CIRCUS OF FEAR (1966) – The Dungeon Review!
Not all circus and carnival fare is created equally. I figured I was in pretty good hands with John Llewellyn Moxey who directed City of the Dead. Add the appearance of Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski’s names in the credits and that always alluring circus theme and I was ready to be wowed! Are you familiar with the term Krimi? I was not until recently; although I had seen some films that are in fact “Krimi Classics” I was not familiar with the term. The Krimi film movement began during the silent era and was particularly active in the sixties thanks to Rialto Films. The Krimi film movement are German made films based on the work of crime writer Edgar Wallace. Circus of Fear is in fact a UK film but it is also based on the writing of Edgar Wallace. Circus of Fear certainly seemed to have a lot going for it, but sadly it is pretty mediocre.
Circus of Fear opens with a robbery sequence where a guard is shot and a lot of money goes missing. Clues lead Scotland Yard to investigate a travelling circus. The Barberini Circus provides a host of suspicious and eccentric characters. The sack-wearing lion tamer, a jealous knife-thrower and a ringmaster out for revenge are just a few of the suspects. Circus of Fear is messy and convoluted. Somewhere under the rubble is an interesting story that just did not quite materialize. The film is rather horror-less and seemed more like an Agatha Christie sort of thing. Some of the visuals were sloppy. You can tell at times when stock footage is used and the scenes shot in the dark are very difficult to see. Christopher Lee wears an awful, cheap, crappy looking sack for most of the film that irritated the hell out of me. The sack was ill-fitted and the mouth and eyeholes were all wrong! I really hated that damn sack! Is the sack hiding a horribly disfiguring scar or simply his real identity? You will have to watch the film to find out, but don’t expect anything terribly surprising here. Sound was also a problem; it was a challenge at times to make out what the characters were saying.
Circus of Fear does have some fun characters and the performances are good. I particularly enjoyed Margaret Lee who plays the circus’ naughty beauty Gina, Leo Genn is strong as Scotland Yard inspector Elliot, Klaus Kinski has a minor role and doesn’t speak much but still manages to leave an impression, Skip Martin is most amusing in his role as Mr. Big and despite that stupid bloody sack, Christopher Lee is great.
Circus of Fear is not without its entertaining moments. The robbery scene that opens the film is energetic and well-executed. It made for an intriguing introduction. There are also a couple of scenes that are effectively suspenseful; but since there are so few I will not divulge. There is also some humour in Circus of Fear that works quite well. Circus of Fear is rather messy to put it plainly, but it has enjoyable bits scattered throughout to make it watchable enough. Circus of Fear is lightly recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 3/5
Directed By: John Llewellyn Moxey
Starring: Christopher Lee, Leo Genn, Anthony Newlands, Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Suzy Kendall, Cecil Parker, Victor Maddern, Maurice Kaufmann, Lawrence James, Tom Bowman, Skip Martin, Fred Powell