Circus of Horrors

Circus of Horrors is a 1960 British horror film directed by Sidney Hayers. It stars Anton Diffring, Yvonne Monlaur, Erika Remberg, Kenneth Griffith, Jane Hylton, Conrad Phillips, Yvonne Romain and Donald Pleasence.

Circus of Horrors
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySidney Hayers
Produced byLeslie Parkyn
Julian Wintle
Written byGeorge Baxt
StarringAnton Diffring
Erika Remberg
Yvonne Monlaur
Donald Pleasence
Jane Hylton
Jack Gwillim
Music byFranz Reizenstein
Muir Mathieson
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Edited byReginald Mills
Lynx Films Limited
Distributed byAnglo-Amalgamated
Release date
  • April 1960 (1960-04)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Film critic David Pirie considered it to be the third entry in Anglo-Amalgamated's "Sadian trilogy" in his book A Heritage of Horror (1971), because the films focus on sadism, cruelty and violence (with sexual undertones) as opposed to the supernatural horror of the Hammer films in the same era. The previous films in the trilogy were Horrors of the Black Museum and Peeping Tom, both in 1959. It was released in the United States by American International Pictures as a double feature with The Angry Red Planet.


In 1940s England, Dr. Rossiter (Anton Diffring) is a plastic surgeon wanted by the police after an operation goes hideously wrong. However, believing himself to have brilliant abilities as a surgeon, he and his assistants (Kenneth Griffith and Jane Hylton) evade capture and escape to the Continent. There Rossiter changes his name to Schüler, and befriends a circus owner (Donald Pleasence) on whose deformed daughter Nicole (played by Carla Challoner as a child, Yvonne Monlaur as an adult) he operates.

Schüler manipulates his way into running the circus, taking it over when the owner dies in a "freak accident". A decade later, he is running an internationally successful circus, which he uses as a front for his surgical exploits. He befriends deformed women and transforms them for his "Temple of Beauty". However, when they threaten to leave, they meet with mysterious accidents which raise the suspicions of local police (Conrad Phillips among them), who are soon on his trail.




After the success of Horrors of the Black Museum, Anglo-Amalgamated and AIP tried to duplicate its success with this film.[1]

They wanted to do a horror film set in a circus. Writer George Baxt came up with the idea of a circus run by a plastic surgeon who turns criminals into beautiful people. Baxt says he had to do several drafts of the script before AIP were satisfied.[2]


The film was shot at Beaconsfield Film Studios, with location filming on Clapham Common in London and in Old Amersham, Buckinghamshire. Billy Smart's Circus provided the big top and some of its performers appeared as extras.[3][4]


The score was provided between Franz Reizenstein and Muir Mathieson. Douglas Slocombe was the cinematographer.

The song "Look for a Star", written by Mark Anthony, originated in this movie. In the United States, there were four versions issued at the same time that charted:

  • Garry Mills (the original) (Imperial 5674) reached #26
  • Garry Miles (a pseudonym used by Buzz Cason and chosen due to its similarity to Garry Mills' name)[5] reached #16
  • Deane Hawley (Dore 554) reached #29
  • Billy Vaughn (the sole instrumental version) (Dot 16106) reached #19


The film became a surprise hit in the US.[6]


  1. Gary A. Smith, The American International Pictures Video Guide, McFarland 2009 p 39
  2. Valley p 30
  3. Jeff Stafford, "Circus of Horrors", Turner Classic Movies accessed 9 Feb 2014
  4. John Hamilton, The British Independent Horror Film 1951-70 Hemlock Books 2013 p 84-89
  5. Cason, Buzz (2004). Living the Rock 'n Roll Dream: The Adventures of Buzz Cason. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 39. ISBN 0634066722.
  6. Valley p 31


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