Hammer's Dracula series (in association with the Frankenstein series) was responsible for defining the world of Hammer horror, but for me it's been the rather off branded vampire films that have had absolutely nothing to do with the rather repetitive Dracula films that have entertained me. Films such as the Karnstein Trilogy, The Brides of Dracula and even Countess Dracula set themselves apart from the rest of Hammer's sometimes methodical vampire films, like Vampire Circus.
When the townspeople of Schtettel finally grow tired of the Count Mitterhouse sucking the life out of their children they decide to put a stop to his satanic ways and assembles a posse. Upon their arrival they discover that one of their very own citizens, Anna the wife of the town's Professor, has been sleeping with the Count and luring the children to his grasps to feast on their blood. The Count is quickly killed by impaling him with a stake to the heart, but with his last breath he places a curse on the town and vows that his death will be avenged by their bloody deaths.
Years pass by and the town of Schtettel falls under a deadly plague, fearing contamination the surrounding towns establish a blockade preventing anyone from leaving. The town's doctor offers to try and sneak past the blockade in an attempt to bring back some medicine and upon his departure arrives a strange troupe of circus performers. Unbeknown to the townspeople the circus performers are a group of revenge seeking vampires lead by the cousin of Count Mitterhouse. They've come to resurrect the Count and deliver his promised acts of revenge!
Having heard a lot of good things about Vampire Circus from other Hammer fanatics I was looking forward to finally getting around to checking it out, but rather disappointed that overall the film doesn't have much going for it. While a circus of vampires is definitely an interesting premise, ultimately the film reverts back to Hammer's typecast vampire plot of revenge by or for a certain Count. It's Hammer's Dracula storyline recycled once again with a more interesting group of villains but the same watered down plot. Nothing in the story stands out among most of Hammer's other vampire films, and it never comes close to the quality of story, acting and entertainment as any of the Karnstein films.
The cast of vampire characters are the only real aspect of the film that makes it worth watching, but even then there are so many diverse characters that they're never given much screen time to become very interesting, such as Tiger Girl who has a brief dance performance and simply disappears, why wasn't she out sucking blood or causing havoc!?! Overall, with Hammer on the cusp of it's final handful of films, Vampire Circus is more of an example of the quality of film that ultimately lead to Hammer's demise, not it's attempt at fighting to stay alive.