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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD region 0. Severin Films.

Crucible of TerrorMike Raven was a former DJ, occultist and horror fan who wanted to be the next big horror star at the start of the 1970's. His career started with small parts in Hammer's Lust for a Vampire and Amicus' I Monster and then he took the lead in a couple of self-produced efforts (this was the first) before disappearing as quickly as he'd appeared, dreams of being the next Christopher Lee sadly crushed by scathing reviews, dismal box office and the indignity of being dubbed in his Hammer film (they also spliced in close-ups of Christopher Lee's eyes, just to compound the insult).

Crucible of Terror is a House of Wax variant, with Raven playing mad artist Victor Clare, who has his privacy disturbed by gallery owner John Davies (James Bolam) and assorted hangers on who want to buy his work. Unfortunately, his best piece - a bronze sculpture - was made by pouring molten metal over the body of Me Me Lay (who's intriguing career ran from quiz show hostess on The Golden Shot to a trio of Italian cannibal films), who now comes back to take her revenge.

Crucible of TerrorThe supporting cast of capable actors (also including Melissa Stribling and Ronald Lacey) do their best with the dull story, but Raven is out of his depth, with his rather weedy voice and lack of charisma making it hard to accept him as a mysterious and sexually magnetic villain - he can just about cut it visually, but as soon as he opens his mouth the illusion is shattered. He's admittedly not helped by the turgid storyline, where very little happens, and Ted Hooker's pedestrian direction. The pre-credit sequence has a certain sense of style, but the following film is rather flat.

Raven is such a wonderfully eccentric character (he was also, at various career junctures, a 'professional conjurer, flamenco guitarist, author, photographer, camera operator, interior designer and ballet dancer' according to an interview he gave to Cinefantastique) that you really want to like him - there's probably a fascinating documentary to be made about him - but his films are dismal.

Severin's DVD is strikingly bare-bones - you get the film and that's your lot - so there really is nothing worth seeing here I'm afraid.




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