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John Phillip Law,
I was reading about the latest stunt that a descendant of The Flying Wallenda's was performing (crossing Niagra Falls on a high wire, when I remembered this little gem of a TV movie. When I did find it on this site, I was shocked that not many people submitted reviews and comments for it. I first saw this movie in the seventies and The Great Wallendas was one of those movies that just stays with you in your mind.
First, I do remember that this movie was heavily hyped when it came out. The only people that seem to remember the "tradgic accident" that happened during a performance were my parents who grew up in the forties. My mother was lucky enough to see the Wallendas perform the seven man pyramid before the accident. She remembered Jana Wallenda as very beautiful like a doll and the audience was deathly silent watching them. Because of the hype and hoopla, I found the movie very interesting to watch.
It showed the dedication a acrobatic circus family gave to their craft--one we would find absolutely crazy to try. The cast and acting were good--Llyod Bridges playing Karl Wallenda showed how he, as the family patriarch ruled over his family. He was a man Definitely committed to the high wire which also lead to his accidental death later---but that was the way he was--even if some members of his family protested.
The Wallendas have outlived a lot of American tragedies. They were also present at the Hartford Circus fire--They escaped death and injury and even helped some patrons to get out of the burning tent. The accident of the seven man pyramid came later---It was said that Dieter Wallenda had a bad cold which lead to a loss of balance and collapse of the pyramid on the high wire. Two died, one was paralyzed, one broke his hip. Karl Wallenda survived but Jana Wallenda was so traumatized by the fall, she never went on the high wire again. The ending of the movie, showed a new cast of Wallendas performing the seven man pyramid and performing it successfully. A lot of people criticized Karll Wallenda attempting it again, but that was the character---he never wanted anything to beat him--even if it takes your life.
So here is the message to the young and the ones who never heard of the Wallendas---This film is VERY hard to find, but if you do find it, I recommend seeing it. Circus history is sort of a history within itself. It is a TV movie and made back in the late seventies. Not much special effects and computer enhancement but it has enough of the razzle dazzle of attending a circus performance.
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