Nothing hugely horrific happens in Circus of Horrors & the film is so tame by today's standard that it wouldn't even qualify as a good murder tale. But the circus setting is so much fun, & the recurring theme song "Look for a Star" so delightful, that I enjoyed the film much more than not. And it is extremely interesting to see Anton Diffring playing a regular psycho instead of yet another nazi, though as hams go, he's no Vincent Price.
Big budget for a horror film, with some excellent widescreen color cinematography captured on the letterbox DVD, the story regards an insane plastic surgeon who is hiding from Scotland Yard after one of his experiments goes horribly awry & disfigures a client. Years later he is running a travelling circus in France & still performing surgeries to transform scarred women into perfect beauties.
The suspense gags have very little to do with the surgicial procedure & focus on circus "accidents" as a Diffring's mad doctor kills anyone who threatens his position or rejects his love. A death from a bear-mauling, a knife-act, or tightrope act can always be made to look like an accident. But as too many deaths mount up in the "jinx circus," someone is bound to investigate.
The doctor's belief that he can take his circus to England & reveal his identity safely after exhibiting the world's most perfect beauty scarsely seems a rational plan, but then he's a mad doctor after all. Back in England, despite that plastic surgery has changed his face, his voice is enough to give him away to the original victim of his experiments.
With moderate forgiveness for being so simple & melodramatic -- a product of its era -- the film is suspenseful & effective.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl