• Circus Of Fear/Five Golden Dragons



    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: June 28th, 2016.
    Director: John Moxey, Jeremy Summers
    Cast: Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski, Leo Genn, Margaret Lee, Suzy Kendall
    Year: 1966/1967
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    The Movies:

    Two films produced by Harry Alan Towers based on stories from Edgar Wallace – with Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski starring in both features? DAMN.

    Circus Of Fear:

    The first feature on the disc was directed by John Moxey in 1966 and was previously included as part of Blue Underground’s Christopher Lee Collection boxed set release.

    The film opens in London with a great heist scene in which a gang of professional thieves knock over an armored car and then make their escape. In the ensuing chaos, a guard named Mason (Victor Maddern), who was in on the job, panics and shoots a man dead. When the gang leader calls Mason and instructs him to help get the cash out to a farm out in the middle of nowhere, he figures all has been forgiven – but he’s wrong and he’s promptly put out of his misery.

    The cops working the case, Elliott (Leo Genn) and Detective Manley (Lawrence James), wind up out at the farm where they learn that it’s the headquarters of a circus run by a man named Barberini (Anthony Newlands). The cops figure he’s got something to do with the murder of Mason, but there are other suspects afoot as well. A man named Carl (Heinz Drache) suspects the killer is actually the father of Natasha (Suzy Kendall), whose uncle, Gregor (Christopher Lee), is a mean spirited lion tamer in the circus’ employ. But then there’s the knife thrower, a midget performer named Mister Big (Skip Martin), a clown who knows more than it seems and a few other circus types who might tie into this. Oh, and then there’s Manfred (Klaus Kinski), one of the gangsters from the opening heist – don’t forget about him – especially when all involved soon learn that Mason’s murder isn’t the only one that they’re going to have to deal with.

    This is a fun watch, well-paced with good atmosphere thanks to the circus locations and characters that pop up throughout the movie. The mystery of the story itself isn’t super difficult to figure out but it works. There’s a great score here and it’s fun to see Lee play the sinister lion tamer character here. Kinski is a little bit underused but great when he’s on camera. The film is also very colorful, so there’s plenty of eye candy on display throughout the movie.

    Five Golden Dragons:

    Or second film takes us to Hong Kong where an American lawyer named Porter arrives. Almost immediately, he’s followed by a ne’er-do-well named Gert (Klaus Kinski). Porter knows something is up, he writes the words ‘Five Golden Dragons’ on a scrap of paper and has a cab driver get it to a man named Bob Mitchell (Bob Cummings)at his hotel. Shortly after, Porter is murdered and Gert watches.

    Knowing that clearly something foul is afoot, our intrepid cab driver brings the paper to the cops, specifically to Inspector Chiao (Roy Chiao). At the insistence of his commanding officer, Commissioner Sanders (Rupert Davies), Chiao is sent off to interrogate Mitchell about what he may or may not know. Mitchell is confused by all of this, he only met Porter once while in the Philippines and he has no idea what the significance of the note is. Some lady friends of his - Ingrid (Maria Rohm) and Margret (Maria Perschy) – know more than he does. Margret sees the note and figures Mitchell is intending to murder her, so she takes care of him first! Or at least she tries. She eventually tells him what she knows about it, how she once worked for five mysterious men who control the underground gold trade and how neither of the five men knows the true identities of the other four, and how they once killed her former boyfriend for getting too close! And from there, various people start getting murdered…

    More Lee and more Kinski would have made this a better film but as it stands this is entertaining enough. The Hong Kong locations give the film some exotic flair and masks that the ‘Dragons’ wear are pretty neat looking. The story goes at a decent pace and the opening scene is really well done. From there it drags a little bit in the middle but picks up the pace again in the last twenty or thirty minutes. This disc marks the first official home video release for the film in North America.

    Both films present a lot of familiar faces – in addition to Lee and Kinski we get Maria Rohm (who was married to the producer at the time) in both films, and she looks great. Margaret Lee also appears in both pictures, which is never a bad thing. Neither film is all that deep, offering suspense and thrills of a superficial variety more than anything lasting, but they’re fun. Products of their time, to be sure, but there’s nothing wrong with that. If pulpy, comic book style thrillers are your thing you should get a kick out of this double feature.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Blue Underground presents both features on a 50GB Blu-ray disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfers framed at 1.66.1 and 2.35.1 respectively. Both films do show some occasional very mild print damage and some scenes show heavier grain and less consistent contrast than others, but overall these are very pleasing in terms of image quality. Generally speaking we see nice texture and detail throughout each picture. Images are, for the most part, clean with nice, consistent color reproduction and good black levels. Skin tones look nice in each feature and the image is free of any heavy noise reduction though it does occasionally look like some has been applied, just not over-zealously. Likewise, compression artifacts aren’t ever a problem (the two movies do share the same disc but it’s a 50GB platter so it works). Yeah, these look quite nice. Those colors really pop!

    Each film is the recipient of an English language DTS-HD Mono track, no alternate language options are provided here though optional English closed captioning is offered. Both films sound just fine, with clean, clear and nicely balanced dialogue and a reasonable amount of depth afforded the music used in each picture.

    The main extra on the disc is the audio commentary with director John Moxey that was originally included on Blue Underground’s DVD release of Circus Of Fear that came out years ago. Moderated by David Gregory, this is a pretty interesting chat in which Moxey talks about the ‘German version’ of the movie, working with the different cast members assembled for the shoot, the locations and quite a bit more. There are times where things go a bit quiet but when he’s engaged, Moxey’s got some pretty fun memories to share about this film.

    Aside from that we get four theatrical trailers for Circus Of Fear and one for Five Golden Dragons as well as still galleries for each feature, static menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Blue Underground’s double feature release of Circus Of Fear and Five Golden Dragons might not be stacked with extra features but it does present both movies in very nice shape. Both pictures entertain, providing plenty of pulp-style thrills and chills, loads of lovely ladies, some great scenery and some nice, slick style. Lots of fun to be had here!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      Ah a dilemma. I like Circus Of Fear a lot but Five Golden Dragons left me cold after the initial viewing. I think a lot of it had to do with wanting to kick Bob Cummings in the balls. Repeatedly.