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by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: VAMPIRE CIRCUS

(Synapse Films)

The title tells all in this 1972 shocker from Britain’s beloved Hammer Films, purveyors of many a Gothic goodie in its heyday.

Once upon a time, the villagers of a small Serbian town staked the local bloodsucker, Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman), but not before he uttered a curse upon them. Since then, the region has been torn by plague, pestilence and paranoia. Years later, the mysterious Circus of Nights rolls into town, and trouble brews anew.

Vampire Circus has an eerie, surreal, at times erotic atmosphere that sets it apart, even from other Hammer chillers of the same period. There’s a vague sense of unease and ambiguity to the proceedings. If the intent was to expand the horizons of the vampire genre, then first-time director Robert Young (not TV’s “Marcus Welby”) and screenwriter Judson Kinberg succeeded in their task.

Lacking box-office stars, the film is nevertheless well-acted by Adrienne Corri, Laurence Payne, Anthony Corlan, Richard Owens and Thorley Walters (as the Burgermeister). Dave Prowse, later to don the armor of Darth Vader in Star Wars (1977), is appropriately cast as the circus strongman.

The DVD/Blu-ray combo, which retails for $29.95, includes retrospective documentaries (including one featuring my friend, filmmaker and historian Ted Newsom), an inter-active comic-book adaptation, trailers and more.

ALSO AVAILABLE

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