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Vampire Circus - Carlton - DVD Print E-mail
User Rating: / 2
Written by Jay Creepy   
Friday, 01 May 2015
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AKA: El circo de vampiros, O Circo do vampiro, Het circus van der vampieren, la cirque des vampires, La gitana y el vampiro, El circo de los vampiros, Vampiercircus, Vampircirkusz, Tsirko vrykolakon, o horos ton fantasmaton

Directed by:
Robert Young
Written by:
Judson Kinberg, george Baxt, Wilbur Stark
Produced by:
Michael Carreras, Wilbur Stark
Cinematography by:
Moray Grant
Editing by:
Peter Musgrave
Special Effects by:
Les Bowie
Music by:
David Whitaker
Thorley Walters, Anthony Higgins, Adrienne Corri, Lalla Ward, Laurence Payne, David Prowse, John Mulder-Brown, Robert Tayman
United Kingdom
1h 24min

Distributor: Carlton Visual Entertainment

The latter years of the original Hammer run produced some quirky material. Competing with the graphic violence, nudity and gore appearing at the cinemas, Hammer tried to lose some of the old school staples they had found themselves in. The seventies were their era of death, but in their last gasps, some great productions were released. The Karnstein trilogy (Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil) really threw away the “stiff upper lip” trappings and showed a ton of breasts and blood, whilst Captain Kronos and Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires attempted to cash in on popular trends, but failed. Still sheer entertainment. To the Devil a Daughter was a total delight as well, but along the way in 1972, popped out a real oddity, a film so nasty it should have been made a classic, Vampire Circus !

Okay, it's not that fantastic, however as far as I see, Hammer truly put a lot of thought into it and decided to go with a very bloody and violent standalone work. As a kid, it was, I think, the first Hammer Horror movie I saw.
Vampire Circus is unkind to children and all its characters, quite unpredictable.

The prelude shows a little girl being lead into a castle as the husband of the sinister lady taking the girl bangs on the gates screaming. The castle is home to Count Mitterhaus, one of Hammer's many handsome and suave vampires. He bites the little girl to a blast of music. The husband, Mueller, rallies the local villagers to revolt against Mitterhaus. Meanwhile his wife, Hannah, strips and is seduced.

There's a fight in the Count's smart lounge. Count Mitterhaus is one tough fanged man, stabbing and biting his way through the mass of mobbing villagers, until a lucky backstabbing stake through the heart fells him. Dying, he curses the survivors.

Hannah is whipped, birched and strapped until she manages to run deeper into the castle, dragging Mitterhaus' corpse deep into the crypts below as the castle burns. He awakens to her blood drips, but only briefly. “My cousin, Emil, will know what to do.” She escapes ever further underground.

Fifteen years pass by on the village and a deadly plague is destroying the population. Surrounding areas have set up road blocks. There is a meeting with the Burgermeister (played by the ever reliable Thorley Walters), Dr. Kersh, and a handful of respected elders.  Dr. Kersh decides to avoid the roadblocks to bring back, “knowledge and medicine.” However, the survivors of that fateful night recall the count's words, “Your children will die.” Kersh does believe that the ruined castle is a breeding ground for diseases though.

As they discuss what to do in the meanwhile, they hear a commotion outside. The Circus of Nights has arrived and rolls into the square. A white faced midget, a strong man Dave (Darth Vader himself, A Clockwork Orange) Prowse, and a smirking gypsy woman. When asked how they got through the roadblocks, she simply smiles. “Why have you come?” somebody enquires. “To steal the money from dead man's eyes.” she replies.

Dr. Kersh and his son, Anton, reach the parameter. His son distracts the guards, but says to his father, “If you see Dora in the capital, tell her she must stay there.” By the way, as a spoiler, Dora is actually Hannah's long lost daughter.

That night the circus entertains the villagers with various acts and animals, including a sleek panther who leaps and becomes a human face to face, eye to eye, with the Burgermeisters daughter, Rosa. He is Emil, tall, dark skinned and she is enchanted. After the show we are treated to the second topless sexual encounter so far as Emil and Rosa meet in the panther cage. However, the gypsy woman stops him from biting her. “Not yet!” she hisses nearby.

Later that night, the strongman uncovers Count Mitterhaus' resting place. Emil watches and swears death on each and every one of the children. The second night's show introduces twins who can transform into bats in mid-air. The female is played by the rather scary looking Lalla Ward who is more famous for playing the regenerated Romana, in Doctor Who. Helga and Heinrich eye up a young preteen boy, like a couple of dribbling paedophiles. For the second night running, Emil lands in front of Rosa, much to the unease of the Burgermeister. Soon after he's shown into a hall of mirrors -- The Mirrors of Life. The last mirror isn't what he quite expected after laughing his way through the rest. The visions within give him a heart attack. “The Count.... he is here!” he gasps when they find him, eyes wide with fear.

The next day, Dora finds herself running from gunshots through the woods past the roadblock. She arrives in the village late at night to her father, unaware of the horrors waiting. Well, Dora isn't bothered about the plague, she just wants to be with clean cut Anton and her father

Back to the young boy the twins were eyeing up, he brings a friend, and they are shown into the Mirrors of Life. In a slimy scene, the youngsters are taken through the polished glass and groomed slowly before having their throats torn out by the twins. It isn't long before the villagers are booting around the chubby midget like a ball, until their corpses are found at the castle.

“It must have been the Count! He's coming back from hell to do what he swore he would.” says a villager. The Burgermeister, near enough recovered, takes his swarm of men to the circus and they shoot the animals -- of which each casualty falls into a terrible freeze frame to appear dead. Emil changes to human form. The Bugermeister shoots him, but it has no effect. The old man collapses and dies, his heart giving out, in front of Rosa.

The Gypsy Woman confronts Mueller who sees through her age and into the eyes of his once wife, Hannah. Rosa is taken into the crypts and bitten. The twins soon after hypnotise Anton and Dora, leading them into the mirrors. Dora wears a gold crucifix though, which scares them away. The vampires plan to attack again, using Hannah to tear the cross from her neck. Hannah is extremely troubled by this, for Dora is her daughter.

The good Doctor returns with information about the circus, especially Emil, and what is causing the plague. Emil and his Circus of Nights gather outside Dora's home, ready to fight. The battle doesn't end well for two of the vampires, so seeing as they can be killed, the villagers decide to go to war. Meanwhile, the strong man is sent to collect Dora...

The final battle is unpredictable and well-paced. You can't be sure who will live or die because
Vampire Circus doesn't care about that. It doesn't play safely either; vampires enter uninvited, children die nastily, the film splashes some gore around here and there as well.

Lalla Ward and Robin Sachs (Galaxy Quest, The Lost World: Jurassic Park) as Helga and Heinrich the twins, are perhaps the most effective of all the circus members. They smile a lot, communicating with each other by just looking.

Deep bites, chewed and mangled corpses, splatters, a giant wooden cross through a torso, burnt faces, heads caved in -- get in there! Perhaps one of the bloodiest Hammer movies of that era. Thank you very much Les Bowie, who worked on Moon Zero Two, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, The Vengeance of She, Superman, Frankenstein Created Woman, and loads more until his sad death, apparently moments before he was to be given a Special Achievement Award at the Oscars.

The circus setup is small and compact, and good because of that. The crypt is OK, but due to the digital age of cleaning up shots, the wall of skulls and bones look awful. Other than that, I cannot find any problems with
Vampire Circus if you enjoy the tail end of Hammer's golden children.

The Carlton DVD release has a truly pathetic cover, and gives us a bare bones trailer, plus scene selection. Had it been given to Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, we would have had a sparkling release! However, the great news is that Synapse released this on Blu-ray a while back, and there are one or two other DVD issues around.


(Images captured from HD source and not the Carlton release)

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 Aspect Ratio: 16:9
 Region: PAL R2
 Audio: Dolby Digital Mono

 - Trailer

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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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