Circus of Fear (1966)

Director: John Moxley
Starring: Christopher Lee, Margaret Lee, Leo Genn, Anthony Newlands, Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski, Suzy Kendall, Cecil Parker, Victor Maddern, Maurice Kaufmann
Screenplay: Peter Welbeck
Producer: Harry Alan Towers
Music: Johnny Douglas
AKA: Psycho Circus

What we have in Circus Of Fear is a British (rather than German) Edgar Wallace Krimi, albeit with a rather ‘International’ cast so it can travel over borders quite effectively. It also has a quite effective story line – I never knew where it was heading. Sure there are plenty of hints, and you can guess where each story thread may be leading, bot how do they all tie up together?

The film opens in London, and on a nice big widescreen closeup of Klaus Kinski’s head. Klaus is standing on a dock overlooking the Thames. But he isn’t the only suspicious character loitering around. There are quite a few suspicious characters – there’s two on a boat, there’s a few in a car, and another two men standing by a bridge with stockings over their heads. I realise this is swingin’ sixties London, baby, but I don’t think these guys are dressed like this because they’re swingers! It looks like some kind of heist is going down.

It doesn’t take long for the object of everyone’s attention to appear on the screen. It’s a small armoured van carrying a shit load of cash (er, for those confused by my terminology, a ‘shit load’ is an Australian collective noun… It can be used for almost anything, but most often to describe a large amount of money and when purchasing dim sims – but I digress). As the van and escort vehicle pull up at the bridge, the two gents in stockings make short work of the guards. This is because one of the guards, Mason, is in on the gig. However, unlike the other crooks, Mason isn’t a professional and he panics. He draws a pistol and shoots one of the other guards. The heist has now gone from being a simple robbery to now, MURDER!

Meanwhile Klaus has gone from loitering with intent, to completing a bit of nasty work himself. He sneaks up on the fellow in charge of raising and lowering The London Bridge and clocks him over the head. Now in charge, Klaus raises the bridge. The other cohorts are now on the bridge and are tying a rope to the railing and attaching the other end to a boat waiting on the river below. Attaching rings to the sacks of cash, they slide their ill gotten gain down to the boat. Then the criminals follow suit, crawling down to the boat. As the police flood into the area, the perpetrators make their getaway slowly cruising down the Thames.

Once in the clear they all assemble at a warehouse. Mason, after his indiscretion is given his share of the loot, and the unseen boss man’s loot too. Mason has to meet the boss outside the city in a place called ‘The Old Farm’ at Inglemere. The other cohorts load a van up with the remaining cash an drive off. Unfortunately for them, the police receive an anonymous tip off revealing the route they’ll be taking and the vehicle licence plate. This results in a car chase, with the perpetrators eventually being run off the road.

This leaves Mason as the only man with any of the cash, and he arrives at his destination at The Old Farm. For his trouble, he ends up with a knife in his back. Now this is where the films changes tone. Inglemere also happens to be the winter location for Barbarini’s Circus. Immediately we are introduced to a new set of disparate characters. Firstly there is Barbarini who runs the circus. Then there’s Gregor (Christopher Lee). Gregor, some years back had a horrible accident and now always wears a black hooded mask. Hi is also the custodian of his neice, Natasha (Suzy Kendall) Then we have Gina (Margaret Lee) who performs a knife act with her insanely jealous boyfriend Mario, who, as you’ve guessed is a knife thrower. Next you’ve got Karl (Heinz Drache), who is the ringmaster.

Now it’s pretty obvious that someone associated with the circus has had a part in the robbery, but of course that isn’t revealed. But it’s not before long and some of the stolen money starts to surface. All the banks in the area have been notified of the serial numbers of the stolen money, and when some turns up, passed by Barbarini, Police Inspector Elliot (Leo Genn) is called in to investigate.

It’s not the purpose of this website to act as a shill for any particular video or DVD company, but if you are going to watch Circus Of Fear (or any of the other names this film has travelled under), then do yourself the favour and obtain the Blue Underground version – Previous versions have been severely truncated – in America the film was originally released at 61 minutes long and in black and white – needless to say, this will not do the film justice. Get the full version and enjoy the film for what it is – and that’s a hugely entertaining thriller with a great cast.

Circus of Fear (1966)

The Hand of Power (1968)

Country: Germany
Original Title: Im Banne des Unheimlichen
AKA: The Zombie Walks
Director: Alfred Vohrer
Starring: Joachim Fuchsberger, Siw (Siv) Mattson, Wolfgang Kieling, Pinkas Braun, Claude Farell, Peter Mosbacher, Siegfried Rauch, Lillemor ‘Lill’ Lindfors
Music: Peter Thomas
“The Space of Today” Performed by Lillemor ‘Lill’ Lindfors
Based on the novel, ‘The Hand Of Power’ by Edgar Wallace

Im Banne des Unheimlichen (or The Hand Of Power, as I’ll call it because I don’t speak German), is another adaptation of an Edgar Wallace novel, and although I cannot find any reference to it, I’d guess that The Hand Of Power is a follow up to The College Girl Murders (1967), which was also directed by Alfred Vohrer, and starred Joachim Fuschsberger as Inspector Higgins of Scotland Yard.

When watching a lot of the Edgar Wallace Krimi’s the first thing you have to get over, is that although they are German movies, with a German cast, they are set in England. It can be rather off-putting watching characters scamper around London and the English countryside speaking German. It just seems a little out of place, but I suppose no more than watching a Spaghetti Western in it’s original Italian.

The film itself is a great deal of fun, and it really seems to be trying to be ‘out there’ in a swinging sixties way. The colours are pumped up to psychedelic levels, and even one of the characters is green? Don’t ask! There one bizarre scene in a Mexican restaurant, where there are pigeons flying around inside the establishment. One of them even lands and nests in one of the waitress’s hair, as she walks past. It has absolutely nothing to do with the story, but shows how ‘wild’ this production is.

The film opens in rural England, outside London, at a funeral service for Sir Oliver. Apparently he was a great benefactor to the area, often donating money to the hospital and the church. As the service begins to wind up, and the pallbearers begin to carry the coffin from the church, evil maniacal laughter emanates from the coffin. The bearers drop the coffin in shock. The laughing voice is Sir Oliver’s. A reporter from the London Star newspaper, Peggy Ward (Siw Mattson) was covering the funeral and writes up a story about a ‘laughing corpse’.

Sir Oliver’s Brother, Sir Cecil (Wolfgang Kieling) is now in charge of the Estate, but believes his brother has risen from the dead and is out to get him. His suspicions are confirmed when his lawyer turns up dead. The perpetrator was a man in a skeleton mask, with a black cloak. He kills the lawyer with a scorpion ring, the tail injecting a deadly poison.

Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. Inspector Higgins (Joachim Fuchsberger) is assigned the case. Unfortunately for Higgins as the clues and list of suspects grow, so do the pile of corpses at the hands of out skeletal murderer.

Fuchsberger is great at this kind of role, and seems to have a bit more fun with it than usual. In the few films I have seen him in, he always plays a distinguished authority figure but this time he gets to leer at young girls in mini-skirts and has plenty of by-play with Siw Mattson…on a few occasions, their characters have to revive each other with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

One of the highlights for me is when Sabrina (Lillemor ‘Lill’ Lindfors), a professional entertainer in a nightclub, performs the song, “The Space of today”. It is great sixties entertainment.

The thing about Krimis is that they have dated. When they were made, they were supposed to be a little bit scary, but these days, they are pretty tame. Sure there is violence and death but you’d probably see a lot worse on any one of the crime shows on TV these days. Nowdays, you’d call Krimi’s ‘Horror-Lite’, but that does not take away from the fun to be had watching them.

There’s also great whodunit aspect to this story, which I missed completely. I guess I should have seen it coming, but, well, maybe I was a little bit tired. The clues are there, as are the red herrings, but I think an astute viewer can guess the identity of the killer. I am pleased to say that this is not one of those films, where they unmask the killer, and it’s somebody we have never seen before.

All in all, The Hand Of Power is a pleasant ninety minute diversion, particularly if you love sixties cinema.

Here’s the trailer, uploaded to Youtube by RialtoFilms

The Hand of Power (1968)