Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 19th, 2010
BluRay released: December 14th, 2010
Approximate running time: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
BluRay Release: Synapse Films
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: When a count, who is widely believed to be a vampire murders a young girl. The Townspeople storm his castle and put a steak through his heart. As he is dying the count puts a curse on the villagers and their children. Fifteen years later a plague has fallen over the accursed village and the surrounding villages have set up road blocks preventing anyone from leaving. One day a traveling circus comes to the village and for a brief moment they help the villagers forget their troubles. Seduced by the circus the villagers one by one fall into their trap.Content wise where previous vampire themed Hammer film productions rarely verged too far away from Bram Stokers archetypal vampire Dracula. By the late 1960’s the cinematic landscape had changed drastically and the once popular Gothic horror films that Hammer Films are most known for. Had fallen out of vogue with movie going audiences. By the early 1970’s Hammer Films would began a makeover of the vampire that would begin with Lust for a Vampire and culminate with Vampire Circus.
Right off the film’s grandiose opening sequence quickly sets the tone and announces that this is not your atypical Hammer film. In this opening sequence a young woman leads a little girl to a count castle. Once there the little girl is given to the count who drains all of her blood. To top things off the Count and his accomplice the young woman consummate the occasion. This mixing of sexual themes and bloodletting has an added level a perversity to it due to the victims age.
Vampire Circus was directed Robert Young, a relative newcomer who at this point had only directed a documentary. It is not surprising that Hammer films would bring in fresh blood for Vampire Circus. After all they were a company at a crossroads and the films they were making were no longer connecting with their intended audiences.
From a visual stand point Robert Young creates many striking images with the most notable being a sequences in a tent that has distorted mirrors. Also while most of Hammer films previous vampire films were rooted in the horror genre. Vampire Circus is more of an fantasy based film that derives its horror’s from its nightmarish visuals that are satisfying mix of blood, sex and magic.
Like many Hammer films productions Vampire Circus also suffered from a limited budget. And it is not surprising that a first time director like Robert Young would fall behind schedule. This would lead to some scenes not being filmed and / or completed. The one area in which the film’s budget restraints are most noticeable are its special effects. Many of which call attention to themselves. Fortunately despite these setbacks director Robert Young still manages to create a cohesive production that looks more accomplished than then the majority of the films that Hammer from this era.
Another area where shift in the direction of where Hammer films were trying to go. Is its cast. For many years there two biggest stars were Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Neither are to be found in this production. Vampire Circus’s cast would be anchored by Adrienne Corri (A Clockwork Orange), in the role of a gypsy woman who is charge of the circus and Anthony Higgins (Young Sherlock Holmes), in the role of a shape shifting vampire, who also appears as a panther. Two other performances of note include Lynne Frederick (Schizo) and David Prowse (Darth Vadar), who once again is cast in a strongman role. A year before he appeared in A Clockwork Orange as the muscular body guard of the writer, who was attacked by Alex and his droogs.
Vampire Circus comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. There are no problems with compression or DNR and grain structure looks natural. Colors look vibrant and accurate. Black levels look consistently good and details look sharp throughout.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD Mono mix in English. The audio is in superb shape as everything sound crystal clear and consistent throughout.
Extras for this release includes reversible cover art, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 31 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), a stills and poster gallery with music from the film playing the background and a segment titled ‘Visiting the House of Hammer: Britain’s Legendary Horror Magazine’ (9 minutes 48 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), this segment discusses the short lived magazine devoted to Hammer films and its revival years later. Also included with this release is a segment titled ‘Vampire Circus: Motion Comic Book’ (3 minutes 15 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), This segment gives those who missed out on the aforementioned Hammer magazine to see a live rendition of the comic that was done for Vampire Circus. Other extras include a featurette titled ‘Gallery of Grotesqueries: A Brief History of Circus of Horrors’ (15 minutes 7 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and a documentary titled ‘The Bloodiest Show on Earth: Making Vampire Circus’ (32 minutes 39 seconds – anamorphic widescreen). The featurette gives a brief overlook of circus themed films. The documentary features comments from various film critics who all admire the film. Besides providing some interesting critic about the film. They also provided many interesting facts about the production. The only participant in this documentary that had anything to do with this production is David Prowse, who portrays the strongman in the film. All of the extras are presented in HD. Rounding out the extras a option that allows you to listen to the film’s music and effects. Overall Synapse Films first foray into the BluRay format is an exceptional release that takes full advantage of the format, highly recommended.
Note: Also included with this combo release is a DVD copy that has all the contents that are included on the BluRay counterpart.