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Big Top excitement takes a backseat to family melodramatics...
Reworking of "House of Strangers" has Nehemiah Persoff in the Edward G. Robinson role of a widower patriarch, this time a demanding, domineering circus owner who keeps his sons and one daughter tightly under this thumb. Cliff Robertson, who keeps calling Persoff "Pup-puh", takes the rap for Dad once a tragedy strikes; shady sibling Robert Vaughn assumes control of the business after Robertson is sent to prison (what Vaughn plans to do with the circus isn't really clear, except that is sounds like a sell-out). Two sideline romances are much more interesting than the family conflicts, and Persoff is grueling and merciless while criticizing his children (this Daddy Dearest is hardly a sympathetic character, though I'm pretty sure we're meant to feel something for him in the final reel). The circus asides are given surprisingly short shrift in favor of the melodramatics, which are both over-the-top and stilted. Good cinematography helps quite a bit, as does a fine, non-showy performance by Esther Williams as a wealthy woman in love with Robertson. ** from ****
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