SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!
The children of a village have been going missing, the villagers then discover that it's the doing of a vampire called Count Mitterhaus with the help from a wife of one of the villagers who has joined the vampire. The villagers lay siege to the castle and slay the vampire but not after he puts a curse on their village and swears his return. 15 years later, the village is dying of the plague and a circus comes to town, unbeknown to the villagers the circus is a group of vampires who are using the blood of the innocent to reawaken Count Mitterhaus.
Vampire Circus is a 1972 Hammer production. It stars Adrienne Corri, Thorley Walters and Anthony Higgins (as Anthony Corlan). It was directed by Robert Young.
The battle at the start of the film is pretty good, especially by Hammer's standards. The vampire Count Matterhaus takes on a group of villagers one after the other, biting their throats, cutting their throats with a knife and so on. It also has to be said that Robert Tayman is great as Count Matterhaus, he is at times very creepy looking and makes you feel quite uneasy. It's just such a shame that he only appears at the beginning and the end of the film.
I could swear that guy just staked him in the crotch.
He DID! He DID stake him in the CROTCH! I realise it didn't hurt him because it wasn't a stake to the heart, but you'd think surely even a vampire would react to getting a stake to the goolies. But no, not him, he's a bad ass vampire with balls of steel!
Now I know it's a circus but the film is set in a time when people would yell “WITCHCRAFT!” if someone was good at holding their breath under water. So for them to think nothing of a panther transforming into a man or a pair of bats transforming into a twin brother and sister is more than a bit odd. Surely this would be a call for “WITCHCRAFT!” They should at least be suspicious, especially seen as 15 years earlier they fought a vampire, and vampires are commonly associated with bats and that of the ability to transform between human and bat.
The graphic violence seems that bit more graphic than usual for Hammer, notably when we see the remains of 3 people after they were slaughtered by the panther. Another strong moment was when we see a female victim with blood oozing out of her throat after being bitten by one of the vampires.
I think this is the only other thing I've ever seen Lalla Ward in other than Doctor Who, and it's quite a change from the family friendly Romana she would go on to play several years after the role of a seductive, kidnapping vampire in this.
It's evident that this was one of Hammer's experimental films, made when they started experimenting with their greatest asset; period vampire tales. Around this time they continued to make vampire tales but changed them slightly to give them a fresh new angle, to try and branch out and keep with the times, because in the 1970s audiences were growing away from typical period horror films. Other experimental films Hammer made around this time were Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter which tells the tale of Captain Kronos who was once a vampire but cured himself of it and now hunts vampires, it was a sort of Gothic style Blade. There was also Dracula AD 1972 which does exactly as it says in the title, takes Dracula and plonks him in 1972. After that there was The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, which crossed Gothic vampires with Kung Fu. HAI YAH!
Awesome Moment Number 1: Lalla Ward's character getting staked by a giant falling cross. Which not only kills her but also her twin brother because they're twins they are for some reason connected so they feel each other's pain. She gets staked and he gets a huge puncture hole in his chest, killing them both.
Awesome Moment Number 2: Count Matterhaus getting decapitated by the wire of a crossbow. He gets his head put through a crossbow then the guy holding it fires causing the wire to go straight through Count Matterhaus' throat, taking his head clean off.
Overall, I rather liked it. It was different to other Hammer vampire tales, the violence seemed to step up quite a bit compared to usual. The story was fresh and original and succeeded in what Hammer had intended; a fresh new take on classic vampire tales. I would definitely recommend this to fans of Hammer and other classic British horror films.
Vampire Circus 4/5