Review: VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972)

It may be a form of sacred justice to visit the iniquities of the fathers on the children and even the children’s children, but this conception bears particularly ruthless fruit in Hammer Film Productions’ VAMPIRE CIRCUS. This 1972 movie by director Robert Young is a vicious piece of work and it carries a mind-altering quality that stems from the Judson Kinberg screenplay. This outing is one of Hammer’s darkest and most portentous productions.

After denizens of the Serbian village of Stetl kill the vampire Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman) and burn down his castle, he swears revenge. That comes to fruition in subsequent years as Stetl is thrust into disease. The neighbouring villages have even constructed a barricade to ensure absolute isolation. One day, a circus gets through the blockade. But there’s a problem: the circus performers are tasked with visiting the fullness of Mitterhaus’ curse on the villagers.

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Young’s interest in generational blame is taken to some disturbing places and he does not spare the gruesome details. Children are attacked by vampires and animals alike. A family is mauled by a black panther in the woods, while the young students at a boarding school meet a grisly end. The vampiric circus is unyielding in its application of vengeance and the older men of Stetl are helpless. Redemption once more falls to the young.

VAMPIRE CIRCUS really is a dark motion picture and Young maintains an adamant tone of misery. The villagers have been through everything in the revenge rolodex, but Count Mitterhaus isn’t done with them. That this reprisal isn’t just from any moral standpoint matters little, as the children are the prime targets for the aristocrat’s cruel retaliation. It is depressingly characteristic that the young pay for the ways of their elders and VAMPIRE CIRCUS draws blood, sinking deep into the vein of morality, punishment and profane evil.

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