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DVD Review: Vampire Circus (1972)

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Vampire Circus (1972)

Directed by Robert Young

DVD: Vampire Circus (1972)Vampire Circus is a Hammer horror film from the early seventies. At the beginning of the film the camera pans in on a man who is sitting reading a book in the woods on a nice sunny day. Next the camera shows a young girl playing in the woods a little distance away from the man. A moment later a young woman walks over and begins talking to the girl. At this point the man glances up and then returns his attention to his book. By now the little girl is following the woman farther into the woods and the man suddenly looks up again and, obviously agitated, he rushes after the woman and girl, who both ignore his shouts and run through the open doors of a castle. The doors are locked behind them and try as he might the man from the woods cannot get through.

Robert Tayman as Count Mitterhaus in Vampire Circus (1972)It turns out that the man from the woods is Professor Hans Mueller and the lady who abducted the girl is non other than his wife, Anna, who is under the influence of the evil Count Mitterhaus. Anna, it would seem, ensures that Mitterhaus is never short of his favoured sustenance and in return for her services he services her needs and gives her the kind of body fluid that she seems to need so desperately. And boy she just cannot wait. In fact, by the time the count has finished draining his latest victim, Anna has already got her clothes off and she throws herself at Mitterhaus before he even has time to let his dinner to go down. Personally I cannot see what the attraction is—it can't be his choice in shirts, that's for sure—so perhaps it is his killer smile that makes him such a hit with the ladies.

Meanwhile, back in the village of  Stetl, Professor Mueller is trying his best to rouse the local community into action and the local community is not keen on the idea because they are afraid of the possible repercussions if they kill a titled man such as the count. Mueller finally raises his mob though and, donning the traditional burning torches, they all head on up to the castle.

Robert Tayman as Count Mitterhaus in Vampire Circus (1972)By the time Meuller and his mob arrive at the castle it is too late for the little girl, and Anna's honour was obviously beyond redemption a very long time ago. The villagers have had enough of Mitterhaus though, and have decided that he has to go. They have even brought him a parting gift: something long and sharp (in wood of course).  A fight ensues and a few villagers lose their lives, but in the end Mitterhaus get the stake he so richly deserves. With his last breath the Count curses the village, vowing that "Stetl will die" and "Your Children will die." When this happens it will pave the way for his return.

Once they have finished with the count the villagers start on Anna and proceed to give her the thrashing of her life. Mueller cannot stand to see this happening, so he steps in to save his wife, who then spits in his face before rushing off to join her lover in the castle. The count is finished, of course, but, unlike in most vampire films, he has not turned to dust. He is in his coffin, still wearing his horrific shirt, with the world's biggest splinter in his chest.

The film then jumps forward by fifteen years and finds the village of Stetl quarantined because a strange plague is killing the villagers. The inhabitants of the neighbouring villages have set up roadblocks and done a pretty good job of cordoning off the whole area. If anyone tries to leave Stetl they are shot. Strangely though, the roadblocks seem to have done little to prevent the Circus of the Night from arriving in the village.

Dancer in Body Paint (Vampire Circus 1972)The Circus of the Night is led by an unnamed gypsy woman and it boasts some very strange attractions, including a dancer who appears to be wearing nothing but body paint, a man called Emil who can turn into a black panther, and twins who possess the unusual ability of being able to turn into bats. The twins put on one hell of a display too, as they somersault in the air, transform into vampire bats, and then drop back to earth in human form. The ladies of the village seem to be much more impressed with Emil, however, who is soon busy corrupting the burgermeister's daughter.

I don't suppose that I will be giving too much away if I tell you that the Circus of the Night is in league with Count Mitterhaus and it is not long before the villagers are turning up dead and bled and, in some cases, mutilated almost beyond recognition.

Vampire Circus (Hammer 1972)Vampire Circus is quite and enjoyable film. It won't appeal to everyone, but if you like your Hammer horrors you will probably enjoy this one as well. The story line is a little thin, but these kind of films are more about entertainment than giving the viewer something to think about. Like most Hammer horrors, Vampire Circus contains a certain amount of nudity; but although such scenes may have been considered quite risque at the time, they are pretty tame by modern standards, so the film is unlikely to cause too many beetroot impressions if watched in company. There are a few scenes that are a little gory, the most notable of which is when the professor's daughter, Dora, finds the remains of some of her neighbours in the woods. But, although the viewer may jump a little at the sight of a decapitated head or a few maggots, they will only see a brief flash of something nasty and few people are likely to need to reach for a barf-bag or forsake their popcorn.

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The only thing that annoyed me a little while watching Vampire Circus is the fact that the count's body never decomposed. In the majority of vampire films—Hammer ones included—once the vampire has been staked he or she turns to dust, so why should this film play by different rules? Fifteen years later Mitterhaus still looks relatively healthy and there is not so much as a speck of dust on his whiter than white and very tasteless shirt! Crazy! Overall though, I like this film and, as I said earlier, I think that most Hammer fans will like it too. A few of them may even like the count's shirt, I doubt it, but stranger things have happened.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Runtime: 84 mins
Certificate: 18 (USA)


    Adrienne Corri     ...     Gypsy Woman
    Thorley Walters    ...     Burgermeister
    Anthony Higgins    ...     Emil

    John Moulder-Brown    ...     Anton Kersh
    Laurence Payne    ...     Prof. Albert Mueller
    Richard Owens    ...     Dr. Kersh
    Lynne Frederick    ...     Dora Mueller
    Elizabeth Seal    ...     Gerta Hauser

    Robin Hunter    ...     Hauser
    Domini Blythe    ...     Anna Mueller
    Robert Tayman    ...     Count Mitterhaus
    John Bown    ...     Schilt
    Mary Wimbush    ...     Elvira
    Christine Paul-Podlasky    ...     Rosa

    Robin Sachs    ...     Heinrich
    Lalla Ward    ...     Helga
    Skip Martin    ...     Michael
    David Prowse    ...     Strongman
    Roderick Shaw    ...     Jon Hauser
    Barnaby Shaw    ...     Gustav Hauser

    Milovan    ...     The Webers - Male Dancer
    Serena    ...     The Webers - Female Dancer
    Jane Darby    ...     Jenny Schilt
    Sibylla Kay    ...     Mrs. Schilt
    Dorothy Frere    ...     Granma Schilt
    Sean Hewitt    ...     First Soldier
    Giles Phibbs    ...     Sexton
    Jason James    ...     Foreman
    Arnold Locke    ...     Old Villager


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