Circus Of Fear

Circus Of Fear (1966)
Blue Underground
Cast: Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski
Extras: Commentary Track, Trailers, Cast Biographies

Blue Underground has dug up another great European film, this time the 1966 "Circus Of Fear" that is part of their "Christopher Lee Collection." Since the other films in the collection are Jess Franco films, and Franco’s ineptitude does absolutely nothing for me, I decided to give "Circus Of Fear" and individual check-up. Here we have a film that was loosely part of a series of Edgar Wallace novel adaptations in the 60s of varying quality. They created an entire genre at the time, being a perfect blend of subtle spooky horror and crime mysteries, using an ensemble cast throughout the series. "Circus of Fear," while not the best of the series, is nonetheless a great entry, especially for those who learned to appreciate these somewhat dated films and their unique idiosyncrasies. The film offers rich atmosphere, members of the ensemble cast, such as Klaus Kinski, Eddie Arent, Heinz Drache, and others alongside Christopher Lee.

Blue Underground has prepared an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer of the movie in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, and I was quite frankly surprised at the quality of the presentation. Clean and clear throughout, the print shows only very little damage, creating an image that is free of blemishes for the most part and reveals a good level of detail. Occasional shots show some grain, but it is never distracting and only minor. I was also impressed at how faithful the DVD reproduces the film’s colors. Playing in London, the palette is somewhat drab, perfectly reproducing many of the grayish tones that make up the cityscape, but also boasting vibrant and fresh colors for the circus scenes and interior shots. Skin tones are absolutely natural, giving the film a very natural look. Black levels are solid and don’t break up and the transfer’s sharpness and contrast is exceptional with deep shadows and highlights that never bloom. The compression has been handled masterfully, and no compression artifacts can be found anywhere.

The audio on the DVD is a Dolby Stereo track that is well reproduced, though shows its age in the limited frequency response, causing dialogues to be a bit harsh-sounding. A bit of sibilance and distortion is evident, clearly dating the film. The music is also a bit affected by the frequency limitations, but overall it only adds to the vintage feel of the presentation, and I never found it in any way distracting. Sadly, Blue Underground has added neither subtitles nor <$CC,closed captions> to the release, which is once again very disappointing. Considering how much money goes into the presentation of these films, I am not sure why the money for captions or subtitles seems so entirely out of the question. There are far too many people who have to rely on the subtitles and captions to simply neglect them.

The DVD also contains a <$commentary,commentary track> by director John Moxey and Blue Underground’s David Gregory who serves as both a moderator and a source of additional information. While Moxey is offering a lot of insight into the production and reminisces about the film and his cast, there are a good number of gaps in the commentary. Nonetheless, I found the track to be engaging for the most part and full of interesting little tidbits that made it well worth checking out.

Also on the disc are four trailer for the movie in <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen>, a poster and still photo gallery, as well as talent biographies – though only Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski are included here.

Overall, "Circus Of Fear" is a solid release. The image quality by far surpassed all my expectations and the nice treatment that Blue Underground is giving this movie here, makes me hope they would also look into bringing the other films of the Edgar Wallace series to the US, giving them the same TLC. Fans of classic crime mysteries and people who grew up on these films, like myself, will certainly enjoy this release.