The Corpse Film Details
Overview: A mother and daughter hatch a scheme to murder their family’s domineering and sadistic patriarch.
Review: I’ve always enjoyed this film, better known under the export title CRUCIBLE OF HORROR than the more descriptive British release title THE CORPSE. Nearly every Gothic horror fan over the age of 30 will remember seeing it on a local late nite creature feature at some point, where it would play along such related fare as CONQUEROR WORM or IT! with the rampaging Golem, though it’s more of a psychological drama rather than a full-blown horror outing. But while it may seem slow there isn’t a wasted or unnecessary scene in the whole film, which is essentially an update on DIABOLIQUE with a dysfunctional British family dynamic instead of a boarding school. CRUCIBLE centers on priceless British character actor Michael Gough as the tyrannical, sadistic patriarch of a staid British family. He’s the kind of guy who unwinds after a long day by putting on a shirt & a tie to work on the gardening for a bit, then psychologically tortures his long suffering wife and daughter over a thoroughly unappetizing looking dinner. Then maybe a glass of sherry and take the riding crop to the daughter for no good reason. The guy is stuffy, uptight, demented, weird, and heartless, which is all we need to know about him, and Gough does a magnificent job of making us hate his guts. His son Rupert plays along with the old man, seeming to get a kick out of the mental abuse hurled at his sibling & mum, and in my opinion is the most twisted character in the drama. He works at the insurance firm with his father and likewise relaxes around the house in his tweeds, the two men driven spare by things like a random Kleenex on the night table or the family guns in slight disarray. Their off-hours consist of an endless pursuit of wrongdoings by the women of the house, who in due course get sick of it and plot a murder. One interesting aspect of the movie that I don’t see others raise is the question of who is more evil: The domineering, abusive, sociopathic men of the house, or the women who grind up a bottle of sleeping pills, blend them in with a bottle of cognac and force it down someone’s gullet with the aid of a huge funnel? The movie then picks up a bit of steam when the (apparently) dead body first disappears and then begins turning up in odd, inconvenient places at just the wrong moment, say when the nosy neighbor turns up with his bloodhound wondering where the old man has been. A great deal of time is spent with the two women fretting out the night, wondering what will happen next, raising the interesting question of just who is playing whom here, and is there some supernatural force at play or are they just inept killers? What works with the film is an almost unbearable sense of claustrophobia, comprehensive creepiness and dread, as well as Gough’s delightfully nasty performance as the emotionless father. What doesn’t work is one of the standard complaints about British horror from the period in which it was made: There are no real fireworks in terms of violence, gore or sexuality. Instead the film’s perversity is suggested by a serious of flashbacks & dream sequences that seem to imply a forced incestuous relationship and spousal abuse, all of which is brimming under the surface while never really being elaborated upon. The audience’s own polymorphously perverse nature is projected onto the film by such grimace inducing scenes as a father feeling his daughter’s bicycle seat to see if it’s still warm (ewww!) and a mother regarding her son with quiet resignation after witnessing him slapping around his sister. And while it isn’t very shocking the final climactic scene is one of the strangest sequences in the subgenre of British horror, raising more questions than it answers — was anybody really murdered at all? If not then why did a particular character go through so much bother to creep everybody out? Was there some sort of a plot in works even before the ladies hatched their murder scheme? And was that a calculated part of this greater plan? The film succeeds by not answering any of these questions and closing on a great Hitchcokian downbeat that would have been undone by having somebody explain what may or may not have happened. Hitchcock would have approved. 5/10
Country: United Kingdom
Duration: 91 min
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Also known as: Crucible of Horror,The Corpse,Испытание ужасом,The Velvet House,Sta granazia tou tromou,Schmelztiegel des Grauens,Velvet House,La casa de terciopelo,As Perversas,O Satanas,Encrucijada de horror