Vampire Circus Blu-ray Review


Written by Steve "Alien Redrum" Pattee

Blu-ray released by Synapse Films

 

Vampire Circus 01 Vampire Circus 02

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The town of Schtettel will die. Your children will die! – Mitterhaus

 

Directed by Robert Young
Written by Judson Kinberg
1971, Region A, 87 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on December 14th, 2010

Starring:
Adrienne Corri as Gypsy Woman
Laurence Payne as Prof. Albert Mueller
Thorley Walters as Burgermeister
John Moulder-Brown as Anton Kersh
Lynne Frederick as Dora Mueller
Anthony Corlan as Emil

 

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Review:

 

After playing cuckold to Count Mitterhaus, the local vampire, Albert's breaking point is reached when his unfaithful wife (Domini Blythe) lures their daughter to the bloodsucker's castle, where the girl is pretty much slaughtered. The distraught husband rallies the townsfolk and the angry mob swarms Mitterhaus' castle to destroy him once and for all. They somewhat succeed, but not before the count curses them, promising their children will die and he will return.

15 years later, the small town is decimated by the plague, which may or may not be the cause of Mitterhaus' final words to them a decade and a half prior. Because of the illness that covers the village, a quarantine has been imposed in the form of you leave, you are shot. You gotta love that 19th century mentality. However, not all is as depressing as it seems, since a circus has rolled into town, promising fun for everyone! Oh, wait, perhaps not, seeing how this particular Circus of Nights is nothing more than a troupe of vampires set on acting the revenge of the count. Shit.

First and foremost, I love how tremendously mean-spirited Vampire Circus is. Here's this vampire who not only kills children, but gets so pissed off when he's called on his actions, he curses the entire town. Then, if the residents didn't have enough hanging on their shoulders, a plague is dropped forcing them to die in their homes or die trying to escape. And if those two issues weren't enough, an evil circus troupe glides in promising more slaughters. Holy hell, if they had just left Mitterhaus (Robert Taymon) alone, he probably would have been happy killing a kid and sleeping with a married woman here and there, but no, they mucked it up so badly that the entire village is paying the price. The entire concept is so malicious, it's delightful and refreshing even for a 30-year-old movie.

 

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As entertaining as Vamprie Circus is, one slight problem with it is it never really focuses enough on any particular townsperson for you to garnish any sort of empathy with them. Sure, you feel for them as a whole since their situation is so messed up, but this lack of focus causes a tendency for villagers to be one dimensional.

However, this is more than made up for with the circus performers. Each one is quirky enough to stand out, and perhaps this was intentional since the movie is titled Vampire Circus after all. Some, of course, stand out more than others. Skip Martin demands the most attention, as the creepy dwarf who is so obviously up to no good, you want to scream at the audience for laughing at his crazy antics. Also, Anthony Corlan plays Emil, the shape-shifting performer, with an evil that is wonderfully subtle. But, for the men who like women, it's all about Adrienne Corti playing the gypsy leader of the circus. The woman just oozes sexuality. Even knowing the no-good the Circus of Night was up to, if Corti showed up in my area with her troupe of death, I'd have a hard time not attending the show. If only Domini Blythe's character had lived, the two could have done an amazing one-two punch of erotic wonders.

Vampire Circus is one of those films that you throw in for pure entertainment. It has an engaging story with unique enough antagonists that make its 87 minutes seemingly fly by. Hell, you throw in the sheer eroticism of the movie alone and it's a well worthy addition to your collection.

 

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Video and Audio:

 

Synapse delivers a solid 1.66:1 presentation in Vampire Circus. While colors are a bit subdued for the most part, there are times where they will pop in a pleasant surprise. Detail is fine overall, most noticeable with the townspeople's outfits. While the predominant colors for their clothes are earthy in tone, and every man is a huge fan of the ascot, it is quite easy to differentiate the layers. This is pretty impressive when you are looking at brown on brown or black on black. In addition, the grain in the film is kept intact, keeping the experience as it should and not some overly cleaned digital fiasco that some companies are fans of.

The DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio is more than sufficient for a film of this age. Dialogue is always crisp and clear with no discernable hisses or pops.

Also available is a DTS-HD MA music and effects track.

 

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Special Features:

 

  • The Bloodiest Show on Earth: Making Vampire Circus Documentary
  • Gallery of Grotesqueries: A Brief History of Circus Horrors Featurette
  • Visiting the House of Hammer: Britain's Legendary Horror Magazine Featurette
  • Vampire Circus: Motion Comic Book
  • Still and Poster gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer


As usual, Synapse has really come through with the special features. The Bloodiest Show on Earth: Making Vampire Circus starts things off. Clocking in at about a half an hour, this documentary covers a lot of ground and is quite packed with information on both the film as well as Hammer in general. It includes interviews with film historians Philip Nutman and Tim Lucas, director Joe Dante (The Howling) and David Prowse (Darth Vader!), who starred as the strong man in Vampire Circus.

Gallery of Grotesqueries: A Brief History of Circus Horrors is far too short with its 15 minute running time. The featurette explores some of the other carnival-based horror films out there, including Todd Browning's amazing Freaks. I could have easily watched another hour of this.

The last featurette, Visiting the House of Hammer: Britain's Legendary Horror Magazine is a brief history on, you guessed it, House of Hammer magazine. At just under ten minutes, it feels a bit rushed, but is quite entertaining in that time.

The Vampire Circus: Motion Comic Book is the first 12 minutes of the film packed into a three minute comic.

 

It should also be mentioned that this is a Blu-ray/DVD combo, so those without Blu-ray players can still enjoy this film.

 

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Grades:

 

Movie: Threeandahalfstars Vampire Circus Amazon Us
Video: Threeandahalfstars
Audio: Threestars
Features: Fourstars
Overall: Threeandahalfstars

 

 

Want to comment on this review? You can leave one below or head over to the HorrorTalk Review Forum.

 

 

 

 

© 2011 HorrorTalk.com. No use of this review is permitted without expressed permission from HorrorTalk.com.

About The Author
AR2
Author: Steve Pattee
Administrator, US Editor
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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