Friday, November 1, 2013

SYNAPSE FILMS APPRECIATION WEEK: Vampire Circus - Animals, Naked Women and GORE, Oh YES!

Synapse Films Appreciation Week comes to an end with an absolutely stunning Hammer Horror film, Vampire Circus. I had all but written off Vampire Circus having seen it as a kid. I was unimpressed with the movie at the time. This wasn't simply because it was an older movie; many of my favorite movies were older, Hammer or Amicus features. Try watching a move on television that is cut to ribbons where even the opening scene is nearly discarded. Every gore scene GONE. Every boob... erased from existence. Vampire Circus is so intrinsically linked to it's erotic, splatter that the story falls apart in the absence of either blood or naked hottie. So I grew up loving the concept and some of the imagery, but chocked it up to a movie that I would enjoy for its cover art, still gallery and namesake. If only I had watched it sooner I would love it for all the right reasons, and the Synapse release is the perfect way to find all of them.

Synopsis from Synapse Films:

A little girl is brutally slain by a vampire in a tiny 19th century Austrian village. Seeking revenge, the townspeople invade the foreboding castle of Count Mitterhaus and kill him for the crime. As the Count dies, he curses the villagers and vows that their children will all die so that he may someday return to life.

Fifteen years later, as the village is ravaged by the plague, a traveling circus comes to town and distracts the villagers from their current hardships. Little do they know that their troubles are only beginning! The circus is actually a troupe of shape-shifting vampires and, as the local children start disappearing, they realize the prophecy of the long dead Count is coming true.

When you add all the good bits back in, Vampire Circus watches like a fairly standard 70's Hammer film featuring vampires. It wants its audience to enjoy the lengths to which it will go to shock and seduce. While I may adore the early Hammer era and its innocence (even in its defiance of Universal), once the 70's hit, it was hard to keep clothes on actresses if a movie came out of the UK. This is to the horror fans benefit. Being new to the extent of the nudity and sexuality in this picture and having the chance to enjoy the full release, uncut now, I can see how it fits into the latter period of Hammer glory. Vampire Circus was released on the heels of the Karnstein Trilogy, Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil. These were the movies that set up the new, over the top vamp films that hammer wanted to grab the audience, each more debauched than the last. By the time Vampire Circus came around the focus was on hot naked bodies for sure, but they finally got the gore right. There's some truly atrocious shred scenes in Circus, but they're actually moderately successful. Sure they may not be overly realistic, but in that they almost become surreal, gooey and gross.

I'm happy to report that I am now very fond of Vampire Circus. With subsequent viewings I could see this one rank up with the Karnstein Trilogy or even some of the Chris Lee pictures. My initial reaction was to outright adore it and consider a new favorite, but I'm going to step back and say that I need more time with some of these performers.

The Synapse Films release includes:
  • THE BLOODIEST SHOW ON EARTH: Making Vampire Circus - An all-new documentary featuring interviews with writer/director Joe Dante, Hammer documentarian Ted Newsom, Video Watchdog editor/author Tim Lucas, author/film historian Philip Nutman, and actor David Prowse.
  • GALLERY OF GROTESQUERIES: A Brief History of Circus Horrors - A retrospective on circus/carnival themed horror productions.
  • VISITING THE HOUSE OF HAMMER: Britain's Legendary Horror Magazine - A retrospective on the popular British horror/comic publication featuring author Philip Nutman.
  • VAMPIRE CIRCUS: Interactive Comic Book"- Featuring artwork by Brian Bolland.

The picture is brilliant. Synapse Films had also release Twins of Evil, and that was also a collectible disc. The cover art is classic and collectible with a surprise centerfold inside. This disc was purely made for the fans. Synapse does Hammer well. 

Need some creepy carnival music, live animals, really long vampire fangs, sexy women and gore galore... Vampire Circus is three rings to satisfy. This gorgeous Blu-ray/DVD is available through Synapse Films NOW.


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