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Anchor Bay presents
Circus of Horrors (1960)

"A thief and a prostitute. The perfect candidate for the Schueler Circus."
- Schueler (Anton Diffring)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: December 07, 2001

Stars: Anton Diffring, Erika Remberg, Yvonne Monlaur
Other Stars: Donald Pleasence, Jane Hylton, Conrad Phillips, Vanda Hudson, Yvonne Romain, Kenneth Griffith
Director: Sidney Hayers

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief graphic violence)
Run Time: 01h:31m:44s
Release Date: October 23, 2001
UPC: 013131144390
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ C+AB B-

DVD Review

Circus Of Horrors is a relatively unknown 1960 British shocker from director Sidney Hayers (Burn, Witch, Burn) wonderfully resurrected here by Anchor Bay. A creepy circus movie is always welcome in my house, and the George Baxt (Horror Hotel) screenplay, while maybe a wee bit short on actual horror, does layer enough dark greasepaint for an ideal rainy Saturday afternoon viewing.

The film opens in England in 1947, and introduces us to Dr. Rossiter (Anton Diffring), a renegade plastic surgeon. After one of his high profile patients has gone mad after a botched operation leaves her horribly disfigured, Rossiter is forced to go on the lam into France with his faithful sidekicks, brother and sister Martin (Kenneth Griffith) and Angela (Jane Hylton). Renaming himself Bernard Schueler, the good doctor stumbles across a run-down circus owned by drunkard Vanet (Donald Pleasence). After performing some successful reconstructive surgery to the disfigured daughter of Vanet, Schueler enters into a deal to help make the circus a money-maker again.

Being that he's an "evil plastic surgeon," it isn't long before Schueler has concocted a diabolical plan to perform identity-altering plastic surgery on various local riff-raff. In exchange for their new faces, they will have to join the circus as performers. The catch is that Schueler never intends to let any of his performers leave the circus, alive that is.

The year before the release of Circus Of Horrors, Anton Diffring had made a real name for himself in The Man Who Cheated Death. German-born Diffring, with his cold stare and thin-lipped snarl, was a natural for the controlling Schueler in the Hayers film. His hard-edged, controlling characterization of the mad doctor, with his seemingly unnatural love for all things disfigured, is a B-movie treat. Except for Schueler's forays into orchestrating a few murders, his apparent skills as a surgeon are unparalleled, but I guess that's why he's evil and not good.

Hayers has filled the supporting players roster well. Aside from a brief turn by Donald Pleasence, most of the cast are knockout, Schueler-reconstructed female criminals. Erika Remberg (The Lickerish Quartet), Yvonne Monlaur (Brides Of Dracula), Vanda Hudson and Yvonne Romain give Schueler's circus boost the hip, groovy 1960s' sexiness factor.

While the bulk of the film takes place within Schueler's circus, there is surprisingly little horror to be found. Only three circus-related murders occur during the entire film, and two of those are garishly shown on the back cover and the DVD menu. The premise of a circus populated by criminals, run by a demented control freak, is plenty creepy for me, and even if the story goes a little flat here and there, Circus Of Horrors is a cool entry in the school of stylish British horror films.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.77:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Prepare to be amazed! Anchor Bay has come through with a spectacular 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen image transfer for Circus Of Horrors. I really found it hard to believe this film was made in 1960, as this pristine transfer is completely free of any annoying specks or blemishes. Colors and flesh tones have an even, warm and natural look, while the circus sequences are appropriately bright and gaudy. Some minor color flicker just before scene changes is minor. This is one gorgeous transfer.

High marks to Anchor Bay on this one. Beautiful.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Two very clean mono tracks, in English and French, compliment the image transfer perfectly. Nothing flashy here, just better-than-average 1960s' mono. Dialogue is sharp, with really no noticeable hiss or distortion.

Simple, but effective.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills Gallery
  2. Posters & Advertising
Extras Review: Not much in the way of extras, other than a pretty extensive gallery of stills and promotional posters. There are over 75 color and black & white promotional photos and behind-the-scenes stills, and over 50 examples of promotional material for the film, including international posters and lobby cards.

The remaining extras feature 1 theatrical trailer, 3 television spots (in black & white), a lengthy bio and filmography on Anton Diffring, and 27 chapter stops. The insert, which features the chapter selections, is printed on heavy stock and features a very colorful recreation of the original promotional poster on the reverse side.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Not the bloodiest movie ever made, nor the scariest. But if you like dark stories with a circus background, you owe it to yourself to check out Circus Of Horrors. German great Anton Diffring's violently obsessive Dr. Schueler makes an almost sympathetic villain, if you can get past his propensity to kill.

Anchor Bay's impressive image transfer is the selling point on this disc

 


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