Just got through with Media Blasters and Code Red’s new DVD of Terror Circus (1974). Also known as Barn of the Naked Dead, Nightmare Circus and Caged Women, Terror Circus is an interesting mishmash of drive-in trash and surprisingly competent filmmaking.
The plot concerns three female entertainers who breakdown on their way to Las Vegas. They are abducted by Andre, a Norman Bates-esque psycho with aspirations to run the “greatest trained animal show of all time”….with his animals being the girls.The girls are chained up with the rest of his menagre and must withstand Andre’s insane training regimen if they want to escape. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, aside from the women, cougars and boa constrictors Andre also keeps his nuclear-accident-deformed-monster father locked in a toolshed(?!?!?!?!).
The whole thing is a lot more downbeat than it sounds. Heavy on misogyny (there is a laughable attempt at the beginning to add a dash of feminism to the mix by having one of the girls say “He wants to own us. Like all men.”) Terror Circus is best when not taken too seriously. Paradoxically the film has rather low levels of sex and gore (on the special features it is revealed that there was originally more gore, but it’s sadly been lost).
On the plus side is Andrew Prine(Simon, King of the Witches), a veteran T.V. and character actor who gives a really solid performance as Andre. Director Alan Rudolph elevates the whole affair by supplying some certifiably striking images and creepy sequences.
The transfer for the DVD is spectacular. The producers of this disc should really be commended for their efforts. They give a B-movie A-list treatment here: detail is high, grain is minimal and colors are vibrant. There is also a commentary by the FX guys and a half hour featurette put together with both on-camera and audio interviews. Sadly neither Prine nor Rudolph show up on the featurette(can you believe they don’t want to be associated with this classy production?), but those that do have nothing but good things to say about them.
The whole film seems a bit padded and disjointed, but I would say it’s worth a look if you are a serious trash-cinephile.
EXTRA BONUS ENTRY:
You can now read my story “Have a Little Faith” on Flashes in the Dark. Head over there to take a look and be sure to leave something in the comments section (love it or hate it: I want to know).
In related horror fiction news you should also check out Necrography. They just came out with their first issue and it’s well worth your money. Click the banner: