I really didn't expect to like this as much as I did as Vampire Circus is one of my favourite Hammer films and really couldn't be equalled or improved in print. But this is a very nicely updated version which isn't slavish about following the original screenplay; although it does keep the essential structure and set-pieces that make the storyline special. I read and enjoyed Mark Morris's first novel, 'Toady', over twenty years ago, and on the evidence of this book alone I look forward to reading more of his work.
Having had a real hard time with some of the Hammer Horror book adaptations its come almost as a relief to have a book that's based on one of the films that I'm not that familiar with, yes I know the name and who starred (Anthony Higgins (or Corlan as he was then) as well as the lovely Adrienne Corri) but that was about it.
So targeting this title with a clean slate was a wonderful blessing. It worked very well, the characters jumped off the pages into my imagination and the authors writing style in my opinion complimented a screenplay very well allowing it to skip off the pages.
Back that up with a few modern touches, some wonderfully evocative visuals within and all in this for me is perhaps the best Hammer film to book adaptation to date. Great stuff.
Ten years ago, in the rural community of Shettle, four men helped to kill a vampire called Karl Mitterhaus. He vowed revenge - “your children will die!” - before his body was consumed by fire. Today, Shettle has fallen into decline, its residents plagued with ill fortune and when the Circus of Nights rolls into town, entrancing the public, those four men - a newspaper editor, a doctor, a teacher and a private investigator - know that they must protect their own children against supernatural forces. Part of the resurgence of the Hammer brand, this novelisation (fearlessly - and cleverly - modernised) works well - the location is clearly defined, the characters are well drawn, the circus is scary, the set pieces are well realised and the climax races along. Also, since Mark Morris wrote this, the writing is as high a calibre as you’d expect, though it is let down by some odd editing choices - the first Circus of Nights is over very quickly, characters remind themselves a lot that they can’t remember the events of the prologue and everyone accepts as granted the ‘sickness barrier’ (didn’t anyone from the outside world notice?). Those quibbles aside, this is good fun and worth a read and it’d be nice to see Morris tackle another Hammer classic in the future.
One of Hammer's early 70s productions featuring either Count Karnstein himself or a number of his brood. This was the film company's 'new Dracula' if you like, being well aware that their ever-dependable Christopher Lee was considerably disillusioned with all of their Dracula offerings post-1968. Lee carried on for a few years out of loyalty to the Hammer 'family' but finally called time on them after The Satanic Rites Of Dracula was completed. So instead of embarking on a lost cause to find someone to fill the sizeable gap left by Lee, Hammer came up with Karnstein - a Dracula in all but name, cape and hairstyle. This, and the other films with a storyline connection (Lust For A Vampire and Twins Of Evil), all bank on the odd flash of bare breasts in their intent to appease 70s audiences and prove that Hammer are moving with the times - even if the films themselves retain the 1800s setting and are located somewhere in Eastern Europe. Vampire Circus does have a somewhat inventive plot, in that the inhabitants of a quarantined village are surprisingly visited by a travelling carnival-cum-circus troupe. Although finding it odd that the performers managed to circumvent the security outside the village, in their beleaguered state they are only too happy for their weirdly-appealing guests to entertain them every evening. Before they are brutally slaughtered or inducted as new members of the undead, of course. Despite the absence of Hammer's major stars such as Cushing or Lee, this is an above-average film from a studio that was on a downward spiral at the time, and is certainly worth a viewing.