Robert Altman protégé Alan Rudolph directed this extremely shitty horror flick about a warped psycho named Andre (Andrew Prine) who picks up some sexy Vegas showgirl hitchhikers and chains them up in his trusty barn. He gets his kicks by dressing up like a ringleader and parading the girls around like cattle and makes them perform in his imaginary circus (they just mill around a lot) while he whips them constantly. He thinks one girl is his long dead mother so he gives her special treatment (she doesn’t get whipped, but she’s still has to be chained to the wall) and he also keeps his mutant dad locked up in the shed because of his habit of ripping out young girls’ throats.
The desert locations, amateurish acting, crappy music, long pointless shots where nothing happens and non-existent editing will remind you of Manos, the Hands of Fate, which isn’t the best compliment in the world when you really think about it. The movie has the benefit of a great title and a grungy grindhouse look, but when you’re talking about 70’s exploitation films, looks and titles can be deceiving because although there IS a barn in this flick, it doesn’t contain any nekkid bodies.
The gore is OK (throat ripping, severed head, etc.) although most of the blood looks more like Heinz 57 than the real deal. There is one good scene where Prine molests a girl with a giant snake, but other than that, the film is utterly worthless. Speaking of Prine, he gives a pretty good performance as the whacked out Andre; it’s just too bad the rest of the movie is a complete mess.
Despite the film’s high level of suckitude, it WOULD make a good “Awful 70’s Horror Double Feature” with another stinker of a Prine flick, Simon, King of the Witches. Rudolph later went on to direct more “respectable” fare, but most of his flicks are just as bad as this one.
AKA: Nightmare Circus. AKA: Terror Circus.