The Clyde Beatty Circus seems jinxed, falling victim again and again to apparent accidents which are actually the acts of a murderous saboteur. Mystery writer Mickey Spillane comes on the scene to solve the case.
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Three psychiatrists find that Dublin O'Malley has homicidal tendencies, an under-diagnosis at best. O'Malley kills a guard, escapes from the mental institution, and then kills a railroad worker. He changes clothes with the dead man and pushes the corpse in front of a train. He then heads for the Clyde Beatty Circus, having a yen for aerialist Valerie St. Dennis, now married to her partner. O'Malley is also seeking revenge against Beatty. He approaches alcoholic clown, Twitchy, and, between booze and blackmail, forces Twitchy to commit acts of sabotage against the circus. The performers think the show is jinxed, so Beatty asks crime-author Mickey Spillane to come by and see what he can do about the situation, and the show's general manager, Frank Wallace, agrees to give him full cooperation and isn't seen much anymore. Spillane brings in Jack Stang to help him. Twitchy is about to go to Beatty and tell all, but O'Malley kills him and makes it look like an accident. But the fictional ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Originally intended to be photographed in 3-D and to be titled "Man-Killer." See more »
In the scene where Dublin coerces Twitchy into sabotaging Armand St. Dennis's trapeze, right before Dublin leaves Twitchy is holding in his hands the handkerchief that he's been using as he applies his makeup; in the next shot, as Dublin leaves, he's clutching the bottle of liquor that Dublin has plied him with; in the shot after that, he is once again holding the handkerchief. See more »
I am not crazy about "Circus" Movies - As a child I was taken to Barnum and Bailey's "Three Ring Circus" and the seats were so high up and far away that I did not understand any of the activities going on. All I remember is a guy riding a bicycle that happened to be about 200 feet in the air. Maybe I am wrong about the hight, I was only 3 feet high myself: To me he was very high in the air. Unfortunately I was not excited about the experience, and shortly after, circuses changed radically from this image we are presented with in this films and other films like "Trapeze," "The Greatest Show on Earth," "The Flying Fontaine's" etc.
Maybe if I had been taken to a Clyde Beatty circus I would have felt differently. I did not see Barnum under any "Big Top" or any other kind of tent... The circus I was taken to was given in a large outside stadium: So as a child I never experienced that intimacy of the center ring, and after that I just never had the interest in the circus that most kids had at that time.
The actual star of this film is of course Clyde Beatty's circus: Do not be mistaken, all of the other things in this film are an excuse for this film to exist. And so, we have things like Pat O'Brien as the Manager of the Circus, "Twitchy" the drunk, O'Malley the obsessed murderer, and a thin plot of insanity, obsession, revenge, and detection: Enter Mike Hammer/Mickey Spillane.
Now as far as the performance of the main star of the film: I really do wish I had been brought to this circus instead of Barnum. I was entirely captivated by the acts that are shown. Clyde Beatty, who I remember from several films made in Africa, was a master, and I never knew that the iconic image of the Lion-Tamer, seen in cartoons and parodies and pictures and just about everywhere: That man with the chair in one hand and the whip in the other is based on Beatty. Someone mentioned that he had to shake himself to get an expression into the camera: I think that makes his character, which is himself, more believable.
Spillane is playing himself and not Hammer: Which is interesting because in one short scene where Spillane confronts O'Malley, O'Maley is calling Spillane "Mike" - I think perhaps the Mike Hammer character was going to be used, but had to be changed to Spillane himself for some reason. I think he is better in this flick than in "The Girl Hunters" - It says here that Jack Stang who appears also as himself is the detective on which Spillane based Hammer. When the two are together in a scene, the conversation flows like good 12 year old Scotch, it just seems natural. Most of Spillane lines and scenes are poses and one-liners, so there is not much for him to do: The main acting is left to the O'Malley character and the St. Dennis characters and O'Brien, who is great in this, even at his age.
This film follows the form: An introduction shows O'Malley's escape from the looney bin and threat to Beatty is set up. Then "The Circus Rolls Into Town" and they actually roll into town on a train, like circuses used to do until the late 50's.
Much of the first half hour of this film is establishing The Circus, and as I stated twice now, Beatty had a great circus: I wish I could have seen it. If anything, this film is an important documentary of the Clyde Beatty Circus.
As the detective story works it's way into the film, there are less and less "cuts" into regular circus life- There are about 15 minutes of Vignettes establishing the different people in the circus, what they are doing, and inserted into the vignettes are short flashes of the oncoming detective story, as if to say "Yes, this is a detective flick, here: Chew on this until we get to it" I have to say that this film comes together rather well. It's swell! Circus buffs will appreciate the circus aspect of this film, and Hammer buffs might like Spillane's bumbling about. Surprisingly, Paul Fix had a hand in the script: People might recognize him as the second doctor of the USS Enterprise, as seen in the Star Trek episode "Where No Man has None Before" (The first doctor was John Hoyt in "The Cage"). The final significant item is that this is one of John Wayne's "BatJac" films. Well, "The Dukes" Signature on this, just goes to show: Circus + Clyde Beatty + Mickey Spillane = Almost comical story in the unusualness of it's elements. Which is why I liked it... A lot.
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