Crime Solving is a Circus
It's early morning in London and the streets are relatively quiet except that is until a gang rob an armoured vehicle, dropping their loot off of a bridge to a boat below before escaping in the same way. But the robbery doesn't go completely smoothly when one of the gang shoots and kills a guard leading to increased tension. But after hiding the money at an old farm where a circus stays for the Winter murders start to happen leading to the police and Insp. Elliott (Leo Genn) to arrive and start trying to get to the bottom of things.
If like me the actual look of a movie can put you off, such as that slighly hazy image quality of a 1960s/ 1970s movie then try to put that to one side and give "Circus of Fear" a go as it will grab you from the word go. It achieves this through a brilliantly filmed opening series of scenes involving the armoured truck robbery which capitalizes on the eeriness of an early morning London where the lack of traffic makes it feel cold. It is not just the emptiness of the streets, but the use of silence to create atmosphere as it provides a huge contrast when they snap the bags of money onto a rope and slide them down to a boat waiting below.
The thing is that after a fantastic opening it then turns to a classic formula movie as there is a murder where we don't see the man who committed it and then we meet a group of characters from a circus and we have to work out who the murderer is. It is kind of amusing when we get to watch elephants and camels being paraded down a street but it is basically a solid murder mystery movie with enough characters who could possibly be a killer. And that includes Gregor, the lion tamer who keeps a mask over his head due to having been left disfigured when attacked by his own lions.
The thing about this is that whilst little more than a murder mystery directors Werner Jacobs and John Llewellyn Moxey handle it brilliantly so that every few scenes you have another burst of suspense, mystery and danger. It is a good thing that they nail this side of things as whilst "Circus of Fear" stars Christopher Lee and has a few well known names in smaller roles the characters themselves are a let down as they are an anonymous bunch. Oh we learn things about some of them, their secrets which give them motives but they are almost characterless characters.
What this all boils down to is that "Circus of Fear" was much more entertaining than I had expected with some great direction which makes the murder mystery side of things come to life.