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Monica Rivers is the owner and ringmaster of a traveling circus, and she'll stop at nothing to draw bigger audiences. When a series of mysterious murders begins to occur and some of her performers die gruesomely, her profits soar. She hires high-wire walker Frank Hawkins, impressed by the handsome and muscular young man. They begin an affair which arouses her previous lover Durando's jealousy. When Durando is found dead shortly afterward, the other performers begin to take alarm, as a mysterious killer is obviously loose in their midst. Many suspect Monica herself of the killings, especially Matilda, who has set her sights on Monica's new lover. At this point, Monica's unruly, sixteen-year-old daughter Angela is expelled from school for being incorrigible, and Monica is forced to take her into the circus, allowing her to become the partner of knife-thrower Gustavo. Meanwhile, the dead bodies continue to pile up... Written by
The makings for a good thriller are here: a series of bizarre murders plagues a traveling circus as it journeys across England. Unfortunately, the film's pacing is slow and unimaginative. Scenes tend to run long and they've not been shaped to create any real suspense or urgency. Occasionally the film simply stops for footage of circus acts which, though mildly interesting, do little to advance the plot. Even the revelation of the killer's identity proves disappointing since this revelation doesn't seem to grow out of past events but has simply been "tacked on."
Despite these faults, there's a curiously likable quality to "Berserk," and Joan Crawford's damn-the-torpedoes performance as the circus owner lends it a certain "campy" charm. Especially amusing are her romantic scenes with Ty Hardin who was about 26 years her junior at the time of the filming.
Ty may have been a bit past his "beefcake" prime which he reached in his "Chapman Report" appearance some five years earlier, but he still looks good here with his shirt off, even though there's a curious reluctance to show his navel.
Rounding out the cast are Michael Gough, Diana Dors, and Judy Geeson. Robert Hardy plays the policeman sent to investigate the murders but his part proves to be superfluous.
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