Vampire Circus

March 5, 2012 at 9:47 pm (6 Heads, Vampire Circus) (, , , , , , )

Vampire Circus – 1972 – England

Vampire Circus is almost Hammer Film Productions’ last period flick. It’s also their best effort of the 70s. That’s great, since it would be shameful to waste Vampire Circus’ evocative premise.

An intense prologue features sex, whipping, an exploding castle, and a bat flying out of a skull. Later we enter a quarantined village whose inhabitants fear a plague, or possibly a vampiric curse. The villagers have a discourse on science vs. spirituality until a sinister gypsy circus arrives, including a dwarf clown, strongman, slinky ringmistress, and werepanther. Secretly, the gypsies enact dark rites to resurrect their vampire lord. After several brutal murders, the villagers face the vampire and slay him, incredibly, by decapitating him with a snapping crossbow string.

While Vampire Circus has simplistic effects and overwrought dialogue, its atmosphere is elevated by great sets, costumes, and cinematography. Hammer flicks excellently mingle the sublime and macabre, and Vampire Circus is no exception. The mystical and mysterious are deftly combined with visceral gore and sexuality. This is illustrated best in a scene where a gypsy and nude tiger lady perform an elegantly acrobatic and erotic dance with undertones of violent struggle.  Also notable is a scene in which a vampire’s lovemaking is interrupted as he battles enraged villagers in his bedchamber.

Vampire Circus has everything we dig about Hammer horror, with all the splashing blood, arcane rituals, and period ambiance. Plus, the circus elements add playful flavor missing from Hammer’s darker offerings. It amounts to gruesome, sexy fun with no shortage of pathos.

Rating: 6/10 Shrunken Heads. Actor David Prowse who plays the strongman, is also the body of Darth Vader!

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