Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Circus That Dreaded Sunrise

Things continue to be bleak on the job front for yours truly but the news that Synapse Films will be issuing some choice offerings from the vaults of Hammer Films - Vampire Circus, Twins of Evil, The Hands of the Ripper, as well as 1980's 13-episode TV anthology Hammer House of Horror - makes it impossible for me to be completely down. Of all the announced titles, it's 1972's Vampire Circus that I'm most excited for. For years, Vampire Circus was a recurring bootleg buy for me at horror cons, always hoping each trip to find a VHS dupe that would be at least incrementally better than my last one. While the early Hammer horrors of the '50s and '60s are the ones that get all the accolades and hoopla, it's the studio's later films - more experimental efforts, made as Hammer's popularity was waning in the early to mid '70s - that really caught my imagination as a kid.

Maybe it's just me but I don't know how any kid seeing Vampire Circus at an impressionable age wouldn't instantly became a rabid fan of this movie. I mean, the tiger lady alone was like "Damn!"

This movie was wild, making the Christopher Lee Dracula pictures look staid by comparison. No ordinary bloodsucker saga, Vampire Circus was packed with garish, eerie, sexual visuals. From their first horror successes, Hammer Films had been marked by lurid, pulp imagery but in combining the supernatural with an already elevated circus atmosphere, Vampire Circus had a more robust comic book sensibility to it. Fittingly, in the pages of the B&W magazine The House of Hammer #17, the film was adapted into a comic in fine style by writer Steve Parkhouse and ace illustrator Brian Bolland:

It's said that every kid wants to run away with the circus but while Barnum & Bailey famously promoted itself as The Greatest Show on Earth, it couldn't help but look merely earthbound compared to the unnatural wonders and dark freedoms found in Vampire Circus.


Will Errickson said...

Oh, finally, Vampire Circus AND Twins of Evil, thank God! Thanks for the heads-up. This is how I felt a few years back when the Val Lewton DVD collection came out.

Jeff Allard said...

Yeah, it's cool - I'm Synapse will do a great job with these releases! Can't wait to hear more details about possible special features.

Hans A. said...

Thnx for sharing this info, Jeff! I know Synapse will give serious treatment to these titles. Hammer put some of their best stuff in their waning years. Captain Kronos is a personal favorite.

Jeff Allard said...

Captain Kronos is an all-time favorite for me, too. If only it had been enough of a hit to warrant a sequel!

Max the drunken severed head said...

VC is a wonderfully perverse, titillating mash-up of kinky, creepy, and colorful elements. It's cotton candy with blood on it and wrapped in a Penthouse FORUM illustration.

Hooray for Synapse!

Jeff Allard said...

I'll add a hearty 'hooray' of my own to that, Max - and congrats on your recent Rondo win as well!