Blood and Circuses
Vampire Circus UK 1972
Directed by Robert Young
Screening as part of a double bill in a pub
as part of the Classic Horror Campaign.
OK, short entry here because I was less than enamoured of this particular film.
This is the second of the two films I saw projected on a big screen at the Roxy Bar in London as a presentation of the Classic Horror Campaign (a campaign to bring back the classic, late night BBC2 horror double bills from the 70s and 80s... check out their website right here). I reviewed the first part, the always excellent Night of the Demon yesterday (reviewed here) and now it’s the turn of an interesting little Hammer movie, Vampire Circus.
Now I’ve slowly been getting back into Hammer gradually over the last couple of years but this is one I’ve not seen recently, if at all. If I ever did see it then it would have been back in the 70s when I was about 9 years old... and probably in an edited version on TV. Little parts of it did ring vague bells as I was watching but that also might be to the familiar locations and plot devices which it shares with a load of other Hammer movies of the time.
It’s weird I didn’t take to this one because there were some "less than common for the genre" elements to the film and, also, the hosts for the show cybershizoid (his blog here) and scaresarah (her blog here) had promised “blood and boobies”... and I do confess to having a penchant (weakness) for bosoms besmirched with a touch of Kensington gore... so this film should have been a shoe-in for me.
The film started off well enough with a bosomy vampire sex scene and a torch and pitchfork wielding angry mob exacting their furious vengeance on said vampire and his young lady... and of course, at the denouement of this set-up we had the time-honoured “curse” placed upon the “mobbed-up” villagers in question which then sets the pace (somewhat slow and lethargic in places) for the rest of the movie which occurs some twenty years after the “death” of the vampire in the prologue.
While the quarantined villagers are busy dying from a plague which, we find out later, is carried by the bite of vampire bats, a circus (indeed, a vampire circus) rolls into the village to kill the folk from the start of the film... and their young offspring. Now, I know this was a Hammer production but when I say circus I use the term loosely. I saw exactly "two small coaches only" roll into the community but from this they manage to construct a modest show including three animal cages and a hall of mirrors. That’s pretty good for two coaches... where did they keep all the people (the ones that weren’t slumbering in their tiger or panther guise that is). That’s pretty good going... I guess since they do have a mirror which is a portal to a place under a spooky vampire castle so they can do their vampiric murdering in relative peace, then a decent case could be made that their coaches are in fact dimensionally transcendental. Although, if this is the case, I don’t know why the villagers don’t rumble them any sooner.
Actually, looking at said villagers... I think I do know why they don’t rumble them sooner. The community in the film, it has to be said, is not one where intelligence and common sense prevail in an atmosphere of reason and logic. I wouldn’t like to live there or possibly even spend a few weeks there... but what can you expect, I guess, from a place which makes Thorley Walters their burgomaster!
Vampire Circus is a bit of a strange one in the Hammer cycle of films, at least to me since I’ve probably only seen about 50 or 60 of them. There are exploding, squib blood effects from impact wounds which I don’t remember seeing in a Hammer film before and the predominance of naked flesh on show place this film squarely after the far superior (in terms of atmosphere and watchability) The Vampire Lovers. This would normally be enough to engage me with the movie, at least on some level :D but on this occasion, even the presence of a future Doctor Who babe (Lalla Ward before here double stint as the Princess Astra and then second incarnation of Romana) was not enough to keep me entertained for this one. This is one DVD which I won’t be buying when it gets released later in the year but I’d still urge all Hammer fans to pick this one up if you’ve not seen it. Worth a look at least once.
Again, thanks and appreciation to the Classic Horror Campaign for putting on an enjoyable double bill of this and Night Of The Demon... if they do any more of these events you should get yourself there. The atmosphere of watching these kinds of movies with like-minded individuals is worth the price of admission alone.