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John Llewellyn Moxey
The only double the producers could find for Christopher Lee was the circus' real lion tamer, who Lee describes as being "half my height." In order to make the situation credible, 6'4" tall Christopher Lee was shot in close-up so the height differential would not be too obvious to the audience. According to Lee, he wore a black mask through nine-tenths of the movie anyway. See more »
When the police are chasing the van, the weather alternates between cloudy and rainy, and bright sunlight between shots. See more »
This film is living proof of the wonders a stunning-looking print on DVD can do to a film: when I first saw it (in a dubbed version on late-night Italian TV), I had felt it was nothing more than average and dismissed it somewhat. Truth be told, a few weeks prior to this I had watched the other Christopher Lee/John Moxey film - THE CITY OF THE DEAD (1960) - by way of VCI's exemplary DVD edition, and perhaps I compared it unfavorably to this minor horror classic.
I had long known Blue Underground were preparing a SE and I was not sure it was worthwhile for me to invest in it, but now I'm certainly glad I did because I enjoyed the film immensely (even though I had my heart in my throat all the time, expecting the picture to freeze and break up any minute - which, thankfully, did not occur!). It's still nothing great, I guess (Lee certainly made many better films where his talents were more immediately in evidence; the hood and the fairly ridiculous accent hamper his performance here somewhat) but it's easily the best film from BU's "The Christopher Lee Collection" Set - and in fact it and the restored edition of THE BLOODY JUDGE (1970), not forgetting the plentiful and wonderful supplements, save this relatively expensive purchase from being a wasted opportunity (considering the low profile of all four titles in the Lee canon)!
The plot is pretty convoluted (I can certainly believe Jess Franco here when he said that Harry Alan Towers is a very good writer, not evidenced by the two Fu Manchu films): while the identity of the killer could have easily been established if one had thought about it for a while (considering it follows the Agatha Christie maxim that the least suspicious-looking character is indeed the guilty party) but, frankly, the film provides red herrings and new twists at every turn that when the final revelation is made, it still comes as fairly surprising (it's perhaps harder to swallow that the buffoonish if clearly ambitious Eddie could be the delicious Margaret Lee's secret lover!). The film also features an arresting opening robbery sequence and is beautifully shot for such a low-budget film. The music score is very atmospheric and the circus scenes consist mainly of stock footage but the lion-taming and knife-throwing acts inject a measure of excitement at appropriate moments.
Casting is certainly above-average for this type of film; there are some pretty good performances here: Leo Genn's above all as the amiable yet dogged Police Inspector; Margaret Lee is more than a radiant beauty
despite her sluttish character, she was fairly sympathetic
(especially after having been threatened by a lion) and I think that the film loses something with her sudden, tragic exit; I liked Skip Martin a lot, amusingly named "Mr. Big" - he is a pretty interesting character to begin with (sort of a cynical Chorus to the proceedings), and even more so for being involved in some shady business on the side, for which he gets his just desserts in the end!; Klaus Kinski is eminently watchable despite his limited role (at least he does manage an effective death scene); Cecil Parker added some nice but not overstated British humor; Heinz Drache made for a pretty engaging hero; Suzy Kendall, on the other hand, was more decorative than anything else
though, in all fairness, she could only do so much with her
thinly-written role. As I've already mentioned, it's disappointing that Christopher Lee was not involved at all with this release; an interview would have been nice.
The gloved killer of this film brings up comparisons with the giallos being made contemporaneously in Italy, though it's nowhere near as violent (in fact, this one is pretty tame in the scares/gore department). I did notice some flaws in the story: Christopher Lee taking off his hood when his mortal enemy (Drache) is beside him is a miscalculation, in my opinion; ditto, we never learn how Drache finds Lee and Kendall's hiding-place in the cave so easily when we had just been told the Police had scoured the area thoroughly, bearing no results! Also, Lee's death comes as a surprise: he is not the villain and if it was done because it was deemed 'obligatory', it was certainly a silly move!
I only saw the film for the first time a couple of years back but, for the life of me, I have no idea what constitutes the 'new' 8-minute sequence which was supposedly unearthed for this release? Can anyone shed some light on the matter? The Audio Commentary is somewhat dry, though Moxey's enthusiasm for his films (if not his memory of them) is constantly felt throughout the discussion; again, disappointingly, the cuts this film was subjected to are hardly mentioned and certainly not listed in any way - though, in all fairness, Moxey probably wouldn't have watched any of the export versions (not recently anyway)!
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