There is something intensely disturbing about Vampire Circus, directed by Robert Young of future Bergerac fame.
I mean of course a lot contained here is laughable. I'm not going to lie to you. But there are a few things that really get under your skin.
First the length of the opening. Oh my God. This is the point where Hammer lost my good-will with their unnecessarily lengthy openings. Titles don't hit until about 15 minutes into the film. The film doesn't properly start until after that.
Secondly, implied paedophilic leanings of the characters Anna and the Count, highlighted within the opening scene, illustrated by the involvement this girl.
I'm not saying that means this is a bad, or even a mean spirited film. I'm just warning you. It's pretty heavy for a 70's vamp flick with questionable make up departments and uncomfortable looking fangs.
Quickly soon after this horribleness, we get some more horribleness once the townspeople run in on Anna and her undead lover. The little girls father cries over her dead body whilst the men dispatch of the Count who curses the townsfolk and their progeny. The townsfolk then proceed to frogmarch a naked Anna out to be whipped as punishment for her crimes.
This leads to a particularly uncomfortable exchange of dialogue:
Townsfolk 1: It's better this way.
Townsfolk 2: *low guttural perverted giggle*
Anna escapes, briefly resurrects the Count who gives her some knowledge and flash forward 15 years. A sickness has taken over the town, a slow moving plague which as taken 15 years to truly take effect. Some people believe it just to be the black death but others in the know...
Thankfully the circus has just arrived in town! Promising a much needed escape from the monotony of slow death.
Here is where the magic happens and Vampire Circus experiences a much needed upturn. The stunning Adrienne Corri with her trusted sidekicks The Strongman (David Prowse, more famously known as Darth Vader) and Michael the Dwarf (the gleefully evil Skip Martin) promise joy and fun... but unbeknownst to the village people Emil the long deceased Count's cousin has come to take revenge and finally resurrect his family.
Introduce our romantic leads in the form of Dora Muller (Lynne Frederick) and Anton Kersh (John Moulder-Brown) who do well to shoulder the ever convoluted plot.
A memorable plot point hinges on "The Mirror of Life". Without spoiling it too much, Dora and Anton's experience with the mirror is definitely worth a watch.
John Moulder-Brown does a good job as a boy transitioning to manhood, expected to bear the weight of the world far too young. Tasked with protecting his young beloved no matter what. Good thing she is pretty capable when it comes down to it.
Vampire Circus benefits from a fairy tale atmosphere which helps mask some of the more annoying plot holes. It's a dreamy film with rather well rounded characters, and the circus is particularly terrifying. It's a sexually charged film that offers something a little different than the usual bloodsucker from this era, and thats a welcome change. If you don't want to think about what you're chuckling at, maybe give this film a miss.
But really this is one of the better Hammer films. Trust me.