Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Psycho-Circus" (1966) d/ John Moxley

 photo agmm987efps2_zps98b9ffb6.jpg
Though tonight's movie, a German/British thriller/whodunit from the man who brought you the excellent City of the Dead (1960), doesn't nearly contain the atmosphere of that earlier film, there are enough twists and turns, red herrings and double crosses here to keep the viewer engaged right up until the final reveal. What's more, you've got Christopher Lee as a hooded lion tamer, the ever-creepy Klaus Kinski lur-kink about in ze shadows, the delectable Margaret Lee, and the equally scrumptious Suzy Kendall. And if you smoke half as many cigarettes as I do, you'll revel in amazement at the number of actors with hardcore tobacco-stained fingers in this movie. I can't ever recall seeing anything like it. On to the story, after this next cigarette. Sorry, force of habit...

 photo d4957883-75ac-4c1c-8ca4-0d8f23960c19_zpsc10df321.png
"...and then I make you unconscious in ze het.", hisses Manfred (Klaus Kinski).
After a daring and elaborate armored car robbery in broad daylight on London Bridge, no less,  nets a gaggle of thugs a quarter of a million pounds in stolen loot and a murder rap, a phone call from the anonymous boss sends a suitcase full of notes to a deserted farmhouse, but the bag man takes a circus throwing knife in the back for his attention to detail. Meanwhile, back at Scotland Yard, Inspector Elliot (Leo Genn) traces some of the stolen cash to Barberini's Circus, on winter hiatus nearby, and goes undercover as a press photographer to solve the case. A lanky wank of a lion tamer named Gregor (Christopher Lee) who was mauled in the facepiece by lions and wears a dramatic black hood to hide his hideous scars, conceals the suitcase away under the big cats' cage for safe keeping, but is he the criminal mastermind and calculated murderer we've been looking for?

 photo 1e64b40d-0758-4125-9d3d-bbf850b95a12_zpsba6f29f9.png
Gina (Margaret Lee) shouldn't be snooping around by the lion cages in the dark.
...Or could it be carnal-minded cutie, Gina's knife-throwing beau, Mario, whose short fuse over her continued infidelity grows shorter all the time? Could it be Mr. Big (Skip Martin), the half-pint blackmailer with one dwarfish ear to every trailer door? Maybe it's Manfred (Kinski), who ducks in and out of the shadows long enough to zmoak a zigarette? Is it the owner, Barberini himself, spurred on to criminal misdeeds by a mountain of debt? Perhaps it's the ringmaster, Karl, who is driven to find his own father's killer, and harbors some unhealthy lust for both Gina and Natasha (Suzy Kendall), Gregor's sensual young protege. Suspects begin turning up dead, one by one, each by throwing knives with a distinct silver triangle, from a set once used by the greatest knife thrower the world had ever come one, come all, to the most dangerous show on Earth, where nobody is who they seem or even claim to be, and the bounds they'd push for greed's sake are limitless, as you'll gather for yourselves after the final reel.

 photo e1ee71b7-255a-4f91-ab53-3262cc10a1e6_zps6f5a045d.png
"I'm the Bob Fosse of lion tamers!", exclaims Gregor (Christopher Lee).
Though Lee stays hooded for three-quarters of the movie, his stature, ridiculous bullwhip gestures, and booming voice are an unmistakable giveaway from his first moments on screen. He looks as though he had a blast making this one. Kinski, though perhaps underutilized here, is effective and memorable, as always. The only negative I drew from the experience was repetitive footage of dirty circus animals, obviously not having the same great time the cast and crew might have had, being led through metropolitan streets, crammed into cages, and forced to act for the cameras against their nature. Go ahead and call me an old softie. I dare you. Three wops on the rating scale, and a solid recommendation.

 photo cf4a5460-b3c2-44f7-8f3d-3cea669b2a26_zps02d9847e.png
"I'd pay a significant amount of this money for a sturdy toehold right now..."
 photo nu3w_zps21ec95cd.jpg

No comments:

Connect with Facebook