Circus of Horrors (1960)
Written By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Sidney Hayers
Producer: Leslie Parkyn, Julian Wintle
Screenwriter: George Baxt
Date Released: August 31, 1960
Anton Diffring as Dr. Bernard Schuler
Erika Remberg as Elissa Caro
Yvonne Monlaur as Nicole Vanet
Donald Pleasence as Vanet
Jane Hylton as Angela
Kenneth Griffith as Martin
Conrad Phillips as Inspector Arthur Ames
Jack Gwillim as Superintendent Andrews
Vanda Hudson as Magda von Meck
Yvonne Romain as Melina
Rating = 3/5 Graves
***May contains some spoilers***
Circus of Horror follows Dr. Rossiter and his two colleagues as they escape Paris to start a new life after performing facial surgery and causing injury to a patient’s face. When Dr. R and his colleagues travel somewhere else in France, he stumbles upon a young girl named Nicole with a disfigured face and her father who own a circus where Dr. Rossiter changes his name to Dr. Schuler. Inspired by the young girl, he convinces her father to consent to facial surgery and makes the girls face beautiful. When Nicole’s father celebrates her daughter’s beauty, he gets drunk and signs over the circus to Dr. Schuler. But, Nicole’s father accidentally drops a bottle of alcohol and causes a circus bear to maul and kill him. From this point, Dr. Schuler recruits disfigured women with sorted lives to act in his circus and transforms the circus into one of the most exciting attractions in Europe. But, when the women want to leave the circus or demand certain things, they are strangely dying in the performances.
Many of the gore scenes are based on “Accidents” that occur during the circus performance. For example, in one act, a girl is on a spinning wheel and knives are being thrown at her. But, when one of Dr. Schuler’s colleagues stops the wheel device, the knife strikes the girl and hits her right in the throat. In another scene, another girl performed aerial stunts on a rope, but the rope breaks and she plunges to the ground. Although not outright gory, the concepts alone are nerve wracking and uncomfortable.
The Grave Review
The concept of Circus of Horror is essentially that Dr. Rossiter wants to start a new life as Dr. Schuler after getting into trouble with the medical board for performing risky facial surgery on a patient and uses the circus as a cover to continue his surgical work. However, the plot has some loopholes which do not entirely make sense. For example, in the beginning of the film, it is assumed that the facial surgical eventually will cause further irreparable harm to one’s face. But, when the now Dr. Schuler performs surgery on the young Nicole, she is physically pretty. Even as she grows up, the scars on her face never appear and she remains beautiful as with all the other patients Schuler operates on. The idea that Schuler would have had his medical license revoked isn’t very clear as made by the film.
In addition, when Inspector Ames begins to look at Schuler, the investigator loses focus as we are never sure if the inspector is trying to figure out why so many deaths are happening during the performances or if he is trying to figure out whether Schuler is in fact Rossiter. The inspector oddly enough also courts every performer in the circus and seems sorted himself, but the film never goes into the inspector’s motive.
Other than those plot flaws, the film was entertaining and unique in its premise. In addition, the environments and props used in the film were well incorporated.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Circus of Horrors (1960) three graves out of five graves.
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