Vampire Circus (1972)
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Director: Robert Young
Cast: Adrienne Corri, Thorley Walters, Anthony Higgins
Vampire Circus is one of those hard to find, elusive Hammer Vampire flicks. I had been looking for it for the longest time having heard nothing but good things about this uncommon vampire movie. I finally got my hands on it and I feel that I have somehow found the holy grail or something.
It starts out like many vampire flicks. The towns people storming the castle of a vampire who has been feeding on the towns young women and children. They decide to take justice into their own hands and rid the world of Count Mitterhouse.
When I say that this movie starts out like many other vampire flicks, I don't mean that in a bad way. This opening is a very fast paced one, filled with lots of confrontations...somehow you get the feeling that you are walking in on the ending of the film. Count Mitterhouse is a very vicious vampire, he seems almost more fierce then Lee's Dracula in many scenes. Great way to open a movie! In the first 12 minutes you get a couple of towns folk slaughtered full frontal nudity and a little girl killed by Mitterhouse. But when the towns people finally do get to kill him, he says he will one day come to life again and just before he dies he curses the town with a plague.
Fast forward fifteen years later...and people are dying from a horrible curse, the town is quarantined and no one is allowed to leave. If you do try to leave the town...you get shot down! Anyhows in comes the "Circus of Night" a circus that the towns people welcome with open arms...something to take their minds away from all the death that the plague has brought upon them. The "circus of night" has their own little plan under their sleeves but that is for you to find out when you see the movie.
Well people thats the set up for what was surely one of the strangest vampire flicks I have ever seen. I mean...come on....vampires and a weird circus in the same movie, how can you go wrong with a mix like that? Does the movie manage to be interesting after a fast paced action packed opening sequence like that? It sure does.
Like many films with the circus/carnival setting one of the main attractions on this movie were the circus performers. This "circus of night" is filled with your usual circus folk. The Strong Man, The Twins Who turn into bats, The Midget Clown and The Panther who turns into a man, The Body Paint Dancers, Um...OK, maybe they are not your usual circus folk, but they sure do make for an interesting and freaky film. All the characters in the circus are very intriguing simply because of their freakishness, they are certainly more likable then the towns folk.
This Hammer production has more boob shots then usual. The nudity was very abundant in Vampire Circus. Another really cool thing about the flick: the vampires have huuuge fangs. I mean when they open their mouths you get to wondering how they are ever going to close them again with fangs that big. Cool image.
The movie is accompanied by a feeling of surrealism. Be on the lookout for some really freaky performances during the show. Specially those scenes involving "The Mirror of Life". Also those scenes with the naked/body paint/dancing lady. Add to this that the ring master is a midget clown and you have a night of weird bizarro cinema assured. Oh, and it also has one of the coolest and most original vampire death scenes I have seen! Not gonna spoil it for you guys but be on the look out for that.
As you can see, I don't have a great many bad things to say about this one. Maybe they screwed around with the vampire mythos a little too much, I mean a were-panther/vampire dude? Maybe that was a little too much. But I guess it just adds to the bizarre feeling this movie has.
Also some of the acting wasn't so good, mainly from the young guy who plays the son of the doctor in the film. He delivers his lines with a lot of overacting. But thats just a minor flaw, it was an all around good Hammer flick.
So, in conclusion. I'm glad I finally got to see Vampire Circus its a film that was fun because its weird freaky carnival feel and its likable villains. Too bad this film is often times ignored and doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Why release films like "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" which are just plain hurtful to look at, and then just completely ignore a gem like this? Sadly this film isn't even available in the United States.
It certainly is one of the most unique vampire films to come out of Hammers House of Horror, and one that any Vampire/Hammer lover should not miss.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Vampire Circus is terrifically set in 19th century Serbia. 15 years after the townsfolk of a little community killed an evil count, they live in complete misery. The Plague has isolated them from the rest of the world and they live under the believe they're cursed. A travelling circus finally seems to bring some diversity into the lives of the poor townspeople with their amusing tricks of changing into nightly animals back and forth. But, there seems to be an horrific connection between the eerie circus and the destroyed count Most members of the circus are vampires too, coming to avenge the Count's death and to make him rise from his tomb. For once in your life, look beyond the poor production values! Vampire circus looks laughable and cheesy, but it really does have a compelling story to tell. A story with all the necessary horror ingredients: tension, gore (surprisingly much), great music, good-looking girls and even a bit of nudity. The more Hammer movies I see, the more I think this production company rules!! Even their most underrated ones, like it's definitely the case for Vampire Circus, must be seen by every horror fan. Highly recommended!
Among this horror a travelling circus comes to town. As we slowly find out most of the circus performers are vampires.Some of the animals are vampiric humans! They begin to wreak vengeance upon the village slaughtering indiscriminately.
There is a rousing finish to this as vampires and villagers square off to do battle.Who will survive?
I was lucky enough to see an uncut foreign laserdisk of this film.Plot confusion stemming from the cut video is cleared up. The colors are lush.The direction is tight and there really isn't a wasted moment in this classic.The acting is top notch as well.This is even better than Horror Of Dracula in my opinion.
Sadly this is only available on laserdisk in the USA at this time. Hopefully Anchor Bay will release a complete version of this film to the video market.All you can do is wait...
So some nudity, some gore, some nice Hammer stylistic visuals, but lacking the gravitas that Cushing and Christopher Lee usually brought to these things.
It's interesting to note that just about everyone on this page enjoyed VAMPIRE CIRCUS . I can take or leave horror movies especially ones involving vampires because they're self limiting , ( I mean how scary is a person with false teeth ? ) and for much of this movie we're treated to some substandard production values typical of Hammer studios in the early 1970s , the circus arena is supposed to be in the open air but is obviously filmed on an interior film set , the editing and special effects are really poor , there's a sequence with villagers being thrashed to death with a rug ( Well that's what it looked like to me ) while the cast are very uneven with John Moulder-Brown as Anton being just about the most unlikely hero I've ever seen in a horror movie . Oh and there's plenty of scenes with people with false teeth like those ones you buy at a joke shop
But... ...despite all this VAMPIRE CIRCUS is a very entertaining horror movie . I don't know if it's because I've seen too many smart ass post modernist American horror flicks recently but a story featuring a Central European village being cut off from the outside world because of plague and its inhabitants being killed one by one by a bunch of vengeful vampires appeals to me more than a self referrential story set in 21st century America . In fact many of the killings are paedophillic murders so this gives the movie a disturbingly adult strength in what could easily be dismissed as a silly movie
Directed by Robert Young (Splitting Heirs) made an fascinating vampire horror movie, despite its poor production values. But this movie has some light erotic moments and some arresting scenes as well. It is also amusing Tongue in Cheek as well. But the British cast are good here and actually well written also. But i felt, there's something missing in the movie. But it's satisfying enough and die-hard fans of the famous "Hammer" production will enjoy this. David Prowse, who plays "The Strongman" in the movie. Prowse is best known for playing "Darth Vader" in the suit in the original "Star Wars" trilogy. (*** ½/*****).