Nightmare Circus – USA, 1974 – reviews

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Nightmare Circus is a 1974 American horror feature film directed by Alan Rudolph [as Gerald Cormier] from a screenplay co-written with Roman Valenti. It has also been released as Terror Circus and The Barn of the Naked Dead.

The movie stars Andrew Prine (The Town that Dreaded SundownThe Centerfold Girls; Simon: King of the Witches, Grizzly), Manuela Thiess, Sherry Alberoni and Gyl Roland.

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The discordant jazzy score was provided by Tommy Vig (Sweet SixteenForced Entry remake).

Plot:

Three young women are heading to Las Vegas to work as showgirls when their car breaks down in the desert.

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Andre (Andrew Prine) offers to help them and takes them to his place where he keeps women confined in chains and makes them perform circus tricks in his barn. Meanwhile, his father, who has become a homicidal mutant because of the homestead’s proximity to a nuclear power plant, lives next to them in a shed…

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Buy The Barn of the Naked Dead + Scream from Amazon.com

Reviews:

“The whole movie has dully sadistic scenes set to cheery, boppy jazz music and filmed on a shoestring budget with junkyard sets. As mind-blowing a feat as this is, it even manages to make the wild Nevada desert look ugly as hell. I do see people sometimes praise Andrew Prine’s performance here, but I just don’t see it. He’s got a few hammy monologues, but he’s far from a memorable villain.” Pete Trbovich, All Horror

“Lead lunatic Andrew Prine is the only one granted an actual character to play, which he essays with glowering eyes and little else. Director Alan Rudolph went on to work with Robert Altman on several features and became a celebrated art-house director in his own right; barely any of his future promise is evident in this amateurish mess of sex fantasy and nuclear horror.” Fred Beldin, AllMovie.com

“There’s a mountain lion pet, some really bad music and some amusing make-up and gore effects. The plot is livened by meandering into another plot, where Prine’s father, mutated by radiation from local atomic testing, has become a rampaging monster. One girl just happens to look like Prine’s mother, a coincidence that only happens in films like this…” Down Among the Z Movies

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“I did like the look of the movie and the music. It looked a whole lot like Texas Chain Saw Massacre ’74. The whole aesthetic was very similar, so it had that going for it. The music and sound effects were pretty damn creepy as well. But really, when the story goes nowhere, ends abruptly and there is no real action, it just isn’t enough.” Greg Baty, Cinesploitation

Barn of the Naked Dead is terrible movie with bad acting and virtually no production values, but it would be a little bit better if it were content to be what it actually is – a piece of junk.” Welch Everman, Cult Horror Films

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“Though there isn’t much in the way of blatant skin or gore to be found here, fans of degenerate ’70s horror should still enjoy the antics of the always watchable Prine..” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital

“This film is more about aesthetics than plot. It has some nice set pieces and scenes but not a strong enough story to tie them together.  It has the kind of things you might find there; a severed head in a bird cage, a monster escaping a locked room, a barn for of mutilated victims and a deranged ringmaster.” Sinful Celluloid

” …boasts a carefully modulated, chill-inducing performance from Prine; he disappears into the role and squeezes every moment of tension out of the tortured Andre. The supporting cast is less notable (some of the victims appear inconvenienced rather than terrorized), but lead girl Thiess is likeable enough and does her best, rising to the occasion during the bloody massacre climax.” The Terror Trap

“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.” Mitch Lovell, The Video Vacuum

Choice dialogue:

“Why’s he got that cat in a cage? Why’s he got that cat at all?”

Cast and characters:

  • Andrew Prine … Andre
  • Manuela Thiess … Simone
  • Sherry Alberoni … Sheri
  • Gyl Roland … Corinne
  • Sheila Bromley … Mrs. Baynor
  • Gil Lamb … Mr. Alvarez
  • Al Cormier … Sheriff Stanford
  • Chuck Niles … Derek Moore
  • Jeane Manson … Jean

Filming locations:

Lancaster and Palmdale, California

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