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The Last Circus (Blu-ray Review)

The Last Circus, or as originally entitled, La Balada Triste De Trompeta (The Sad Ballad of the Trumpet) is up there in terms of visual storytelling, graphic and brutal violence, and insane sexual situations. Did I mention that this is all contained within the two minute theatrical “red band” trailer? See, this is what marketing is all about when it comes to the business of film. A cool trailer will get people like me interested in your product by making me go out and buy said product. That’s exactly what I did with The Last Circus. I bought the film on Blu-ray based off of the trailer alone. I’ve done this in the past, but I’m a very good judge of film and also pretty good at blind buying films. Oh, and the film is about killer clowns wielding weapons of varying degree set during the Spanish Civil War and so forth. What have I gotten myself into? Step right up and find out for yourself. Tickets please! 

Film  

The screams of laughter turn into screams of despair in the year 1937 when Spain is engulfed in a Civil War of their own. Clowns are busy entertaining children all the while trying to play off the fact that there are bombs and gunfire right outside the door. It’s not a clown’s job to figure out how to stop the destruction. A clown is of a one track mind and that is to entertain the children and make them laugh no matter what the circumstances may be. The laughs are cut short as the clowns are rounded up and drafted into the military to squash a rival platoon. Yes, the clowns in full clown make-up and clothing are given weapons and machetes and off to battle they go. What follows is one of the craziest battles I have ever seen. Bloody hell!

One of the clowns has a young son named Javier who wants to grow up to be just like his father and grandfather before him. This will not do, because Javier’s father quickly tells him that he cannot be the happy clown, because his life is a sad one. He should just stick to being the sad clown. Javier takes this to heart  as we fast forward thirty years later towards the end of the Franco regime. Javier (Carlos Areces) is now grown up and looking for work at the local circus, but first things first. He’s got to meet the boss who runs the show. The Happy Clown. The Happy Clown, Sergio (Antonio De La Torre), rules the circus with an iron fist and does not take crap from anyone. Javier takes it to heart and accepts Sergio’s terms of doing what he’s told and to follow the script of being a sad clown to Sergio’s happy clown counterpart.

Things fall apart soon thereafter when Javier meets the beautiful acrobat Natalia (Carolina Bang) who is Sergio’s wife. Javier is given a bit of advice and that is that Natalia is off limits. He’s not to even look in her general direction. Of course, you know what’s going to happen afterwards, right? Javier, Sergio, and Natalia are a trifecta of disaster. Natalia is a bruised and battered wife, but is codependent on Sergio for love and security and Javier is insecure, but tries to come out on top. He wants to save the day and get the hot girl. Yeah, as cliche as that sounds, The Last Circus is so much more even though the structure of the film is basic. We’ve seen love triangles in the movies before, but I will bet you $1,000 that you’ve never seen a love triangle quite like this one.

The Last Circus is a curious title, but only due to the awkward English renaming. I like the original title of Sad Ballad of the Trumpet, because it makes more sense in the context of the film instead of some tacky alteration for American audiences. Anyways, that’s just a minor quirk, so don’t think that that will make me hate the film at all. I LOVED the film. It’s a masterpiece of twisted and visceral cinema. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I saw a film quite like this. Alex De La Iglesia is the Spanish version of Guillermo Del Toro and Quentin Tarantino mashed up into one. The Last Circus, besides being ultra violent, is extremely sexual. And why wouldn’t it be? The lead actress is named Carolina Bang. That’s not just a clever last name! Okay, I’m just kidding about that. I will say that Carolina is super gorgeous and one of the hottest new actresses to hit the film scene in a while. That’s also why it’s so disturbing to see her in pain and despair at the hands of Sergio.

The Last Circus was released in Spain last December and it had a brief (limited) theatrical run here in the states a couple of months ago. I’m disappointed that it didn’t make a lot of money in the few theaters it was shown in. That’s okay. I am really happy that the Blu-ray is making tracks and people are finally discovering it for themselves on home video. I’ll go so far as to say that it’s achieving cult film status as we speak. Seriously, who doesn’t want to see killer clowns with guns and hot chicks? C’mon!

I’ll also mention that the staff here at Why So Blu is gearing up to compile their lists of the best films of the year which will also include our top Blu-rays of the year. I’ll let you in on a secret… The Last Circus will be making my lists.

 

Happy Clown: Why are you a clown?

Sad Clown: What about you?

Happy Clown: Because if I weren’t a clown, I’d be a murderer.

Sad Clown: Me too.


Video 

The Last Circus is presented in 1080p, 2.35:1, widescreen. Clowns have never looked so good, and that’s a compliment towards the video presentation on this Blu-ray. It’s almost a reference disc in that department, but falls short due to some softness spread out here and there. It’s only minor, but prevents this Blu-ray from getting the perfect five dogs. Colors appear drab and muted at times, but this is intentional, but during certain scenes of brightness or daylight colors do look stunning. During certain scenes it’s as if the film turns into a literal canvas painting of sorts and just drips with life (and death) all over the screen. This serves the visuals well, because we are dealing with “colorful” clowns, so it would be a slight disservice to leave their colorful visage hanging.

Audio 

The Last Circus is presented in Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1. There’s an optional dubbed version, but you would be making a big mistake in hitting that button, I assure you. With that being said, I do believe we have a reference track up in here! Dialogue is ultra crisp and clean, so you will be able to hear (and if you’re fluent) understand every Spanish syllable spoken. There are many instances of action involving gunfire, explosions, carnival attractions, and more. The lossless track handles these scenes flawlessly and without strain. I did not detect instances of distortion in the LFE or clipping in the surround channels. Everything was nice and balanced. I bet you a nickel that you will be humming the main theme of the film when you finish watching it. I bet you will. Wink.

Special Features

The special features could have been beefed up a bit; maybe with an audio commentary or some deleted scenes, etc. The Last Circus has a couple of short featurettes, some with dialogue, others with just music as a guide into the making of the film. I hope full blown special edition makes an appearance in the future. Criterion Collection, heed my cries!!!!! 😉

  • Making of The Last Circus
  • Behind the Scenes Segments
  • Visual Effects
  • U.S. Trailer
  • International Teaser
  • International Trailer

Final Thoughts 

Brutal, grotesque, bloody, sexy, twisted, romantic, stylish, horrifying…clowns. Oh, The Joker would be so proud of these chaps. 😉

 

Order The Last Circus on Blu-ray!

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

4 Responses to “The Last Circus (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    NICE!

    Can;t wait to watch this one day!

    I own this, but have not found the time yet, BUT…….It’s #1 on my priority list next week!!!

  2. Matt Blu-Man

    This is going on the top of my queue!

  3. Matt Blu-Man

    Nevermind, it’s available instantly!

  4. Gerard Iribe

    I can watch it over and over. It’s a classic, in my opinion.