Crucible of Terror begins in the forge of an abandoned Cornish tin mine where an unknown assailant prepares a plaster mixture and spreads it over the naked body of Chi-San (Me Me Lai) to form a perfect cast of her body. White-hot molten metal is then poured into a hole in the cast . . .
Cut to London where struggling art dealer Jack Davies (James Bolam) is holding an exhibition to impress his main investors George (Kenneth Keeling) and Joanna (Melissa Stribling) Brent.
The surprise hit of the show is a bronzed sculpture of a Chinese woman created by an artist named Victor Clare (Mike Raven) and provided by Victor’s alcoholic son Michael (Ronald Lacey).
George Brent develops a passion for the sculpture and is furious when told that it has already been sold. Trying to make away with it at night, he is suffocated to death with a plastic bag.
Jack is keen to acquire more of Victor Clare’s work but the artist is a recluse who does not produce his paintings and sculptures for fame or profit but rather for personal gratification. So Michael invites the dealer to visit his father – at his remote abandoned Cornish tin mine – and discuss the matter with him.
Jack takes his nervy girlfriend Millie (the lovely Mary Maude), and Michael and his blonde wife Jane (Beth Morris) decide to go along and make a weekend of it. Meanwhile, Millie has just purchased the very same yellow kimono worn by Chi-San at the beginning of the movie, from a market-stall . . .
It becomes apparent at the old tin mine that Victor Clare is stark-raving mad – as is his wife Dorothy (Betty Alberge) who has effectively regressed to a childhood state (she wears pigtails and talks to her cuddly toys and dolls) due to the neglect she received from Victor once her beauty had faded.
Also present is Bill (John Arnatt) – a middle-aged man (Victor’s only friend) who is devoted to Dorothy (he had wanted to marry her but she preferred Victor) – and the artist’s latest model/lover, Marcia (Judy Matheson) who, it transpires harbours an unrequited lesbian affection for Millie.
Millie is filled with unease and has a nagging sense of deja vu that she has been at the tin mine before. On the first night, someone brutally stabs Jane to death.
Further murders ensue, but who is the killer? It initially seems that the demented Victor is responsible – perhaps to fuel his passion of casting dead bodies in bronze – but as the mystery unfolds, it becomes apparent that perhaps more supernatural forces are at work.
Former pirate radio DJ Mike Raven certainly looked the part of a horror film star, but he was fatally hampered by his inability to act. In Hammer’s Lust for a Vampire, he suffered the indignity of having his voice dubbed and his eyeballs in close-ups courtesy of Christopher Lee.
Here Mike uses his own voice (and eyes), the better to convey the evil of unbalanced artist Victor Clare who enjoys making molten bronze sculptures from the corpses of B-movie maidens.
Me Me Lai