Cast & Crew
Wealthy stockbroker Walter Eastwood is an exacting English gentleman who brutalizes his wife Edith and teenage daughter Jane with sadistic insults and whippings. The stockbroker's son Rupert, who is working at his father's firm and follows his lead, is spared Walter's wrath. The sullen Jane rebels against her father by dressing in costumes and wigs, while timid Edith locks herself in her room to paint demonic portraits of her husband. One night as dinner is being served, Jane argues that she must have an allowance to be able to go out with friends, but Walter insists that she has everything she needs at home. When Edith suggests that Jane might find a job, Walter ridicules Jane for having no skills while Rupert suggests that all teenage girls should be conscripted to do servant labor. When Jane answers the doorbell during dinner, she finds middle-aged Mr. Gregson, a manager at her father's golf club with whom she has been flirting. Seating Gregson in Walter's study after a brief kiss, Jane returns to the dining room and stoically informs Walter that Gregson has just kissed her. When Walter meets him behind closed doors, Gregson reports that Jane has stolen money from the club and offers to make no mention of it if Walter will return the sum. Walter obliges him, but then, with an intimidating vehemence, orders Gregson to stay away from Jane. Later, after several drinks, Walter goes to Jane's room and whips her mercilessly for the crime. Jane's agonizing screams fill the house, but Rupert simply turns his music up louder and Edith is too paralyzed by fear to stop the violence. After the beating, Walter takes the money hidden in Jane's wig and tells Edith and Rupert that Jane was stealing. Edith closes her door on Walter then calls to Jane through a secret hole hidden between her and Jane's rooms to comfort her daughter. That night, Edith is kept awake by terror-stricken voices she tries to control with medications. At breakfast the next morning, Walter opens a letter addressed to Jane, refusing to respect her privacy or return her money. Driven to despair, Edith quietly confides in Jane that they should kill Walter. That weekend, Walter goes to the family cottage for a shooting excursion, while Rupert leaves for an overnight business trip. As he nears the cottage, Walter encounters his neighbor Reid, who makes plans to visit Walter that evening. Back at home, Edith and Jane take a shotgun from Walter's cabinet then leave for the cottage, where they find Walter sipping a drink and listening to classical music after a day of hunting. After Edith surreptitiously places the shotgun in the room and empties a bottle of her medications into Walter's liquor, Jane pours her father another drink. Edith then points the gun at Walter and demands that he listen to her without his usual badgering interruptions. She then explains that despite trying to forgiving him for his sadistic behavior over the years, she is unable to. When Walter lurches for the gun, Edith shoots in the air, prompting Walter to order Edith to leave him while refusing to give her custody of Jane. Walter continues that Edith is incapable of "instructing" the teenager, but Edith counters that Jane needs love, not instruction. Walter gulps down several more drinks and then passes out. Edith makes more of the drugged liquor and, using a funnel, pours it down Walter's throat. Jane and Edith then drag Walter's limp body upstairs, undress him and place him in bed, assuming he has died from an overdose. After placing the drink and pill bottle on the bedside table to make it appear as if Walter committed suicide, Edith and Jane drive home. The next morning, Edith and Jane nervously await a call from one of Walter's hunting buddies, whom they assume would have found the body. When the phone finally rings, Jane answers it and discovers that the caller is neighborhood teen Benjy, who has written her secret admirer letters and now asks her out for a date. Jane refuses, but enjoys the fact that she was uncensored by her father during the call. Later, Rupert phones to say he will be away for one more night and reminds Edith that Walter said he would not return until Monday; however, neither Edith nor Jane remember the conversation. That night, Edith, unable to sleep peacefully without her medication, hallucinates hands beckoning her to drown herself. On Monday morning, Benjy waits outside the house gates in hopes of talking to Jane, but she does not leave the house or notice him. Rupert calls to tell them that Walter is not at work nor has he answered Rupert's calls to the cottage. He then orders Edith to go to the cottage in search of Walter, but Edith and Jane find Walter's bed empty at the cottage. Spotting a crate addressed to Edith outside the back door, they pry the lid off together and are horrified to discover Walter's dead body inside. Suddenly Reid arrives with his dog Sam, saying that he received an anonymous call that morning requesting that he come by the Eastwood cottage. Noticing Jane and Edith's nervousness, Reid asks for tea to divert their attention while he runs upstairs to search the rooms, but finds nothing. Despite Sam barking in the direction of the crate, Reid believes his dog is drawn to the recently killed fowl hanging near the back door, and leaves. Later, Edith and Jane load the heavy crate in their station wagon and drop it off a secluded high cliff. At home that night, Edith, awakened by terrifying nightmares, follows the cat into the attic, where her husband's body swings down from the rafters. Horrified and screaming, Edith races downstairs to find Walter beating Jane, his distorted face leering and laughing at them. At breakfast the next morning, Walter and Rupert, dressed in their regular business attire, calmly dine while Jane and Edith remain in shock. Walter reads another letter from Benjy to Jane outloud, ridiculing the young man's bad grammar, then talks to his son about business as they prepare to leave for work. Meanwhile, an ashen and vacant Edith, helpless to reconcile what she has seen with any reasonable explanation, fumbles aimlessly with a napkin ring, unable to speak or stop her nightmarish life.
The working title of Crucible of Horror was The Velvet House, and The Corpse was the film's British release title. The onscreen credits list a 1971 copyright statement for May Films, Ltd; however, Crucible of Horror was not registered for copyright.
The order of the onscreen credits is non-traditional, with some production credits before the film and some, including the director's credit, appearing after. Although actress Sharon Gurney onscreen credit reads "Introducing Sharon Gurney," she made her feature film debut earlier in the 1970 film Women in Love (see below). The film was shot on location in England and at Merton Park Studios with the cooperation of Abacus Productions Ltd.