We like circus films on ‘The Island’, all the fun and drama of the greatest show on earth but without the uncomfortable seats and the smell of shit.
‘Beserk’ is a classic of the genre, starring an out there Joan Crawford as a circus owner troubled by a series of gory and inventive murders (Michael Gough has a tent peg hammered into the back of his head; Diana Dors gets cut in half with a circular saw; Ty Hardin is stabbed and then falls on even more knives). Naturally, with shouty Robert Hardy investigating the crimes it remains a mystery until the very end, when a fortuitous flash of lightning provides instant justice to the crazed killer.
Like most Herman Cohen produced films, ‘Beserk!’ is stupidly good fun and gleefully over the top. Yes, it’s slightly bizarre that tired looking 63 year old Joan is presented as an irresistible sex symbol, but it has a lot going for it, not least some documentary footage of some actual circus acts, including a quite extraordinary and slightly unnerving turn with trained poodles (see below). As well as Crawford, we also get Diana Dors at her fulsome, feisty best and Milton Jones gets a plum part and, I kid you not, a song! Although I'm pretty sure he's dubbed.
POSTSCRIPT: In the early years of ‘Eastenders’, it was a running motif that the Fowler family always seemed to be watching the knife throwing sequence from ‘Beserk’. I don’t know why, some sort of twisted BBC joke, no doubt, but I noticed as, I’m sure, did at least five or six other viewers.