(director: Robert William Young; screenwriter: Judson Kinberg; cinematographer: Moray Grant; editor: Peter Musgrave; music: David Whitaker; cast: Adrienne Corri (Gypsy Woman), John Moulder-Brown (Anton Kersh), Anthony Corlan (Emil), Thorley Walters (Burgomaster), Lynne Frederick (Dora Mueller), Laurence Payne (Professor Mueller), Elizabeth Seal (Gerta Hauser), Robert Tayman (Count Mitterhouse), Skip Martin (Michael), Richard Owens (Dr. Kersh), Robin Hunter (Hauser), Robin Sachs (Heinrich), Lalla Ward (Helga), Domini Blythe (Anna), Dave Prowse (Strongman), John Bown (Schlit), Roderick Shaw (Jon Hauser), Barnaby Shaw (Gustav Hauser), Mary Wimbush (Sylvia), Christina Paul (Rosa); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Wilbur Stark; 20th Century-Fox; 1972-UK)

“Gory, cliched, silly and inventive.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

English filmmaker Robert William Young (“Captain Jack”/”Bye Bye Harry!”/”Wide Blue Yonder“), in his directorial debut, keeps things gory, cliched, silly and inventive. The stylish Technicolor Hammer film, filled with sexy vampires to resemble a ’70s sexploitation film, is written in a tongue-and-cheek manner by Judson Kinberg.

It’s set in the quarantined Serbian village of Schtetel in 1825, where there’s a plague and a vampire curse hanging over its head. Fifteen years ago the villagers put a stake through the heart of its active vampire, Count Mitterhouse (Robert Tayman), who abducted several children and has the schoolteacher’s wife Anna (Domini Blythe) under his power as his mistress. Before the villagers put the vampire count into a crypt for safekeeping and destroy his castle, he vows in his dying breaths that those who killed him (the schoolteacher, Hauser, the Burgomaster and others) will have their children die to give me back my life.

Dr. Kersh (Richard Owens) breaks through the armed roadblocks set up by the neighboring villages and learns the cause of the plague while in the big city, but also learns by observing other deaths in the nearby villages that the vampires have returned to fulfill the count’s promise. The vampires are part of a gypsy circus, the Circus of Nights, that sneaks through the roadblock and comes to the village to stay for a week; and under the leadership of the ringmaster, the Gypsy Woman (Adrienne Corri), really the schoolteacher’s estranged wife, they start a massacre.

The doctor returns with soldiers to get him through the roadblock and bring medicines for the plague. But it’s up to the doctor’s 18-year-old son Anton (John Moulder-Brown) and the schoolteacher’s teenage daughter Dora (Lynne Frederick) to save the village from the vampire assault. Many of the assaults are by the count’s cousin, Emil (Anthony Corlan), who transforms himself from time to time into a panther (using stop-action effects) to an animal trainer to a vampire (other vampires transform themselves into bats). Several locals are torn to pieces by the animal attacks, who at first are not suspected because the tiger and panther are always caged.

The whole affair is awkwardly executed like a fairy tale, but it’s visually appealing and is harmless entertainment suitable for those who like horror cult films that are traditional vampire flicks yet have a slightly different trendy spin. It also benefits critically from having fresh faces for its cast, only by not having stars it cost them at the box office.