(UK - 1960)
Directed by Sidney Hayers. Written by George Baxt. Cast: Anton Diffring, Erika Remberg, Yvonne Monlaur, Donald Pleasence, Jane Hylton, Conrad Phillips, Kenneth Griffith, Vanda Hudson, Yvonne Romain, Colette Wilde, Jack Gwillim, John Merivale, Carla Challoner, Walter Gotell, Kenny Baker. (Unrated, 92 mins)
Known primarily for the first dozen films in the long-running CARRY ON series, the British production company and distributor Anglo-Amalgamated occasionally delved into the respectable with BILLY LIAR and DARLING, but was otherwise a prolific B-movie factory through the 1950s and 1960s. They got in on the residual Hammer horror action with what was unofficially termed "the Sadian trilogy" by film historian David Pirie in his groundbreaking 1971 British gothic horror chronicle A Heritage of Horror. 1959's HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (directed by Arthur Crabtree) and 1960's classic PEEPING TOM (directed by Michael Powell) set the tone with their increased focus on the lurid, whether it's the grisly-for-the-time violence or the sexually suggestive elements (particularly in the self-explanatory PEEPING TOM) that took things a step beyond Hammer. 1960's CIRCUS OF HORRORS closed the "trilogy" in grand fashion and became a box-office success in the US, where it was released by American International and spawned multiple versions of Garry Mills' hit UK single "Look for a Star," which is heard several times throughout. Directed by Sidney Hayers, who would go on to helm 1962's terrifying BURN, WITCH, BURN, CIRCUS OF HORRORS is rather tame by today's standards but remains a trashy delight, anchored by the quintessential Anton Diffring performance, and is just out on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, because physical media is dead.
THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH, stars as Dr. Rossiter, an egomaniacal, quack plastic surgeon who flees post-war, 1947 London after a botched experimental operation that leaves a young socialite (Colette Wilde) horribly disfigured. Still convinced of his own genius, and with a pair of fawning sycophants in tow in sibling apprentices Martin (Kenneth Griffith) and Angela (Jane Hylton), Rossiter changes his appearance--primarily the removal of a proto-beatnik beard-- and starts going by "Dr. Schuller" by the time the trio end up in France, which is still in poverty-stricken devastation from the war. A chance encounter on the side of the road where Schuller asks a little girl (Carla Challoner) for directions leads him to a decrepit circus owned by the girl's widowed, drunkard father Vanet (a young-ish Donald Pleasence). The little girl--Nicole--has extensive facial scarring from a bomb blast, inspiring Schuller to concoct a scheme where he can continue to practice his craft by using the circus as a front. He restores the girl's beauty, which convinces Vanet to sign the circus over to him as part of a partnership. Then Schuller does absolutely nothing to intervene when the celebrating, shitfaced Vanet tries to dance with the circus' bear and is promptly mauled to death.
|Anton Diffring (1916-1989)