Circus of Fear (Psycho Circus)

Circus of Fear (Psycho Circus)

Mystery, Thriller, Horror | 91 Mins | Released: 1966
Director: Werner Jacobs and John Llewellyn-Moxey
Starring: Christopher Lee, Leo Genn, Anthony Newlands, Heinze Drache, Eddi Arent, Klous Kinski, Margaret Lee
Our Rating: 5

When an armoured car is robbed, in a daring daylight raid on Tower Bridge, one of the gang hides the money in Barberini’s Circus. The police also investigate people being murdered by throwing knives. Gregor (Christopher Lee), is a facially scarred lion tamer, one of the many suspects in the case investigated by Scotland Yard‘s detective Elliot (Leo Genn). His examination of all the clues leads to a final denouement in front of the assembled suspects during a knife-throwing act.

Movie Notes:

The film was partially shot at Billy Smart’s Circus.

The film premiered in Germany on 29 April 1966 and in the UK in November 1967.

The Radio Times wrote, “Christopher Lee wears a black woolly hood for nearly all of his scenes in this lame whodunnit, with minor horrific overtones…but the stalwart efforts of the cast including Klaus Kinski and Suzy Kendall act as a welcome safety net for the shaky plot” ; while Britmovie called it “fairly suspenseful.”

When the police are chasing the van, the weather alternates between cloudy and rainy, and bright sunlight between shots.

Crew or equipment visible
About five minutes into the movie, when the police are chasing the van, the shadow of the camera is visible on the front of the van.

nifty little english take on the krimi genre
by witold_tietze from brisbane, australia – 21 January 2004
This movie proved to be a surprisingly effective spin on the then popular german genre of the “krimi”: a series of films, often from edgar wallace source novels, which tend to defy the generic conventions of crime dramas by moving into horror, espionage, even sci-fi at times.
Beginning with an energetically directed heist sequence, the film soon shifts gear and location, focussing on the machinations of circus folk, in particular the various affairs and double-dealings of a handful of seemingly innocent and not so innocent clowns, midgets, knife-throwers and lion tamers. the two stories are linked, but only about as much as the two stories in “psycho” are linked: one is there to purely to feed the other.
There are twists and turns galore in this film; perhaps a few too many to be entirely plausible. some of the dialogue scenes are a little stilted, too. however, john moxey’s direction tends to keep things going quite well, with some surprisingly sophisticated and kinetic direction. (note, for example, the way the loop of gregor’s whip hovers around mr big’s head to symbolise his attempts to psychologically ensnare his blackmailer.)
Performances are generally quite solid, including from the imported german cast (there presumably to keep west german krimi fans happy), and there are definitely a couple of standouts. klaus kinski is unintelligible a usual, especially as he’s forever got a cigarette in his mouth, but his presence lifts the film quite a bit. christopher lee is the only crashing disappointment, as he doesn’t appear until act two, he’s in a mask for most of the film, and his russian accent wavers a little. he really has no definitive presence here, and it’s not particularly his story. i’d also have recast a lot of the police officers for a modern audience, as although they’re quite old-fashioned (think dixon of dock green or pc 49), their dialogue would suit the stars of “the sweeney” with little adjustment. But then, in a microcosm of the characteristically unusual, perhaps a little grounding in sanity isn’t so bad!
Overall, this was a surprisingly effective film.  This is definitely a film worth seeing, especially if you want a decent introduction to the world of the krimi. Just don’t see it if you want a big christopher lee vehicle — he had more presence in “dracula”, and he was only in six minutes of that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>