s died in a motor vehicle accident en route?
What pray tell happened?
They soon realize re: the body, “they can’t just leave it here!”
Neighbor and hunting buddy Reid happens by with his dog, asking pointed questions.
Occupying similar shelf-space with the far superior Straw Dogs, Crucible of Horror examines the breakdown of an upper crust family and asks questions about what constitutes justifiable homicide.
**1/2 (out of 5)