During his high wire act Gaspar the great falls to his death. The tightrope he was walking breaks and wraps around his neck breaking it. Gaspar had been doing his act for The Great Rivers Circus. The circus was owned by Monica Rivers (Joan Crawford) and her partner Albert Dorando (Michael Gough). Monica also acts as Ringmaster for the circus. The circus travels all over England. The next day Frank Hawkins (Ty Hardin) shows up looking for a job. His specialty, a high wire act. Included in his act is that he has no net and performs it over rows of steel bayonets. Monica hires him.
Not long after Hawkins joins the show Monica’s partner Dorando is murdered. Scotland Yard thinks that there have been too many accidents going on at the Rivers Circus. Commissioner Dalby (Geoffrey Keen) sends Superintendent Brooks (Robert Hardy) to join the circus in Liverpool and investigate everyone associated with it. By now tensions are high at the circus and everyone begins to look at everyone else suspiciously. One of the performers, Matilda (Diana Dors) thinks that the cool emotionless Monica is the killer. And Matilda has no problem letting everyone know what she thinks. Since everyone loves a train wreck the circus has had a full house for every show. People have been flocking to the circus. Business is good, deadly, but good.
In the meantime Hawkins is not happy with just being an employee of Monica. He wants Monica to make him a partner, in more ways than one. Since Monica doesn’t have enough problems her precocious daughter shows up having been expelled from her fancy school. But the murders don’t stop and Scotland Yard is on hand to view the latest act to go haywire.
“Berserk!” was released in 1967 in the UK and 1968 in the U.S. The film was directed by Jim O’Connolly. It is a British horror thriller movie produced by Columbia Pictures as one of their “B” movies.
The film was Joan Crawford’s penultimate theatrical film before “Trog” 1970. Joan was sixty-one when she made “Berserk!” and her star was waning. I’ve never considered her attractive or sexy so seeing her being wooed by a thirty-seven year old buff and handsome man was a little cringe worthy. Not that I was impressed by slimy Frank Hawkins. It was pretty obvious that all he really wanted was to own part of the circus. Any attraction between the two of them was not really evident. As far as I was concerned they didn’t have any chemistry. I will say in her defense that even at sixty-one she had great legs. OK so do drag queens but you have to give her some props.
If you’re a circus fan, you’re in luck. Disbursed in between the murders are some actual circus acts. Actually there are a lot of them. In most films the padding is montages or stock footage from older films. Here the padding is entertaining circus acts. Some of them are a little silly, like performing poodles, but you did get an elephant act, a lion act and part of a trapeze act. Of course each time one of these acts were on screen you kept wondering if an “accident” was going to happen and someone get killed. Except the poodle act of course.
Still it was an OK film, not great, not horrible and a little campy. I found that a lot of horror movies from the sixties were a little on the campy side. This one fit right in.