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Circus Of Fear / Five Golden Dragons – Double Feature (Blu-ray Review)

Circus-of-FearOn June 28th, cult Blu-ray masterminds Blue Underground will be releasing an Edgar Wallace double feature.  Continuing with their year of double features in 2016, this also could be considered a Christopher Lee or Klaus Kinski double feature as those screen legends both star in the films.  Lee (Dracula: Prince of Darkness), Kinski (Venom), Suzy Kendall (Bird With the Crystal Plumage), Margaret Lee (Eugenie) and Leo Genn (The Bloody Judge) co-star in the gripping thriller Circus of Fear directed by John Moxey (Horror Hotel, The Night Stalker) and based on the novel by legendary mystery writer Edgar Wallace.  In Five Golden Dragons, Hitchcock hero Robert Cummings stars in this exotic British feature from 1967, adapting one of Edgar Wallace’s celebrated Commissioner Sanders stories. Directed by ITC stalwart Jeremy Summers and produced by B-movie legend Harry Alan Towers, Five Golden Dragons combines glamorous locations, gorgeous girls, mystery, action and plenty of humor, with Christopher Lee, George Raft and Brian Donlevy among the villainous ‘dragons’ encountered.

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Circus Of Fear 

What begins as a daring daylight armored car heist on London’s Tower Bridge leads to a sinister circus where a disfigured lion tamer is one of several suspects in a three-ring nightmare of red herrings, grisly ‘accidents’ and cold-blooded murder.

This movie kinda got me.  Its smart in ways you wouldn’t expect.  And the unexpected is exactly the kind of storytelling it delivers.  The film looks like its some piece of silliness that isn’t too bright, but in actually plays into that.  There is almost a sort of double red herring that goes on for quite some time in the film that when part of the actual reveal came, I was pretty surprised and edged up in my seat.  It really got my attention which was enjoying but not thoroughly engaged up to that point.

Circus of Fear boasts some lovely photography.  Equally lovely is seeing such legendary actors as Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski do their thing.  Kinski is in a bit more of a silent, reserved role, but he’s forever interesting any time he enters the picture.  Lee is masked a lot of the time, but manages to take command with merely vocals and eyes as well.  Adding a bit of a bonus is actress Suzy Kendall, who many may recognize from a few giallo films in the 1970s.  Here she’s fun and someone we are on board with following.  Overall, Circus of Fear is a fun mystery thriller that people should turn back the clock and check out.

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Five Golden Dragons 

Bob Mitchell, an American playboy newly arrived in Hong Kong, is the recipient of an enigmatic written message, found on the body of a dead man. The message reads simply: ‘Five Golden Dragons’. It is Mitchell’s introduction to an illicit gold-trafficking operation, and he soon finds himself in the midst of a power struggle between a secretive global crime syndicate and brutal local mobsters…

After the fun I had with the other film on this disc, I expected to drop into more here.  However, this one was a little too so-so for my liking.  Its basically a sort of 1960s spy film.  Five Golden Dragons takes a more comedic approach and tries to play as a sort of spoof of the genre.  The comedy here is a bit too dated and the story starts somewhat interesting but dissipates as it progresses forward.  Espionage action scenes have little to thrill or to write home about.

What is nice about it is looking back at the styles and settings of the film.  If you’re into 60s pop culture it fits into that.  The scope of this film and the locale they shot for is really pretty too.  However, it just all didn’t come together for me.  I much preferred the spy genre films from the 1960s that Blue Underground has previous put into double feature sets over this.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: Circus of Fear 1.66:1 / Five Golden Dragons 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:  Five Golden Dragons looks pretty solid here, but its Circus of Fear that really steals the show on this release.  Its cleaned up real good, with plenty of detail, a bold image and a rich display of the beautiful colors on display.  Its quite impressive, especially if you look at the film print quality of the trailers in the bonus features.  Five Golden Dragons picture is pretty much comparable to that of the Mozambique release.

Depth:  Depth is fine for both films. Circus edges out in the spacey freeness of the characters and their locations.  Movements prove both smooth and cinematic in appearance.

Black Levels:  Circus features rich, deep blacks that look gorgeous.  Five Golden Dragons are a bit more run of the mill with a lighter tint.  No crushing witnessed on either film and detail shines through on darker clothing, surfaces and hair.

Color Reproduction:  Five Golden Dragons features some decent color work, and the era helps to bring that.  They are reeled in though and in control.  Circus of Fear has some gorgeous color work done, especially in the work of purple among the many.

Flesh Tones:  Both films feature good facial detail from both medium and close up distances.  You can see sweat, water, wrinkles, make-up and lip texture.  Skin tones look natural and maintain that appearance throughout the film.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some dirt/specs, no real scratches or print damage seen much at all.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Both films retain their original mono tracks.  They sound good, and as loose and free as they are able without massive clean up work done.  And really, they both sound pretty impressive, with well layered foley and clear loud audio.  The only dink on it maybe that the low frequencies are very minimal and its a bit high pitched. 

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is loud and clean.  Its at the forefront of everything and sounds quite pleasing.

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Extras 

Circus Of Fear

Audio Commentary

  • With Director John Moxey

International Color Trailer (HD, 2:29) 

International B&W Trailer (HD, 2:30) 

US Color Trailer (HD, 2:02) 

US B&W Trailer (HD, 2:04) 

Poster & Still Gallery (HD, 1:46) – Over 100 images.

Five Golden Dragons

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:49)

Poster & Still Gallery (HD, 1:52) – Over 100 images.

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Summary 

Circus of Fear is a terrific under seen little film with a heck of a twist to what seems like a route film.  Five Golden Dragons had the make-up of something I normally get giddy for, but didn’t deliver.  Who knows, maybe I just didn’t watch it at a good time for me.  This Blu-ray release will be good all the time with both films looking and sounding terrific.  There’s even a bit of supplementals offered too.

Circus-of-Fear-Five-Golden-Dragons-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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