Plot: A bold daylight heist scores an impressive haul of loot, now the time comes to split the cash and live the good life. A courier is sent to deliver a share to the boss of the crew, but he winds up killed and the cash vanishes. As the police investigate the robbery, they follow the courier’s trail and end up at the grounds of a popular circus. Meanwhile, internal conflicts within the circus arise as the carnies banter and argue, while some outsiders also arrive. Inspector Elliott (Leon Genn) quickly realizes he is surrounded by colorful, questionable people, any of whom could be involved. The in-fighting between the circus folk only adds to the tension, as even those not involved in the robbery could show suspicious behavior, leading to dead ends. When another murder occurs, the list of potential suspects only grows and Elliott must decipher how the circus is connected to the heist, if at all. As the threat of more violence looms, can Elliott crack the case or will the criminals escape in the confusion of the circus?
Entertainment Value: The tale of Circus of Fear is interesting, as it was heavily edited down and even switched to black & white when it was released. This review covers the uncut version of the film shown in the original color presentation, which seems to be the preferred incarnation. The story here is a little jumbled, as we open with a heist then shift to the circus, where an investigation takes place amid all the circus drama. This allows for a lot of colorful characters and potential suspects, which helps the tension and leads to some fun red herring moments. The cast has some notable performers, with genre veterans Klaus Kinski, Suzy Kendall, and Christopher Lee, though Lee is often under a black mask, as his character is disfigured. I think the circus setting is great, as it allows for such a colorful atmosphere and a wealth of interesting characters, which helps the movie a lot. The pace is a little slow at times and this is more of a mystery thriller than horror movie, but the setting is so interesting, it helps to offset the slow pace. If you’re only interested in pure horror, Circus of Fear might not be ideal, but it is fun to see genre legends at the circus, I think. If you’re a fan of Kinski, Lee, or suspense thrillers, give it a chance.
No nakedness. There is a little blood in a couple scenes, but its non graphic and just a tinge of the red stuff. But given that this is more suspense/thriller than horror, the lack of bloodshed never proves to be an issue. There is one scene that has a midget sprayed in the face with a fountain of fake blood, but since it is just staged even within the movie itself, no points on that front. The abundance of colorful characters doesn’t equal a lot of interesting or memorable dialogue, sadly. Lee is fun to watch, or listen to since he wears a mask, with a thick accent. The tone is serious and doesn’t fall into camp, so the writing is solid, just not all that memorable. You do get some fun carny talk and tough guy talk though, its just not that frequent. In terms of craziness, the circus atmosphere adds a little, but this remains a fairly grounded mystery. I do like the various twists and false leads, however.
Overall Insanity: 1/10