Studio: Blue Underground
Theatrical Release(s): April 29, 1966 / August 4, 1967
Blu Ray Release: June 28, 2016
Director(s): John Moxey / Jeremy Summers
Review by James Klein
Blue Underground’s recent double feature blu ray of two Edgar Wallace written thrillers are now available for the first time in HD. Both films go hand in hand for not only being based on Edgar Wallace novels but both are from the late 1960’s and contain the great genre veterans Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski.
Circus of Fear (1966)
Circus of Fear is a fun crime thriller that starts off immediately with a bang. A gang of men (one of them the always fantastic Klaus Kinski) rob an armored car in the streets of London with one of the guards being shot and killed, much to the dismay of the rest of the gang. Stealing the loot and escaping, the men force the one man who couldn’t keep his gun to himself to meet their boss and provide his share of the money at a private location. When the man arrives at the hidden location, he is killed and the money is stolen and stashed somewhere at a circus where several colorful characters wind up being possible suspects.
As Inspector Elliott (Leo Genn from The Bloody Judge) tracks the stolen money to the traveling circus, he begins to question each of the potential suspects, one of them a masked lion tamer named Gregor (Christopher Lee) who hides not only his face from everyone but also his past. But the suspect could very well be Mr. Big (Skip Martin from Masque of the Red Death) who seems to be blackmailing Gregor over an undisclosed money issue. Or maybe the suspect is the knife thrower Barberini (Anthony Newlands from Scream and Scream Again) who has a short temper and is a jealous nutcase when it comes to his girlfriend Natasha (Suzy Kendall from Torso). When one of the lions from the circus is let loose and almost attacks Gregor’s niece, fingers start to point in every direction.
Director John Moxey keeps this run of the mill whodunit exciting (the opening heist is done with almost no dialog) and the cast is wonderful to watch and very colorful. While the ending kind of feels a bit rushed and unsatisfying, the movie delivers and is a great time waster for a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Five Golden Dragons (1967)
As Circus of Fear provided some excitement and intriguing characters, Five Golden Dragons does not. In fact this film is frankly shitty. It’s not horribly made as director Jeremy Summers does his best at trying to make the exotic Hong Kong locations interesting, the movie is a borefest and like The Million Eyes of Sumuru, suffers from a bland and annoying leading man.
Bob Mitchell (Robert Cummings from Dial M For Murder) is an American playboy vacationing in Hong Kong. He is handed a letter by the police when a man is mysteriously killed from falling from a building, only to have sent Mitchell a letter with the cryptic saying “Five Golden Dragons”. Mitchell blows it off as he doesn’t know nor cares as his main goal is to search for pussy and make bad one-liners. He finds an attractive piece of wool by the likes of Ingrid (Maria Rohm from Count Dracula) who knows about the Five Golden Dragons: deadly industrialists from around the world who want to control the world’s economy. While this may sound like an interesting concept, the film centers more on its awful and dated musical numbers and an aging Robert Cummings trying to be a more comedic James Bond wannabe.
With an underused Klaus Kinski as an assassin and Christopher Lee in a blink and you will miss him cameo as one of the Five Golden Dragons, this movie just pissed me off as it could have been decent. Even the chase sequences via foot and boat are slow and bland. This is the fully uncut version so viewers are stuck watching this turd for 104 minutes. That doesn’t mean the film has extra violence or nudity, that would make it at least interesting.
Blue Underground once again provides a gorgeous looking blu ray. I have read reviews saying that the picture quality was sub-par and “flat” but having seen the old DVD of Circus of Fear, I thought it looked awesome in HD and very nice, retaining the grain and looking sharp. Circus retains it’s 1:66:1 ratio as Five Golden Dragons is presented in it’s theatrical 2:35:1 ratio. If I had to choose, Five Golden Dragons may look a tad better but only by a smidge. The English DTS-HD 2.0 soundtrack plays just fine without any issues.
While there is only a trailer for Five Golden Dragons, the superior Circus of Fear has both the U.S. and U.K. trailers with the title Psycho-Circus being used in the U.S. There is also an audio commentary track by director John Moxey who was in his 80’s at the time the commentary was recorded and tends to be a little slow on the uptake, at times watching the movie than talking over it. Thankfully, the commentary is moderated by David Gregory who keeps things moving when Moxey tends to slow down.
I would say this disc is worth it just for Circus of Fear.
Circus of Fear Rating:
Five Golden Dragons Rating:
Blu Ray Rating: