Vampire Circus Reviews
The story opens when a man observes his young bride leading a child off toward the castle of Count Rittenhouse, a tyrannical ruler who is feared by all of his subjects. Alarmed, he summons the men of the village and finally persuades them to attack Rittenhouse and free the child. Apparently, this has happened more than once in the village as the men finally overcome their fears and agree to storm the castle. Once inside though, the men find that they have stumbled onto more than they bargained for. Count Rittenhouse is more than just a madman. He is a mad vampire.
A battle ensues in which the men of the village finally get the best of Rittenhouse by staking him in the back. As the vampire lies dying, he pronounces a curse upon the village to the effect that the men who slew him will die, as well as their children, "to give me back my life."
Fifteen years later, the Circus of Nights comes to town featuring a bizzare cast of characters and rather scandalous entertainment. By now the town has fallen under a plague connected with the curse of Count Rittenhouse and is quarantined by its fearful neighbors. The circus has supposedly come to bring life back to the village, although, as time goes on, we see that they have really come to bring death to the village, and life to a certain vampire lying in the ruins of his castle crypt.
If you enjoy Hammer films or just vampire films in general, "Vampire Circus" is a must-see. For those of you who have seen it, it is well worth seeing again, although be warned, if you have never seen the uncut version, you might just be surprised. This movie was made when Hammer was going through its own sexual revolution and there are three scenes in which nudity is a factor although, in my opinion, "Vampire Circus" is not quite the "flesh-fest" production that "The Vampire Lovers" or "Countess Dracula" were.
If you haven't seen this film, it's well worth the time. If you have seen it and don't remember it or you're afraid that it might not be as good as you remember, you've got a real treat coming.
Made in Hammer's later days, "Vampire Circus" is thoroughly saturated with blood and sex for its time. Naked, shaven-headed woman painted with tiger stripes doing using a Cat Stevens look-alike as a stripper's pole? Check. Very large stake-like objects leaving gaping wounds in vampire chests? Check. Implied lesbianism, incest and male homoeroticism involving glammy vampires with long fangs, gold chokers, bare chests and unisex haircuts? Check. Blood dripping from necks and wrists, decapitation, and refined ladies passing out at the site of them while younger women have sex with cat-o-morphic vampires in panther cages? Check. Shamelessly silly dialogue delivered by terribly earnest actors? Check. Hammer fans, and genre fans in general, will NOT be disappointed with this one.
As an added bonus, you'll get Lalla Ward (the second actress to play Romana during Tom Baker's stint as Doctor Who, former girlfriend of Douglas Adams and current spouse of Richard Dawkins) fresh out of film school in her first major screen role. She plays Helga, one of a pair of vampire twins who feel each other's pain and show each other's wounds when one of them is injured. She plays her role with staring eyes and the most innocent grin to spout bloody fangs in vampire cinema history.
"Vampire Circus" is a ton of fun. It works not only as a Hammer period piece, but, unwittingly, a terrific time capsule of early 70's vampire horror in general. Plus, with the somewhat romanticized but still bloody-fanged undead, it makes for perfect common ground between fans of the current spate of rather tame vampire fare (I'm looking at you, "Eclipse" fans) and those who prefer their walking dead with more menace. A must-see for all vampire fans of an age to deal with mature themes and situations. Halloween fun!