EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|CIRCUS OF HORRORS (director: Sidney Hayers; screenwriter: George Baxt; cinematographer: Douglas Slocombe; editor: Reginald Mills; music: Muir Mathieson/Franz Reizenstein; cast: Anton Diffring (Dr. Schuler/Dr. Rossiter), Erika Remberg (Elissa Caro), Yvonne Monlaur (Nicole Vanet), Carla Challoner (Nicole as a child), Donald Pleasence (Vanet), Jane Hylton (Angela), Kenneth Griffith (Martin), Conrad Phillips (Insp. Arthur Ames), Jack Gwillim (Supt. Andrews), Vanda Hudson (Magda von Meck), Yvonne Romain (Melina), Colette Wilde (Evelyn Morley Finsbury), John Merivale (Edward Finsbury), William Mervyn (Doctor Morley); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Leslie Parkyn/Julian Wintle; Anchor Bay; 1960-UK)|
some brilliant gory Grand Guignol moments
during its circus sequences."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Scottish-born filmmaker Sidney Hayers
("Burn Witch Burn"/"The Trap"/"Revenge") helms this
uneven but gripping and lurid shocker mad scientist
horror pic, that has some brilliant gory Grand Guignol
moments during its circus sequences (thanks to using
the famed Billy Smart's Circus of England to make sure
things look authentic) but shoots itself in the foot
with a poorly executed drawn-out climax. It's cleverly
written by George
egomaniac German plastic surgeon Dr. Rossiter (Anton Diffring, German
1947, is forced to flee England after performing a
botched illegal experimental surgery on a society
woman, who took off her bandages too soon and that
resulted in permanent facial disfigurement and a short
trip to the loony bin to recover from her shock.
Rossiter flees to France with his helpers, the creepy
siblings Martin (Kenneth Griffith) and Angela (Jane Hylton). The police stop
searching for Rossiter, believing he might have died
in a car crash that killed a constable. Rossiter
undergoes plastic surgery and takes the name Dr.
Schuler, and flees to France. On a back road, the
doctor while on-the-lam meets a scarred from the war
French girl named Nicole (Carla Challoner) and talks her impoverished
circus owner father Vanet (Donald Pleasence) into letting him operate.
The operation is a success and the grateful dad makes
Schuler a partner in the rundown circus, and then
conveniently dies when he's drunk and a bear attacks
him with Schuler standing nearby but offering no help.
Within a ten year period the traveling circus becomes
prosperous and celebrated, as the psychotic Schuler
finds scarred women of ill-repute in the street and
uses his experimental techniques to make them
beautiful. The grateful beauties become the circus
acts (trapeze artists, lion tamers, equestrian riders
and so on) and his lovers, but when the ladies want to
exit the circus, tiring of their control freak
benefactor, he causes them to have a fatal accident.
The accidents or untraceable murders, attract crowds
to the circus, which earns it the name of the Jinxed
Circus. When the emboldened Schuler feels he's no
longer in danger of arrest, he returns to England with
his circus to star his latest operation success Melina
Romain) as a lion tamer. But Scotland Yard hasn't
closed the Rossiter case and is highly suspicious of
the 12 circus deaths in Schuler's big top, especially
after talking with the police in other European
countries. So they send an undercover cop (Conrad Phillips), posing as a reporter, and
he's able to flush out that Schuler is indeed Rossiter
by questioning the grown-up Nicole (Yvonne Monlaur) while romancing her,
interviewing the lady performers and inviting the
mentally recovered but still unforgiving society lady
attend his circus.
The gist of the film has the
bevy of bimbo sexy ladies meet with stylish accidents
that include a knife-throwing accident, a fall from
the big top, and being mauled in the cage by a bunch
of growling lions. While the masterpiece horror pic
about plastic surgeons and disfigured women is
undoubtedly the lyrical French film Eyes Without a
Face (1959) directed by Franju,
which sets the gold standard for this genre, this one
settles into being a disturbing but pleasingly bizarre
well-constructed B-film horror story that might be
crude and not too lyrical--but it holds your
Of the ladies not mentioned above but who added to the film's entertainment value, there was Vanda Hudson as an equestrienne queen and Erika Remberg as the bitchy high-wire artist.
REVIEWED ON 7/17/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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