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Circus of Fear (1966)

aka Psycho-Circus

Take equal parts Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Leo Genn, Suzy Kendall backed by producer Harry Alan Towers and director John Llewelyn Moxey and voila…… you have a perfect “B” flick for a rainy Sunday afternoon viewing.

None other than Mr. Kinski graces the screen in the opening shot that will see him as part of a gang about to heist an armored car in a daring broad daylight robbery that leaves one of the guards dead and the other a turncoat, working the inside committing the murder. Inspector Leo Genn is called into service and under the watchful eye of guest star and superior on the force, Cecil Parker, will begin to piece the clues together and recover the money while bringing the guilty gang members to justice.

When our inside man is to meet the silent backer who has remained anonymous and hand over the cash, he’ll find death awaits him at the sharp end of a dagger. The dagger in question might belong to a knife throwing act at the local circus. The red herrings are about to begin. When bank notes from the robbery are reported to the police, the trail leads Genn to the inner workings and people that populate the circus. This is where we will meet the most famous member of the acting troupe under the Harry Towers brand, Christopher Lee. There’s no mistaking that tall lanky frame and the baritone voice under the black hood that Lee wears for a good majority of the film. He’s the lion tamer employed by the circus and due to an accident working the large cats, must now wear the hooded veil to hide his scars.

Lee in any role should be considered a prime suspect and once again fits that bill marvelously.

Genn will be watching the day to day goings on under the big top and bear witness to the jealousies and blackmailing going on amongst the acts. Miss Margaret Lee is the sexy dish who serves as the lady pinned to the rotating board where her boyfriend the knife thrower will strategically place the daggers ever so close to her fine figure while the board she is strapped to twirls in circles. It’s a risqué job when one sees the jealousies that her knife wielding lover displays if she so much as looks at another man.

The plot will take a turn towards discovery when we see Chris Lee dip his hand into a suitcase full of cash and rush into a burning barn to save the hidden booty. Case solved? Not quite and when Klaus Kinski turns up at the circus looking for work, we know exactly what he’s trying to recover. Still to come is a high speed chase, hidden caves, people tumbling over cliffs and characters who are not quite what they seem with Inspector Genn following every step of the way.

Guided by a Peter Welbeck script (aka Harry Alan Towers) director Moxey gives us a workman like effort here that treats the viewers to a number of familiar faces. Moxey may be best known to genre fans as the man who helmed the 1960 Lee film City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) that seems to have rightly gathered a cult following as the years pass as well as the original Night Stalker that introduced Carl Kolchak to the television world. By the time of this production, Lee was known world wide due to his success in Hammer films and shared above the title billing with Genn where back in 1960’s Too Hot to Handle, Lee was strictly in support of Genn at the time. The pair would appear together once again in Tower’s 1970 production The Bloody Judge.

Kinski was a regular employee for Towers’ films as was Margaret Lee. Both of who also appeared with Lee in the Towers’ production of Five Golden Dragons. Both Dragons and Circus are out on a blu ray double feature combo from Blue Underground should you be looking to complete your Chris Lee collection as I am.

4 Comments »

  1. his is a really entertaining little movie, handsomely shot and nicely cast. I’m generally fond of Moxey’s work – his cinema credits are limited but he worked on a huge number of TV shows over an extremely long period, and could always be relied on to turn out a good episode.

  2. Man oh man, that first lobby card alone sold me on seeing this film…it sounds like a lot of fun. Although I must say, I like the title ‘Psycho Circus’ much more than ‘Circus of Fear’, but I could live with it if it meant securing that double-feature Blu-ray; ‘Five Golden Dragons’ looks like a pretty cool movie, too.

    • The Psycho Circus version was apparently about 15 minutes shorter for the North American release. Haven’t seen it but must be a bit confusing. These two flicks are well matched for the double blu ray feature.

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