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Monica Rivers is the owner and ringmaster of a traveling circus, and she'll stop at nothing to draw bigger audiences. When a series of mysterious murders begins to occur and some of her performers die gruesomely, her profits soar. She hires high-wire walker Frank Hawkins, impressed by the handsome and muscular young man. They begin an affair which arouses her previous lover Durando's jealousy. When Durando is found dead shortly afterward, the other performers begin to take alarm, as a mysterious killer is obviously loose in their midst. Many suspect Monica herself of the killings, especially Matilda, who has set her sights on Monica's new lover. At this point, Monica's unruly, sixteen-year-old daughter Angela is expelled from school for being incorrigible, and Monica is forced to take her into the circus, allowing her to become the partner of knife-thrower Gustavo. Meanwhile, the dead bodies continue to pile up...Written by
In the wake of her brilliant "Whatever happened to Baby Jane" (1962) ,with a pleasing grasp of continuity ,Joan Crawford continued in the thriller vein.Unfortunately there is no Robert Aldrich here (and no Bette Davis either).
Actually we are closer to "Straight Jacket" (1964) which was a hilarious camp fest."Berserk" is more "conventional" which does not mean "plausible".When you know the killer's identity which I won't reveal of course,you'll say to yourself "how come?"."Berserk!" is primarily a whodunit à la Agatha Christie (doesn't it take place in England?The- murderer- is -among -us- and- pretty- soon -someone- else is-gonna- die stuff),but without anything of the writer's algebra .
Nevertheless,the circus is the place where you dangerously live.Anything can happen during the show so there is a good suspense which would not be sustained if the action took place,say,in a forest near a lake.The high-wire walker,the knives-thrower's partner,the girls under the elephant's feet,the lion tamer ,and Diana Dors in her box waiting for the saw which will cut her in two halves ,all are in danger even if the murderer does not strike.That's the strength of the movie.
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