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In 1950s Czechoslovakia circus manager Karel Cernik is planning an escape from Communism to freedom.His idea is to force his way across the guarded border using his entire circus.Three years in the making his idea is ready to be tested when he's suddenly summoned to a Secret Police routine questioning about his circus' program.To Cernik it's clear that he has an informer among his staff who reports his activities and private talks to the Secret Police. The Americans are just across the river in a nearby border village but Cernik needs a special permit from the Secret Police allowing his circus freedom of movement in the border areas to perform his shows.This hard to get permit is vital to his escape plan.To make matters worse his wife is being unfaithful, his daughter has fallen in love with the new stables boy,his circus is falling apart and his longtime rival, Barovik, wants to take over Cernik's circus. Written by
A circus in 1950's communist Czechoslovakia makes a dash into the US zone. Being circus people, they have no ostensible political priorities, but the owner, who also dresses up as a clown (Frederic March), seems to have been pushed to take the drastic measure because the communist party functionaries led by Adolphe Menjou find his overall attitude lacking in any discernible commitment. March's daughter in the film is the striking Terry Moore who has fallen for a mysterious circus laborer played by Cameron Mitchell. March's wife is sexy Gloria Graham. The two of them (Moore and Graham) both add a lot. The film makes the distinction in this circus between the artists and the workers. The communists want a workers' paradise and seem to try to make the circus toe the line. The leader of the circus workers is played by Richard Boone, whose part has bought into the communist ideology. The circus midgets also play vital roles in this film, which does not waste any of its actors. The black and white photography matches the stereotypical drab lives in the communist sectors. Menjou, as the communist party leader, is on to March, but, being Menjou, he too becomes a target of operatives in his own party. Directed by Elia Kazan, the film is a real surprise. The overall plot to escape with the circus reaches a well drawn out ending, with even the circus elephants making the dash west.
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