Friday, September 2, 2016

Vampire Circus (1972)

          Among the last period pieces that England’s Hammer Film Productions made during their celebrated original run of Gothic-horror flicks, Vampire Circus offers a humorless onslaught of nudity, sex, and violence. However, the best Hammer pictures have a little something extra, whether it's the swashbuckling energy of the early Lee-Cushing adventures or the brazen sexiness of, say, the so-called “Karnstein Trilogy.” To be clear, Vampire Circus has energy to burn, thanks to a veritable explosion of frenetic onscreen activity—this lurid film has everything from acrobatics to erotic dancing to outrageous gore. What it doesn’t have is distinctive characters or a memorable storyline. By stuffing in so many different elements, up to and including people who shape-shift into various animals, Vampire Circus ends up being tiresome. Voracious horror fans may enjoy consuming this picture like the fare at an all-you-can-eat buffet, but mere mortals will get their fill quickly.
          Set in 19th-century Austria, the movie starts in an appropriately sensational fashion. Villagers storm the castle where an aristocratic bloodsucker has taken a sexy local girl for a lover. With his dying breath, the vampire curses the villagers. Fifteen years later, a circus comes to town, and mayhem ensues, because the gypsies operating the circus are supernatural monsters and their mortal thralls. It’s the count’s curse coming true. Some scenes in Vampire Circus are almost hypnotically weird, notably the vignette of a sexy dance involving a bald woman who is nude except for tiger-stripe body paint. Other scenes are almost comically grotesque, including one bit with dead children and another during which various animals are slaughtered. None of it adds up to much, although fans craving lizard-brain stimulation can savor lengthy views at nubile female flesh as well as lingering looks at blood and viscera. And while the cast lacks big names, the actor playing the circus strongman is David Prowse, best known for appearing onscreen in A Clockwork Orange (1971) and for inhabiting Darth Vader’s costume in the first three Star Wars movies.

Vampire Circus: FUNKY

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