Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 2nd, 2016
Theatrical Release Dates: UK, August 4th, 1967 (Five Golden Dragons)
Directors: John Moxey (Circus of Fear), Jeremy Summers (Five Golden Dragons)
Writer: Harry Alan Towers (Both Films)
Cast: Christopher Lee, Leo Genn, Anthony Newlands, Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Suzy Kendall (Circus of Fear), Robert Cummings, Margaret Lee, Rupert Davies, Klaus Kinski, Maria Rohm, Ingrid, Sieghardt Rupp, Roy Chiao, Brian Donlevy, Dan Duryea, Christopher Lee, George Raft, Maria Perschy (Five Golden Dragons)
BluRay released: June 28th, 2016
Approximate running times: 91 minutes (Circus of Fear), 104 minutes (Five Golden Dragons)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The Girl from Rio), 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Five Golden Dragons)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (Both Films)
Subtitles: English SDH (Both Films)
BluRay Release: Blue Underground
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.98
Circus of Fear was directed by John Moxley whose other notable films as a director include, The City of the Dead and The Night Stalker. Key collaborators on Circus of Fear include, composer Johnny Douglas (Mozambique, Code 7, Victim 5) and screenwriter / producer Harry Alan Towers (Eugenie… the Story of Her Journey into Perversion, Venus in Furs).
Circus of Fear is one of three films that Harry Allen Towers produced that were adapted from novels written by Edgar Wallace. With the other two film adaptions being, Death Drums Along the River and Coast of Skeletons.
Content wise, though the title and main location gives off the impression that Circus of Fear might be a Horror film. The end result is something closer to the Thriller genre. And things start off strong with a well-executed opening sequence where a heist takes place on a bridge. From there this film does a good job keeping the narrative moving forward and its use of misdirection keeps the killers identity under wrap until the finale.
Besides the main plot that revolves around the heist. Another strength of this film is that it features a strong sub plot that revolves those who work for the circus and their own dirty secrets that they are willing to do just about anything to cover up.
Performance wise this film feature a strong cast who are all very good in their respective roles. With this film’s most memorable performance being Christopher Lee (Count Dracula, The Wicker Man) in the role of Gregor, a disfigured knife thrower who wears a hood for the majority of his screen time. Other notable cast members include, Klaus Kinski (Marquis de Sade’s Justine) in the role of the men behind the heist, Margret Lee (The Secret of Dorian Grey) in the role of Gina, the knife throwers assistant and Suzy Kendall (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Torso) in the role of Natasha, the knife thrower Gregor’s niece. Overall Circus of Fear is a well-made thriller that finds a satisfying mix of murder and deception.
Five Golden Dragons was written and produced by Harry Alan Towers a prolific film producer whose films are often adapted from literary sources like the Marquis De Sade, Sax Rohmer, Edgar Wallace and Bram Stoker. The plot for Five Golden Dragons is best describe as an Alfred Hitchcock type film in the orient where an innocent man on the run trying to clear his name. Visually the film is a pedestrian affair that is at times elevated by the Hong Kong locations used in the film. Director Jeremy Summers approaches the film with a workman like style that never feels personal. The story is actually pretty entertaining and there are just enough twists and turns to keep things interesting.
Robert Cummings (Saboteur,Dial M for Murder) is cats in the lead role of Bob Mitchell an American tourist. One of the things that I liked least about this film is the one liner’s they gave the Bob Mitchell as they just never click. Cast as sisters are Euro-Cult beauties Maria Perschy (Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll) and Maria Rohm (Venus in Furs). Cast in the other main female role is Margaret Lee who plays the Femme Fatale night club singer Magda. Two Harry Alan Towers regular’s Klaus Kinski and Christopher Lee appear in the film. Lee’s Role is nothing more than a very brief cameo while Klaus Kinski gets a more sizable role as one of the main heavies Gert. Five Golden Dragons features an amazing cast that is rounded out by performances by Rupert Davies, Dan Duryea and George Raft.
The kills are tame with little or no blood which is more a product of its era than anything else. Besides the great cast one thing that does immediately grab you is the beautiful Hong Kong locations. One of the film’s best scenes involves a chase where a detective follows Ingrid who has just been released by the police. The detective chases Ingrid though the narrow streets of Hong Kong as they both are being transported in Rickshaw’s. The films pacing keeps things lively right from the start as it jumps right into the action with a murder in the opening moments that sets up the rest of the film. Malcolm Lockyer’s oriental flavored score while not memorable it is satisfying. Ultimately Five Golden Dragons has all the right ingredients one would need in a thriller plenty of action, a few murders and a trio of beautiful women.
Circus of Fear and Five Golden Dragons both films come on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. And both films are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Both films are given brand new Hi Def transfers and the end results are by far and away the best these two films have looked to date on home video. With image clarity, shadow detail and color saturation being areas that show the largest amount of improvement.
Each film comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and both films also comes with optional English SDH subtitles. Both audio mixes are in very good shape. There are no issues with background noise or hiss and everything sound balanced. Also dialog comes through clearly, the film’s score sound robust and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented.
Extras for Circus of Fear include, a Poster & Stills gallery, International trailers – Color and Black & White versions (both trailers have the same running time – 2 minutes 30 seconds), U.S. Trailers – Color and Black & White versions (both trailers have the same running time – 2 minutes 3 seconds) and an audio commentary with director John Moxey.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary track include, how the opening heist scene was shot on London’s Towers bridge, Johnny Douglas’s score for the film, the cast and information about them, working with screenwriter / producer Harry Allen Towers, how he got into filmmaking, his thoughts on cult classics being released in DVD and how they are finding a new audience, locations featured in the film and production related topics.
Extras for Five Golden Dragons include, a Poster & Stills gallery and a trailer for the film (2 minutes 49 seconds). Overall another solid HD upgrade from Blue Underground.
Note: Blue Underground are also releasing Five Golden Dragons on DVD.