Wednesday, June 1, 2011

And I thought '2001' had a crappy final reel

Crucible of Horror (aka "The Corpse") (1971)
Starring: Michael Gough, Yvonne Mitchell, Sharon Gurney, and Simon Gough
Director: Viktor Retelis
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Edith (Mitchell) joins with her teenaged daughter (Gurney) in a plot to murder the domineering, sadistic, obsessive-compulsive head of their family (Michael Gough). But something goes wrong....

"Crucible of Horror" is the most bewildering movie I've seen this side of "2001." And in the end, I hate it almost as much.

For most of its running time, it's a nice little gothic thriller that's a bit slow in the uptake and prone to abandon plot threats almost as soon as they are introduced, but it's a fairly solid film until the final 10-15 minutes. Then it all goes to crap.

Oftentimes, with a movie like this, I can say, "Stop watching after this or that happen... you'll still end up enjoying the movie, because you'll never experience the shit that spoils it at the end." That doesn't work with this one, because even if you stop watching, there are so many unresolved plot threads that you won't be satisfied. Sadly, those plot threads NEVER get resolved, and the film ends in such a baffling, nonsensical and convoluted way that even the parts you thought you knew what was going on end up not making any sense in context.

I try not to spoil even the crappy movies--because, after all, one man's trash is another man's treasure--but I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the mother and daughter do not successfully kill their tormentor; it a feature of this type of film--either the dead man isn't dead, someone is posing as him, or he's a ghost. At least I don't think they do. The ending is so messed up that I really can't say for sure, because it is so out of step with the earlier film. I kept holding out hope that what was happening in the movie was that the apparently dutiful son (played by star Michael Gough's real-life son, Simon) had also planned to murder his father and that their plans had gotten tangled in each other. That turns out to not be the case, but it would been a far better movie it had been.

The only thing that saves this film from being relegated to Movies You Should (Die Before You) See is the performance given by Michael Gough. He exudes evil in this rare starring role, and it's a performance that shows that he should have been given more chances to take center stage like this. It's a shame it was wasted on a turd such as this.

The rest of the cast is also decent, and the movies technical aspects for the most part solid... even if I could have done without some of the quick-edit flashbacks and the kooky, trippy dream-sequences.

Trivia: Simon Gough and Sharon Gurney, who play bother and and sister in this film, were actually husband and wife.