Director: Robert Young
Writers: Judson Kinberg, George Baxt, Wilbur Stark
Cast: Adrienne Corri, Laurence Payne, Thorley Walters, John Moulder Brown
Despite having to use sets from previous Hammer films such as The Scarlet Blade, The Devil-Ship Pirates and Twins Of Evil, Vampire Circus is a highly original reworking of the blood-sucking theme that the British horror studio made its own in the ’60s and early ’70s.
Vampire Circus is also less camp and theatrical than some of its predecessors: that’s due in part to some fine acting from the likes of ADRIENNE CORRI, ANTHONY CORLAN and THORLEY WALTERS, but also to director Robert Young, whose quest for authenticity extended to the use of real bats, unlike previous Hammer horrors which relied on special effects.
The horror pic is set in 1825, in the Serbian village of Schtettel. It is 15 years since the villagers destroyed local vampire Count Mitterhaus (ROBERT TAYMAN), but they now face another threat to their health: the plague. A local doctor, Kersh (RICHARD OWENS), and his son Anton (JOHN MOULDER BROWN) go off to find medicine, but return to find a mysterious circus in situ. The troupe is in fact run by Count Mitterhaus’s cousin, Emil (ANTHONY CORLAN), and the performers are all vampires who can magically change into animals. The villagers are soon under attack, and it’s left to the good doctor and his son to face Emil and his reanimated uncle, who’s no longer out for the Count.
First-time director Robert Young creates some genuinely frightening set-pieces, and horror aficionados recognise Vampire Circus as one of Hammer’s most ambitious and successful projects. Adrienne Corri is excellent as the seductive gypsy woman who has a mysterious past, while there’s also a cameo from DAVE PROWSE (aka Darth Vadar) as a circus strongman.