Vampire Circus (1972)
Yes it’s Hammer time at the Virtual Hot Tub, with this macabre classic from the legendary British studio!
A remote village, quarantined due to a strange plague, becomes the host to a travelling circus. The circus entertain the villagers and distract them from their everyday woes; though they hide another motive. That secret agenda involves a vanquished vampire count, and a despicable plot for revenge!
There’s no Cushing or Lee in this early seventies curiosity, yet Hammer are able to create a new spin on their Gothic tales with this unusual and striking film. The boobs and gore identify the seventies vintage of this film, yet there’s plenty of atmosphere to embellish the tale. Vampire Circus is a novel idea, and proves what the studio could do even without relying on the big names (stars or monsters).
Sadly this isn’t a feat that Hammer would replicate often in their twilight years. Never the less, Vampire Circus is much more hit than miss. The viewer will witness some real spectacle, some real frights – and the dark atmosphere of Hammer horror at it’s best. Recommended.
From Hell (2001)
The crimes of Jack the Ripper are given a fictionalised re-telling in this 2001 Hughes brothers film. It’s based – very loosely – on the Alan Moore graphic novel; relying heavily on conspiracy theory, a dash of clairvoyance and Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline.
The conspiracy at the heart of the story is, of course, absolute nonsense, but then the original source novel didn’t set out to identify the culprit. Rather, From Hell was a dense tome covering the mythology and occult roots of London and it’s citizens.
The film version goes for a more straightforward dramatic approach, as we follow the case and slowly unravel the mystery of the killer’s identity. If you can suspend disbelief, forget the ridiculousness of it all and enjoy the ride, it’s a great film. Fantastic sets give From Hell a very genuine feel, along with some decent performances (though not all) and enough shadows and murder to make it an effective thriller.
Go and read the book – it’s an incredible work. But I’ll happily state that despite the clichés and the total fudging of fact and fiction – let alone disregard for the source material – the film From Hell is definitely worth a watch.