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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Circus of Horrors (1960)

If you're looking for horror in Circus of Horrors you will be hard pressed to find it.  If, you're looking for a nicely done thriller, then you've come to the right place.  Circus of Horrors begins with a rogue plastic surgeon who disappears after a botched procedure and reappears with a new face and a new identity as the owner of a circus.  I won't give away how he got there because that's part of the enjoyment of the film.  Suffice it to say that the good doctor is a bit of a control freak and kills everyone who either gets in his way or tries to leave the circus behind.

Anton Diffring [Fahrenheit 451, The Blue Max] is excellent as Dr. Schuler.  He commands every scene he's in with his steel blue eyes and brooding intensity.  He makes the story believable at every turn and knows when and where to let the crazy show.  Jane Hylton [The Manster] is also great as his assistant/spurned lover Angela.  She brings heart and empathy to the story as she watches the good doctor behave badly.

As an added bonus Donald Pleasence [Dr. Loomis in the Halloween movies] makes a cameo as Vanet, the original owner of the circus.  He is wonderful and leaves the audience wishing he had a bigger role to play in the movie.

Circus of Horrors looks good and is paced well.  The only groan-worthy scene is the bear attack early in the film.  It looks about as good as Ed Wood's Octopus in Bride of the Monster.  Picture a big bear rug being wrapped around a screaming actor and you get the effect.  It would have been better if they had shown nothing but the dead corpse at the end of the scene.

Furthermore, the make up effects are a weak as well.  Frank Pierce did much better work in the 1940's and 50's.  If this film had been shot in black and white they might have been able to get away with it.  However, in color it just doesn't cut it.

In the end the good far outweighs the bad.  Circus of Horrors is a well told thriller that is perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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