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Films: V is for...

Vampire Circus

We’ve always liked the late-period Hammers more than the acknowledged “classic” ’50s films, so thank heavens for the tide of popular opinion turning of late, and another showing of this prime example of their post-Carry On Screaming oeuvre. Camper, more self-mocking than the old ones, yes, but in a desperate attempt to wring something new out of the extremely limited Gothic horror sub-genre that was their stock in trade, the Hammerites came up with the truly bizarre and massively over the top likes of this gem from Robert ‘Keep it up Downstairs’ Young. What’s it got? It’s got the lot! Burnings, decapitations, pillagings, Castilian conflagrations, child/animal/dwarf abuse, and probably the best pre-credits sequence of any film ever. Creepy, irrepressible vampire count Robert Tayman (Joan’s chauffeur in The Stud, natch) terrorises a small unpronounceable Serbian town, before being killed with the obligatory “I will return” speech. Years later, the plague-stricken town plays host to a dodgy travelling circus helmed by Tayman’s cousin Anthony ‘Draughtsman’s Contract’ Higgins and led by Adrienne ‘viddy well’ Corri, featuring regulation dozy animals, Dave Prowse lifting weights, and a bloodthirsty Lalla ‘Romana II’ Ward, who set about killing and shafting their way through the townspeople in between holding their rather suspect performances, before everyone rallies round Burgermeister Thorley ‘Bulman’ Walters for the inevitable final confrontation with the massed forces of darkness. All this and Lynne ‘Mrs Peter Sellers IV’ Frederick, Mary ‘Aunt Lavinia off of K9 and Company’ Wimbush and a young Jenny ‘Zammo’s mum’ Twigge too… look, isn’t that a blank VHS on top of the bookshelf?



  1. Richard Davies

    December 14, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Yet another good film to play “Been in Dr Who” with.

  2. Sidney Balmoral James

    August 31, 2021 at 8:40 am

    Shown a few times by Talking Pictures TV lately. Anthony Higgins rolls his eyes a lot in this, and Raiders was on other night, which leads me to ask a question which has been bothering me for years: why is Anthony Higgins so prominent in the credits for Raiders? Was his part originally bigger and then cut (I know the film was ruthlessly cut down to under two hours, which is why it moves at such a pace)? He doesn’t even have as I recall any close-ups and possibly one line (when he summons Indy to meet Belloq in the bar perhaps). He’s just ‘anonymous Nazi in suit’- William Hootkins, or even Tutte Lemkow have much more significant roles.

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