Thanks to the efforts of the DVD distributor Synapse Films Vampire Circus (1972) became the second Hammer film to be released in the High Definition Blu Ray format. It joins Paranoiac (1963) which was released on Blu Ray last year by Eureka Entertainment. These are unlikely titles perhaps, but Vampire Circus has over the years built itself a steady cult following, largely based on its unusual and offbeat approach to the clichés of gothic horror. By 1972 Hammer were willing to take greater risks in order to reverse their fading fortunes, and although Vampire Circus has plenty of conventional and predictable moments, it also possesses a sensibility, structure, and tone that makes it a unique entry in Hammer’s vampire lore. It is not an experimental film as such - but perhaps the relative inexperience of key personnel such as the director Robert Young (this was his second film) and the screenwriter Judson Kinberg (this was his first screenplay) and the producer Wilbur Stark (who had never produced a horror film before) led to a freshness of approach that accidentally created moments of peculiarity that at times border the modes of art cinema narration. However this isn’t entirely a fresh slate - the name of George Baxt as an uncredited contributor to the story is an important one. Baxt had a long history in the genre - providing uncredited additional dialogue for The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), and screenplays for City of the Dead (1960), and Circus of Horrors (1960). In front of the camera we do at least have Thorley Walters and Dave Prowse to offer a link to past Hammer's.
© Shaun Anderson 2011