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Circus of Fear

There's actually a circus in "Circus of Fear" (1967), but not a whole lot of fear—a Krimi suspense film rather than a horror film, the original U.S. release title "Psycho Circus" (1966) may have been more apt. A robbery gone awry leads detectives to a circus populated by odd characters, including a lion tamer named Gregor (Christopher Lee), who covers his face with a black hood until the end of the film, ostensibly to hide a hideous disfigurement.

The award-winning Lee established a career playing celluloid villains that flourishes through today. From his interpretation of Dracula in a number of Hammer Films to his recent stint as the corrupt wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, a destructive theocrat in "The Golden Compass", and Count Dooku in a couple of the latest installments in the "Star Wars" series. (For the last, it's said he did much of his own work for his character's light saber scenes—impressive, most impressive, for someone in his eighties!)

But the British actor has not lived by film appearances alone: he's also an accomplished singer and voice-over actor with many languages at his command. Indeed, it seems the secret to his success includes being game for nearly anything—including a heavy metal interpretation of the classic opera Carmen's "Toreador Song" and a reprise of his James Bond film role Scaramanga in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, a video game.

Ubervillain extraordinaire Klaus Kinski also makes a (very) brief appearance, radiating his trademark intensity as the character Manfred Hart while adding to the clouds of cigarette smoke that fill virtually every frame of this film. Like Lee, the "Nosferatu" (1979) star also has a long string of titles to his credit; for Kinski, this is despite having a reputation for impetuous, even violent, behavior. (He reportedly came to blows with Werner Herzog, the German director who helped launch his film career.) He also famously declared that he acted only for money, selling himself to the highest bidder like a prostitute. Thus he chose a higher-paying part in the thriller "Venom" (1981) over a role as a Nazi in the vastly more popular "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1980).

The Science

David Neville and Steve Hadden

David Neville and Steve HaddenDavid Neville and Steve Hadden of the Utah Department of Health discuss the health risks seen in Circus of Fear.

 

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