Vampire Circus (1972) – By Duane L. Martin

It’s 19th century Europe, and people are disappearing from a village. A man is sitting in the woods writing in his journal when he suddenly spots his wife leading a child to the Count’s castle and gives chase. Once inside, the child is killed by the Count Mitterhaus, who is a vampire, and also the woman’s lover. Once the man figures out what’s going on, he rounds up the villagers and they break into the castle, discover the child and after fighting with the Count and staking him through the heart, he utters one last curse upon them that their children will die to give him back his life. He collapses, and they remove the woman and the girl from the castle before they burn the place down. He manages to stagger down to the basement and into his coffin before he’s burned up however, and there he stays, waiting for his minions to restore him to life. The man’s wife is beaten by the villagers, but before they can kill her, he takes pity upon her and saves her life, allowing her to flee.

Years later, the town is consumed by a plague and has been isolated from the other villages. While a local doctor escapes to the capitol to discover a cure and bring back medicine, the Count’s curse comes to fruition in the form of a Circus that somehow manages to break the blockade and enter into town. The villagers, grateful for a chance to forget their troubles for a while, attend the circus regularly, but when their children start to disappear, suspicions rise and their children, one by one are sacrificed and their blood used to bring the Count back to life. Will they discover the secret before it’s too late, or will the town be consumed by the Count’s vengeance?

I know this is unfortunately a woefully inadequate description of the film, but there was so much going on, it’s difficult to encapsulate it all into a couple of short paragraphs.

I’ll preface this review by stating right up front that I’ve never been into Hammer horror films. Not because I don’t like them, but because I’ve never really seen all that many. This studio produced a lot of films in its day, but I’ve only ever seen maybe two or three of them, including this one. I’m not sure why that is, but after seeing this one, I’m definitely going to make it a point to see more of them!

Vempire Circus has pretty much every element you could want in a horror film. Great characters, hot women, a vampire, pestillence, death, a creepy circus with an even creepier midget clown, boobs, bats, a tiger, a panther…you name it. All the elements are there and the end result is a film that’s a perfect example of what a horror movie should be.

What struck me most about this film was not only the perfect settings and set design, but also the vibrancy of the colors. Torchlight on the walls, the greens of the forest, the grays of the underground tomb of the Count, the flashing colors of the circus and it’s many amazing acts, the light tan and browns of the plague riddled town. Most people tend not to notice how colors can contribute to the feel of a film, and generally no one things too much about it, but in this case, they really did.

Something else I really enjoyed about this film was the story itself. It was very well written, perfectly paced and was full of characters that were distinctly individual and creative. You actually cared about the villagers. You marveled at the bizarre nature of the circus folk, you feel the evil from the Count and you pull for the young people to survive when they’re faced with their impending doom. The visuals of the film grab your attention, but it’s the characters and the great story that won’t let you go.

Looking back on it, I really can’t think of anything negative to say about this film. I’m sitting here trying to think of even one thing I didn’t like, and I just can’t come up with anything. This was just an amazing film, and one you’ll definitely want to own. It’s the kind of a film that’s awesome for pulling out for the occasional midnight viewings with friends or family, and you absolutely can’t go wrong with this new Synapse Blu-Ray / DVD combo pack release.

Synapse has long been known for the superior quality of its releases, and this film is no exception. The visuals and the vibrancy of the colors are amazing. The transfer was really well done, and it boasts a variety of great special features, including a documentary about the making of the film, a brief history of circus horrors, a featurette called "Visiting the House of Hammer", a Vampire Circus motion comic book, a still and poster gallery and the theatrical trailer. It’s another top notch release from Synapse, and I absolutely can’t recommend it enough. I should also mention that this is Synapse’s first entry into the Blu-Ray / DVD combo pack arena, and they couldn’t have made a better entrance.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out it’s page on the Synapse Films website at http://synapse-films.com/synapse-films/vampire-circus. Be sure to check out their other great releases as well while you’re there!