Back in the day Hammer Film Productions made a lot of horror movies. The studio’s most famous for their Dracula films — it made a ton of them with Christopher Lee as the Count. But for my money, their Dracula films pale next to one of my favourites: 1972’s Vampire Circus.
The movie has one heck have an opening act. A small-town Serbia vampire, Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman), has seduced the school master’s wife, Anna Müller (Domini Blythe), and she steals children for him to eat. The town finds out what’s going on and a mob storms the castle. A massive melee breaks out and the count kills several villagers before the school master, Professor Albert Müller (Laurence Payne), manages to drive a stake through the vampire’s heart. The dying count curses the town and tells his lover to find his cousin.
15 years later, the town is ravaged by a mysterious plague and quarantined from civilization. Slipping past the blockade, a mysterious gypsy circus shows up to entertain the trapped masses. But this is no ordinary circus: the acrobats are little too good at aerobatics (they’re vampires) and the black panther is actually the late count’s cousin Emil (Anthony Higgins), a shape-shifting vampire.
Soon everyone who had something to do with the count’s death has been killed or had their children disappear. Yup, life’s pretty crappy when you’re trapped in a vampire-plagued village in 19th-century Serbia.
Hammer had been the at the top of the horror movie business for over a decade but by the 1970s their films seemed a bit old-fashioned. The studio took several shots at being relevant and this was one of their more successful attempts. It’s a classic. I originally wrote about here.