Today’s Trillion Dollar Movie, Vampire Circus, marked the end of an era. This 1972 release wouldn’t be the last picture from Hammer Films, but it was the last vampire movie from the British studios that gave us The Horror of Dracula, Dracula Prince of Darkness, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave and so many other vampire titles with a rabid cult following.
Vampire Circus differs from its predecessors in that no one as well-known as Christopher Lee stars. Hammer Films, being on its last legs, went with a no-name cast, and also made a more exploitative and disjointed film. But Vampire Circus isn’t without its attributes. The scenes of vampire seduction are among Hammer’s sexiest ever. And there are plenty of kinky twists, centering upon the arrival of a freakish circus in a Serbian town under quarantine and suffering from a devastating plague.
A generation ago, the town’s fathers destroyed a rock star-handsome vampire count named Mitterhaus. On his deathbed, before shriveling up in his crypt, he vows revenge. Now, payback has come in the form of the plague and the strange circus, run by a Gypsy woman (Adrienne Corri) whose minions include a malevolent midget, a dancing naked tiger girl and a panther that can shape-shift into a human. Plotwise, the story covers familiar ground, but the visuals are quite overheated and often erotic. One thing’s for sure: These vampires have longer and more glistening fangs than any I can recall seeing on the screen.
Lynne Frederick, playing the young rose of a heroine, subsequently caught the eye of comedian Peter Sellers, who married her. She ruined the promise of a budding movie career through a wicked drug habit that left her dead at age 39. The strongman of the circus is David Prowse. You probably don’t recognize him, but you assuredly have seen him act — as he appeared, under mask, as the villain Darth Vader in all of the Star Wars adventures.
Do enjoy Vampire Circus, and be sure to return again next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie.