31 July 2014

Terror Circus (1974)
86 min.
Directed by Alan Rudolph.
With Andrew Prine, Manuela Thiess, Sherry Alberoni, Gyl Roland, Sheila Bromley, Gil Lamb, Al Cormier, Chuck Niles, Jennifer Ashley.
Well, lookee here, this low budget grindhouse flick is surprisingly good!

Andrew Prine plays Andre, a loner who lives out in the Nevada desert and lures helpless young women back to his remote home.

There, the psycho ties them up and puts them in his barn, where they become "animals" in his imaginary circus show, with himself as Ringleader.

And if they try to escape? If they misbehave?

No problem.

Andre takes the offendees out and lets his wild (and very hungry) cougar chase them off into the desert.

Can you guess who wins the chase? And if perchance any of the bad girls should shake his rabid pet cougar, Andre keeps a ghoulish contingency plan under his top hat: some sort of radiation-deformed creature lives in a toolshed out back, perfect for knocking off his wayward guests.

Also known as Barn of the Naked Dead, this 1974 drive-in entry boasts a carefully modulated, chill-inducing performance from Prine; he disappears into the role and squeezes every moment of tension out of the tortured Andre.

The supporting cast is less notable (some of the victims appear inconvenienced rather than terrorized), but lead girl Thiess is likable enough and does her best, rising to the occasion during the bloody massacre climax.

Big kudos to Terror Circus for its brazenly downbeat ending, so very '70s style.

Alternately known as Nightmare Circus.

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