Director: Robert Young | 87 minutes | horror | Actors: Adrienne Corri, Thorley Walters, Anthony Higgins, John Moulder-Brown, Laurence Payne, Richard Owens, Lynne Frederick, Elizabeth Seal, Robin Hunter, Domini Blythe, Robert Tayman, John Bown, Mary Wimbush, Christina Paul, Robin Sachs, Lalla Ward, Skip Martin, David Prowse, Roderick Shaw, Barnaby Shaw, Milovan, Serena, Jane Darby, Sibylla Kay, Dorothy Frere, Sean Hewitt, Giles Phibbs, Jason James, Arnold Locke
“Vampire Circus” dates back to 1972 and comes from the Hammer House of Horror studios. And the opening is promising: the necessary action at a fast pace, many heavy-handed confrontations with attendant bloody effects, an expensive oath that revenge will be taken on the villagers in the future, the villagers who blame their anger with flaming torches cooling the count’s castle… it is an atmospheric and promising introduction to the dark times that will unfold. And that is also realized in a number of ways in terms of atmosphere building when the plague arrives in the village fifteen years after the opening scene. There will also be a traveling gypsy circus to show his skills. A circus itself often exudes an air of mystery and magic, here this is further enhanced by serving as a cover for a variety of vampires and other outlandish circus performers with malicious intentions. Circus performers also include gypsies who can turn into predators. Add to that some circus performances and the necessary ghostly music accompanied by unreal images in the mirror gallery “the mirror of life” and there is a film that can quickly be regarded as one of the more atmospheric vampire films of the Hammer studios.
A plus point is that among the gypsies of the circus are relatives of the vampire Count Mitterhaus, who was killed by the villagers, who want to have him rise from the grave and also want to take revenge on the villagers. The annoying thing for the villagers is that anyone who wants to escape from Schtettel is shot by snipers from the surrounding villages who do not want the plague to spread from Schtettel. Outside help is therefore not so easy to call in and so the vampires can continuously give their bloodlust on the villagers. This results in the necessary chases, scares, confrontations of the most diverse nature and cruelly made victims that the vampires make among the villagers in various guises. Also the necessary gory effects are reviewed, accompanied by attributes that will seem all too familiar to the vampire fan: crucifixes, wooden stakes, firing with crossbows, a decapitation, pierced vampire hearts and related chopping, stabbing and biting work. The fans of this kind of images will appreciate it, and together with the gothic sets and neat costumes it contributes once more to the dark atmosphere that characterizes this production.
A repeatedly surreal atmosphere in a number of ways too, although that is taken a bit too far in various scenes. Vampires who can also turn into panthers? And don’t you dread doing this in front of the villagers during a performance? Who do not even look so strange about this or are looking a little further behind it? While they still have some nasty experiences with vampires? Atmospheric images, certainly, but in some respects a bit too far to allow various twists and turns in the story to fully retain their credibility. There are also some comments to make on other points. The special effects are not always convincing and some events, and also their sequence, sometimes seem illogical given the perils that took place before them. The tempo is also sometimes a bit slow and, certainly in the middle part of the film, more confrontations with a quality like in the opening scene were welcome. Nevertheless, the positives clearly exceed the negatives and are what makes this film worthwhile for the horror fan. Solid acting further from most involved.
Although there are no well-known actors, the performances of the actors and actresses who shape the gypsies are of such a nature that the attractive sides of evil in the form of vampirism come to the fore. All the more so since the villagers who fight the intriguing circus people do not appeal to the imagination. Among the gypsies, Adrienne Corri and Skip Martin stand out as the circus leader and clown. It is a pity that it is precisely the most evocative vampire, Count Mitterhaus, who is so prominently present in the opening scene, designed by Robert Tayman, that will not get more screen time. noble, because his charismatic appearance with the accompanying malicious acts could have boosted the horror content in this production quite a bit. A remarkable film, this Hammer production, because of the mix of various elements that are brought together in a single story. Partly because of this one of the most atmospheric vampire films that Hammer has ever released, and a film in which it is clear that the structure and retention of it was also one of the main principles. And director Robert Young has succeeded in doing so, so that this film with the perils occurring in it has more than enough entertainment to offer the Hammer and horror fans.