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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

Vampire Circus [Blu-ray]

 

(Robert Young, 1972)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Hammer Film Productions

Video: Synapse Films

 

Disc:

Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:27:16.791

Disc Size: 39,171,469,620 bytes

Feature Size: 23,548,470,336 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.01 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: December 14th, 2010

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1967 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1967 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1956 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1956 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Subtitles:

None

 

Extras:

Featurette: THE BLOODIEST SHOW ON EARTH: Making Vampire Circus - An all-new documentary featuring interviews with writer/director Joe Dante, Hammer documentarian Ted Newsom, Video Watchdog editor/author Tim Lucas, author/film historian Philip Nutman, and actor David Prowse (32:39 in HD!)
Featurette: GALLERY OF GROTESQUERIES: A Brief History of Circus Horrors - A retrospective on circus/carnival themed horror productions (15:07 in HD!)
Featurette: VISITING THE HOUSE OF HAMMER: Britain's Legendary Horror Magazine - A retrospective on the popular British horror/comic publication featuring author Philip Nutman (9:48 in HD!)
VAMPIRE CIRCUS: Interactive Comic Book- Featuring artwork by Brian Bolland (3:15 in HD!)
POSTER AND STILLS GALLERY (1:58 in HD!)
ORIGINAL THEATRICAL TRAILER (2:321 in HD!)

Isolated Effects and Music score

DVD with same content/extras - in SD

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: A little girl is brutally slain by a vampire in a tiny 19th century Austrian village. Seeking revenge, the townspeople invade the foreboding castle of Count Mitterhaus and kill him for the crime. As the Count dies, he curses the villagers and vows that their children will all die so that he may someday return to life. Fifteen years later, as the village is ravaged by the plague, a traveling circus comes to town and distracts the villagers from their current hardships. Little do they know that their troubles are only beginning! The circus is actually a troupe of shape-shifting vampires and, as the local children start disappearing, they realize the prophecy of the long dead Count is coming true.

 

 

The Film:

Though not as widely known as Hammer's popular Dracula and Frankenstein series, this is one of the studio's more stylish and intelligent projects. The tale is set in 17th century Serbia in the tiny burg of Stettel, whose residents live in fear of an encroaching plague. The frightened villagers welcome the arrival of a colorful traveling troupe dubbed 'Circus of Nights,' unaware that the visiting entertainers pose a far more deadly threat: the entire company is composed of shape-shifting vampires capable of transforming themselves into animals to stalk their prey. The group's leader, the most powerful monster of the bunch, has returned to the village to exact revenge on those who murdered his cousin one hundred years earlier. Less a standard Hammer monster melodrama than a surreal journey through dark fantasy (reminiscent of Jean Rollin's erotic vampire series), with an unexpected (but not entirely inappropriate) surplus of nudity and bloodletting. The film's creepy highlights include the chilling extended prologue and scenes of vampire trapeze performers transforming into bats in mid-leap.

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Vampire Circus is a typical Hammer delight. Synapse films have done a superb job in putting it to Blu-ray. To my knowledge this is the second classic Hammer Studio film in 1080P - Eureka did Paranoiac on a Region 'B' Blu-ray earlier this year. This is dual-layered with a strong bitrate. Reminding me of many Blue Underground transfers - this shows a wonderful, consistent sheen of grain and has no unnecessary boosting. Despite all the darkness - noise remains minimal. I thought I noted some banding but it wasn't very prevalent - if existing at all. This is a very pleasing image and I get the feeling its a very authentic representation of the original film. Bravo!

 

NOTE: Eric has sent us matching captures from the, now out-of-print, 1:78:1 Carlton (UK) DVD. It is flatter with a 5.5 Mbps bitrate, cropped, and has PAL speedup. It appears to be vertically compressed (abnormally fatter faces). The Blu-ray is dramatically superior. It only has a trailer as an extra. Thanks to Eric!

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 -  PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Synapse - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

 

Audio :

We get a faithful 2.0 channel stereo track via DTS-HD Master at 1967 kbps. It is without major flaw and has both depth and some perceived range. It is quite good in supporting the film's effects and dialogue. Probably as good as it will ever sound for home theater consumption. There is also an optional isolated effects and music track - in the same lossless HD quality. There are no subtitles offered. My Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked disc.

 

Extras :

Synapse have stacked the deck with some bountiful extra features. First is the 1/2 hour "Bloodiest Show on Earth: Making Vampire Circus" - accurately described as an 'all-new' documentary featuring interviews with writer/director Joe Dante, Hammer documentarian Ted Newsom, Video Watchdog editor/author Tim Lucas, author/film historian Philip Nutman, and actor David Prowse. Like all video supplements on the Blu-ray this is rendered in HD. There is a 15-minute 'Brief History of Circus Horrors' - a retrospective on circus/carnival themed horror productions entitled Gallery of Grotesqueries. Extras also include a retrospective on the popular British horror/comic publication. 'The House of Hammer' featuring author Philip Nutman. This runs just shy of 10-minutes. Pretty cool in HD is an interactive "Vampire Circus" Comic Book- featuring exquisite artwork by Brian Bolland. There is a slideshow of posters and stills, an original theatrical trailer, the aforementioned isolated Effects and Music score and lastly a second disc dual-layered DVD with same content/extras (and menus) - only in SD. Synapse have done a great job here.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Super Blu-ray package - even beyond fans of the Hammer niche genre. Eric may follow up with a comparison to the UK SD-DVD, but I can't imagine it looking or sounding better. Let's hope for more Hammer on Blu-ray - especially if the transfer and extras treated this well. I am thoroughly impressed with Synapse films here - and we give a strong recommendation. 

Gary Tooze

December 16th, 2010

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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