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Paramount Home Video presents
Ring of Fear (1954)

"No man can ever recapture a dream."
- Dublin O'Malley (Sean McClory)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: June 07, 2006

Stars: Clyde Beatty, Mickey Spillane
Other Stars: Pat O'Brien, Sean McClory, Marian Carr, John Bromfield
Director: James Edward Grant

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:33m:10s
Release Date: June 06, 2006
UPC: 097368876743
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- CBB- D-

DVD Review

Oh, to run away from it all and join the circus! To do feats of derring-do while crowds ooh and aahh and cheer! To lead an itinerant life, from town to town, with elephants and camels and tigers! To murder those who have wronged you, without a sociopathic care in the world! Okay, so this last one fits only the main character of this peculiar little movie, which features rickety construction and the novelty of pulp novelist Mickey Spillane playing himself. It may be messy and frequently predictable, but it is spirited, and it's got more than its share of man-eating animals, and really, no movie can ever have enough of those.

This one isn't much of a whodunit, because after an opening aria in which the circus train pulls into town, providing an impromptu parade of clowns and animals, we meet the main character, Dublin O'Malley, who is unsuccessfully trying to talk his way out of a mental institution. The psychiatrists are wise to him—he's no R. P. McMurphy—and he's far too fiercely attached to a snapshot of a trapeze artist looking a bit too fetching in her professional costume. Dublin busts out of the sanatorium anyway, and returns to the Clyde Beatty Circus, where he's previously worked as a ringmaster. Beatty and his employees don't know the specifics of Dublin's whereabouts all these years, and so they're happy to welcome him back into their merry band.

It's Dublin's chance to mend fences with the woman in the photo—but it's been years now, and the lovely Valerie is now married to Armand, a jealous acrobat, and they've got a cute little daughter named Suzette. Things start going wrong around the circus—ropes break, animals are wild, things just generally get out of hand, and there's a sneaking suspicion that the operation may be jinxed. Trying to puzzle out the mystery is Pat O'Brien as Frank Wallace, who runs the operation—and who better than his old pal Spillane to try to get to the bottom of the mystery?

Of course, for us, there's not much mystery, though Sean McClory does make for a great crazy man. Some of the circus stuff is lurid, but it's not as down and dirty and as goofy as something like Nightmare Alley—and in fact great chunks of the running time are given over simply to some of the circus acts performing. These are shot from a great distance and from a low angle; perhaps this was intended to mask the fact that stunt doubles and not the actors are performing these tricks, but it's a pretty sorry substitute for actually being in the big top. Spillane is surprisingly at ease in front of the camera; he's teamed up with a New York cop named Jack Stang, also playing himself, though masquerading initially as a reporter doing a piece on the circus. Most of the pleasures to be had aren't from the three rings, but from Dublin trying to upend the happy little acrobat family and stir up trouble, with his accomplice, a liquored-up clown called Twitchy. (As long as the surgeon doesn't sport that nickname, you know?)

So it's Dublin as a psycho and lots of snarling animals that are the draw here, because the narrative and the behind-the-scenes stuff is kind of dull—it's a movie that figures that you don't need a story when you've got footage of a lion tamer at work.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The print is garishly saturated, and has been transferred respectably. It's a movie made in the pre-home video age, though, and some of it can look unpleasant or remote, or both, on your television.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: There's nothing subtle about the circus, nor about this audio transfer—it's a louder-is-better mix, and may leave you reaching for the Tylenol.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring The John Wayne Collection
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Only chapter stops, English subtitles, and a trailer for John Wayne DVD releases.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Kind of a cut-rate, pulpy version of The Greatest Show on Earth, more memorable for some onscreen psychosis than for its circus sequences.


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