Vampire Circus

6.31 h 27 min1972PG
Traveling performers take revenge against the Serbian villagers whose ancestors killed their leader 100 years ago.
Lynn FrederickAdrienne Corri
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Michael CarrerasWilbur Stark
Horror and SciFi
PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
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4.6 out of 5 stars

380 global ratings

  1. 73% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 16% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Britt Le BonzoReviewed in the United States on October 6, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
From The Bottom of the Hammer Vaults .....
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This is one of the worst Hammer Films I've ever seen. I'm a fan of the early films - especially, "The Horror of Dracula", Brides of Dracula", and "Kiss of the Vampire". "Vampire Circus", has very cheap production values, the actors have zero charisma or stage presence. Hammer threw this thing together to make a fast buck when they were on the decline. Elvira would have a ball with this - I can just hear her wisecracks, "Where did the Count buy his necklace - from WalMart"?! Save your money and buy the excellent bargain priced Hammer Horror 8 movie boxed set on Blu-ray - it's a tremendous value. "Vampire Circus", would only be entertaining to someone who is stoned or drunk and wants a good laugh.
6 people found this helpful
Tuatha DedanannReviewed in the United States on October 24, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
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beautiful Hammer-& one of the most; what a wonderful feeling to see the poster of this movie a few hours ago; this film had been lost in the trenches of my memory since the 70s when I was a wee lad; paging and paging through the pictures in that Hammer films book my brother and I were given deeply branded my brain (unbeknownst to me at the time) and somehow awoke and aligned themselves with old relatives in my DNA; luckily I was able to catch many of Hammer's films on TV movie matinees and whatnot through the years and pick out which movie was responsible for which benevolent traumatic memory scarring scary picture, like the day I stumbled upon The Reptile as an adult, for one; now, that radical imagery found on the movie poster for Vampire Circus had been absolutely lost in my brain's file cabinet til the last twenty four hours; seeing that "painting" again was electrifying and the film itself did not disappoint; this is taking a place at the top of my favorite Hammer films pile; the effects, costumes, make-up, scenery, and just about everything was tops; the two dudes playing vampires fit the bill, nailing the façade of the necessary characters' personas; just nailed it
8 people found this helpful
Tate HemlockReviewed in the United States on October 12, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
All All Time FAVE! On Blu Ray! Color Me Pleased!
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I saw a cruddy bootleg copy the first time I saw Vampire Circus and it was the US theatrical version at that. One that was heavily censored to obtain a PG rating. Hard to imagine a PG rating considering some of the suggestive themes of bestiality, incest and infanticide pervasive throughout the film. How did the Brain Police do it?!?!

Vampire Circus was produced by Hammer Films in 1971, the beginning of the time period that would see the formidable horror studio’s eventual decline. It was directed by a relative newcomer named Robert Young (who later directed Fierce Creatures, the rather weak sequel to the classic comedy A Fish Called Wanda) from a screenplay by Judson Kinberg. These were not names known to fans of Hammer’s classic horror films and at least the director was undoubtedly influenced by the post-modern movement that had radically altered the cinematic landscape. Despite it’s gothic trappings, Vampire Circus is a Felliniesque, hallucinatory and erotically charged mind-melt that has more in common with the bolder, more sexually charged horror films coming out of continental Europe than the “traditional” Hammer horror film.

The film opens in an idyllic forest outside the town of Schtettel. Schoolmaster Albert Müeller (Laurence Payne) witnesses his wife Anna (Domini Blythe) taking a little girl to the castle of Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman), who is either the lead singer of Roxy Music or a vampire. Turns out he’s a vampire. Mitterhaus proceeds to murder the child and feast on it’s blood. This was not common in horror films of the day. In fact, children in this film are nothing but food for these vampires. It gets worse. Mitterhaus turns to Anna and says, “One lust feeds another” and before the corpse is even cold, the two of them are writhing around naked together on the bed. Hammer was known for it’s breasts and blood and this film features both in abundance!

Meanwhile, Müeller has convinced some of the townspeople that the local aristocrat is to blame for the town’s missing children and they grab torches and proceed to the castle where they manage to drive a stake through the Count’s heart. As he lays dying, Mitterhaus curses the villagers, vowing that their children will die to give him back his life. The angry townspeople grab Anna and proceed to give her a whuppin' until her distraught husband intervenes. She bolts into the castle as the villagers proceed to burn it down. She grabs the Count and drags him to the crypts where in his last dying breath he tells her to find his cousin Emil who will know what to do so he can exact his vengeance.

Flash forward 15 years. The village is ravaged by plague and blockaded by the authorities. The peasants think this is the Count’s curse come back to haunt them but the local doctor Kersh (Richard Owens) is not convinced. He doesn’t believe in vampires and even Müeller is in denial that the good Count was in fact a vampire. Kersh escapes past the blockade to try and find medicine to cure the plague.

Unfortunately, something else gets past the blockade. A traveling circus called The Circus of Nights arrives in town, led by a dwarf clown (Skip Martin) and a mysterious Gypsy woman (Adrienne Corri). Other members of the troupe include a strongman (David Prowse, who later played Darth Vader in some film called Star Wars) and brother and sister twin acrobats (Robin Sachs and Doctor Who’s Lalla Ward), whose fondness for each other enters the realm of oo-ee-oo creepy. Also part of the troupe is a pair of dancers (Serena and Milovan Vesnitch), one of whom is the naked Tiger Lady, painted head to toe in tiger stripes, and finally, the mysterious Emil (Anthony Higgins using the name Anthony Corlan), another refuge from Bowie’s Spiders From Mars who can shapeshift into a panther! Oh and he just happens to be the good Count’s cousin. The strange circus attractions bewitch the bourgeois townsfolk with provocative sights and lurid weirdness and none of them surprisingly suspect the truth!

Anyway, the Circus of Nights precedes to start murdering the children in the village and dripping their blood on the Count’s corpse, still buried in the crypts beneath the rubble of the Castle. Soon they set their eyes on Dr Kersh’s son Anton (John Moulder-Brown) and Müeller’s daughter Dora (the completely adorable Lynne Frederick who later married Peter Sellers for his money and inherited his estate and gave none of it to his actual children).

There’s a lot of gore in this film, more so than in your typical Hammer film and even though it is kinda cheesy compared to today and flashes onscreen so quickly if you blink you miss it, it still must have been kinda shocking back in the day.GASP! Gore! There’s also a lot of breasts. Christine Paul-Podlasky is one of the first victims but Emil makes sure to get her naked and roll around with her in an animal cage first. Remember he can turn into a panther!! A first date bonus!

So Vampire Circus is definitely not your typical vampire film. Honestly any film that shows the death of children is terribly disturbing as it is. Especially one which evokes such eroticism but replaces it with death. However I think the main theme of the film deals with class struggles. One thing the vampires don’t do is make any of their victims into vampires. Both of them are aristocrats of some sort (vaguely German even and victimizing a town whose name is very similar to the word shtetl which is Yiddish for “town” ) who exploit the peasants not just economically but physically as well. By not making any of them into vampires, not even in death can the peasants rise above their status. The heroes in this story are all in the professional classes, doctors and schoolteachers, who stand in-between the evil rich and the poor and needy. I think the fear of all things European that so haunted the movies after World War I and II is still in effect here as well. Eventually Americans would sort’ve abandon these concepts and turn vampires into what they are today. Sorta metrosexual, sparkly Justin Beiber looking things. I think I’ll stick with the old school.

This Blu Ray comes with a wealth of AWESOME bonus features including a making of the film documentary, a look at Circus themed horror films, theatrical trailers and more!!! Highly recommended! Psychedelic, creepy and exceptional! Easily Hammer's best film from the final years.
16 people found this helpful
Forest NymphReviewed in the United States on May 22, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
Animals in Small Cages
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I'm really put off by the animals in small cages, though I know that was normal for the time period they're trying to convey. I just don't particularly see the allure of Hammer films - why everyone gives them five stars when old horror films that are equally good or better are heavily criticized. I suspect it is a nostalgia thing, kind of like the way I like ghost stories from the late 70s and early 80s even if they're not exactly stellar cinema. Vampire Circus isn't terrible but it's kind of silly.
One person found this helpful
Adam R. SegaardReviewed in the United States on July 29, 2018
3.0 out of 5 stars
every aspect of this movie is done better elseware
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This review is for the average consumer that hasn't seen the movie.
First, let me tell you that you can watch it for free. The full movie is on you tube.
That would be the way to go if you have never watched Vampire Circus.
I payed 17.99 for the Blue-ray/DVD combo. I feel a more fitting price would have been 6 or 8 bucks.

I read reviews that complained about poor picture quality. I watched the Blu-ray, picture quality is fine, no picture quality complaint from me.

The bonus features include a couple of pieces that consist of recent interviews with movie historians. The main thing I got out of those is that Hammer studio had a strict policy of six week to shoot a film, and was satisfied to put this film out for public consumption unfinished.

More articulate people than I, have waxed the ins and out, ups and downs of this picture, so I won't.
Except: there are better Hammer pictures. There are better Vampire pictures. There are better Circus / carny /side show pictures.
In fact every aspect of this movie is done better elseware.
4 people found this helpful
EinsatzReviewed in the United States on July 24, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
"One lust feeds another."
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What fun, the circus has come to town! Okay, they're vampires with a grudge, but dandy performers nonetheless! They show up in this cursed village to revive Cousin Mitterhaus, a voracious blood sucker with a predilection for the blood of children. But first, a show! They have but a few acts and a hall of mirrors that lead into the destroyed castle of Count Mitterhaus. But it's enough to take the sad villagers' minds off of the impending doom of dying from a curse, a plague, or being sucked dry by the vampire circus freaks. Or, they can try to escape and risk being shot by the patrol manning the blockade to their unfair city. Life gets complicated when their children go missing and the point in hiding the truth has long since lapsed. They soon learn the painful truth that crosses only work on vampires, not the humans that work for them.

What a fabulous film, I was happy I took the chance and bought it sight unseen. It's campy, bloody, grotesque, erotic, and unsettling (they specialize in children as their victims). I thought it was very stylish. And very well made for a film that's incomplete. (The director needed more time to finish the project but was told time's up, make do with what you've got. And he certainly did.) Wow, what a freaky film...................loved it!
2 people found this helpful
Robert FirthReviewed in the United States on August 3, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
A classic faithfully transferred to modern media.
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Vampire Circus is an island in the Hammer vampire country, being part of neither the Dracula nor the Karnstein canon. It is also one of my favourites, so I welcomed the Synapse edition. The movie is really creepy, as is established in the prologue scene, which has a Count who likes to suck little girls even younger than Dolores Haze. Suck their blood, that is. Fifteen years later, the circus comes to town, with a shapeshiftng panther, a nude tiger woman, and future Doctor Who companion Lalla Ward as a cute incentuous teenage acrobat. Plus the heaps of unnecessary sex-&-violernce that we all enjoyed.

The transfer is very good. The audio has been cleaned up; it is still mono of course, but the dynamic range has been improved. The colour is crisp and clear; overall the brightness is lower than usual, but that's why we have controls on our TV sets, and it came over very well on my widescreen HDTV. Best of all, the various bits that the censors chopped out have been put back.

The movie is not perfect: many linking scenes were never shot, because the production ran out of time, so the continuity can be a bit choppy. And the producer decided to cast real bats for the batty scenes, which didn't work too well because bats are rather poor at taking direction. But the movie remains a classic of its time and provenance.
8 people found this helpful
Mark A. KnightReviewed in the United States on January 9, 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
Disturbingly Good
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This 1972 movie, maybe the last vampire film Hammer Studios did, is stunning on many levels. A Thank You card should be sent to Synapse Films for releasing it to North America. The transfer is very good. The special features are really SPECIAL and informative.

I had read a little about Vampire Circus in horror fan magazines before finally viewing an edited version on US television. Even in it's trimmed state Vampire Circus was a visual, emotional and visceral experience. Along with the obvious new freedom of showing more sex and violence, films of the early 70s questioned authority and left moral quandaries in the viewers head. Hammer followed this trend with Twins of Evil and Vampire Circus. In both movies the persecuted towns people are no longer innocent victims. Twins of Evil showed Peter Cushings Brotherhood witch burners/vampire killers just as evil as the vampiric Count Karnstein. The difference is they were misguided but Karnstein knew exactly what he was doing.

The villagers in Vampire Circus are basically self centered cowards who would almost sacrifice their children than confront a powerful nobleman. That the undead bloodsuckers in Vampire Circus seem to prefer killing children over adults is jaw dropping. Even in 1931s pre-Code Frankenstein Boris Karloff's monster only threw the little girl in the lake because he thought she would float like a flower. These undead are truly perverse and frightening. In 2011, this pedophilic plot does accomplish what most Hammer films fail at, it makes you queazy and really care about the victims. That this is exploitive is unquestionable. However, the artistry of this well made film in showing the hypocricy of normal people, makes one take the film seriously as a legitimate examination of our societies values.

The movie as a whole is very exciting. The first 12 minutes have so much intrigue and action the main body of the film almost seems like a sequel, but a GOOD sequel. Both Robert Tayman as lead vampire Count Mitterhaus and Anthony Corlin as his cousin Emil, who fulfils the Counts curse on the villagers, are handsome, sensual and menicing at the same time. Classic Hammer director Terrance Fisher stated in making Horror of Dracula with Christpher Lee in 1958 that he wanted to show the attractiveness of Evil. Vampire Circus director Robert Young definitely learned from the master.

A humerious side note, Cousin Emil seems downright stoned in parts. Hey, it was the 70s, and the deadpan expressions and crazed eye rollings could just as easily fit an undead monster who enjoys his work, as a young, long haired actor experiementing and enjoying the hedonistic decade. Everyone in the movie is perfectly cast. See this one.
5 people found this helpful
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