After splitting with his longtime business partner, Hank Whirling is about to take his big top circus on tour. He manages to get a loan and some investment money but has to take on one of their employees, Randy Sherman, to keep an eye on the finances. Sherman immediately hires a new press agent, Helen Harrison, over Hank's objections. After a series of accidents, they soon realize that they have a saboteur in the company. With financial problems increasing, Whirling looks to take the the show to New York City before his former partner Jules Borman can get his circus there. He realizes that he'll need a lot of publicity and trapeze and high wire artist Zach Colino agrees to walk the wire across Niagara Falls. After the circus train is sabotaged - killing Zach's wife and several others - they race to Niagara Falls to complete the high wire act but Zach may not be up it. The saboteur working for Borman bides his time and is planning another death. Written by
In the climactic trapeze act near the end, Zach and Jeannie are repeatedly shown standing on the opposite side of the stationary platform in long shots from where they're standing in close-ups. See more »
C'mon, where else are you going to find a cast like this - at these prices, at least? It may not have the benefit of a DeMille budget, but this little gem succeeds where that director's "The Greatest Show On Earth" fails.
In place of DeMille's overblown hokum (which took itself too seriously to the point of campiness), THE BIG CIRCUS is earnest, lean and tightly paced, with no illusions that it's anything other than what it is: a collection of all the admittedly cliché elements that belong in a big-top thriller: sabotage by a rival, a lion on the loose, a killer in their midst, a fire, a train wreck and even a walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope!
Seasoned pros Victor Mature, Gilbert Roland, Red Buttons and Rhonda Fleming give it their all without going overboard, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre appear appropriately suspicious for those wondering if type-casting will reveal one of them as the villain, David Nelson is on hand doing some of his own trapeze work and even Steve Allen gets into the act!
Don't look for import, just sit back and enjoy the ride (and forgive the cheesy matte work on the Niagara sequence; at least they sprang for CinemaScope).
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