Fifteen years ago several children in the village of Stetl disappeared. Albert Muller (Laurence Payne) witnesses his wife, Anna (Domini Blythe), take one of the children into the castle of Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman). The villagers invade the castle and find the child, Jenny Schilt (Jane Darby), dead, the victim of a vampire, the Count. Anna, his mistress had been enticing the children into the castle. The villagers impale the Count and burn the castle. Before dying Count Mitterhaus instructs Anna to find his cousin. He also places a curse on the village.
A plague has infested the tiny town. The surrounding villages have blockaded Stetl keeping it isolated. Some believe the plague is because of the Count’s curse but Doctor Kersh (Richard Owens) believes it is a medical condition. He decides he needs to go to the capital for medicine to fight the plague. Because of the blockade his son Anton (John Moulder-Brown) distracts them while his father slips by.
Today the circus comes to town. No one knows how they got past the blockade to enter the village but since they are here some entertainment may be the best thing to get everyone’s mind off the plague. The circus caravan is led by a gypsy woman (Adrienne Corri) and a dwarf, Michael (Skip Martin), dressed like a clown. The circus boasts a strong man (David Prowse), twin dancers Heinrich (Robin Sachs) and Helga (Lalla Ward), both of whom happen to be vampires. Included among the circus performers is Emil (Anthony Higgins). Emil is a vampire that can change into a panther. He is also the cousin of Count Mitterhaus.
Emil is here to fulfill the Count’s curse. The men responsible for his cousin’s impalement are Albert Muller, the school master, the town Burgermeister (Thorley Walters), Mr. Schilt (John Brown), and Albert Hauser. Emil is determined to kill these men and their children. Then he can resurrect Count Mitterhaus with the blood of the victims. It seems that the village of Stetl has two plagues to deal with, one natural and one supernatural.
“Vampire Circus” was released in 1972 and was directed by Robert Young. It is a horror film produced by Hammer Film Productions.
During the seventies Hammer Horror films began to decline at the box office. To invigorate the genre and to compete with the up and coming slasher film genre Hammer added and tweaked its films to titillate its audience. Nudity was inserted into some of its films. “Vampire Circus” added that aspect as well as a strange and exotic atmosphere. It also threw away some of the normal vampire tropes and added some additional gore. The result is a semi-dream atmosphere of modern vampires in a nineteenth century setting. The result is fascinating and eerie.
Laurence Payne(Professor Albert Mueller), Adrienne Corri (Gypsy Woman) and Lalla Ward (Helga, [Heinrich’s twin]) all appeared in the 1980 “Doctor Who” episode ”The Leisure Hive”. David Prowse (Strongman) played Darth Vader in the first “Star Wars” trilogy. Robin Sachs (Heinrich, [Helga’s twin]) played the part of Ethan Rayne in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” television series and as the space conqueror Sarris in the science fiction movie “Galaxy Quest” 1999.