[Junesploitation ’21] Mini Reviews: Scarface (1932) and Vampire Circus (1972)

Mini Review
Day 29: Gangsters!
Scarface (1932)

On to Day 29 as Junesploitation nears the end with the prompt ‘Gangster” and this prompt certainly leaves a lot of choices to check out, so today we are looking at one of the most influential gangster films of all time Scarface (1932). Yes there was a Scarface film well before Brian DePalma and Al Pacino made that name iconic, in fact this Scarface was was of the era where they Hays Code was around but not strictly enforced and this film certainly pushed the boundaries with censors with its violence.

Scarface tells the story of gangster Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) as he rises through the ranks under Boss Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins) through bootlegging alcohol and getting rid of anyone who stands in his way. Tony gets eyes for Lovo’s mistress Poppy (Karen Morley) and his sister Cesca (Ann Dvorak) is growing up and refuses to let Tony be the boss of her. All the complications in Tony’s life and his growing paranoia will lead to his ultimate downfall.

The character of Tony was based on Al Capone, it is very obvious who he was modeled on, however Paul Muni makes the character his own, he isn’t doing some impression of Capone, he brings this character to life and it is a compelling performance. The main women Karen Morley and Ann Dvorak are both excellent here, playing very different characters but both sharing the right chemistry with Muni to really sell their relationships.

From the performances to the direction (from Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson) this is a very compelling film, quite violent for the time and able to tell a story that wasn’t at all watered down. A minor issue the film does have is the accents, they feel very forced at times and can easily take you out of the scene. That aside despite its reputation, this is a really fine film, one of the great gangster films ever made and one that would make a great double with Al Pacino’s Scarface.


Mini Review
Day 30: Vampires!
Vampire Circus (1972)

The final day of Junesploitation is here and what a way to end off the month long viewing of exploitation films than with the prompt of ‘vampires’. Let’s take a look at a vampire film that doesn’t seem to get mentioned as much at all anymore, from Hammer Films with Vampire Circus (1972). During the 70s Hammer were producing a lot of films, films that easily got lost in the shuffle but the joy now is being able to discover the hidden gems with the films they made.

The film revolves around Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman) a vampire who feeds from the blood of the children in town, that is until the townsfolk stake him and think they have done away with the monster. Years later a plague has affected the town, leaving them to quarantine themselves and some villagers suspecting it may be a course placed on them by the Count. However a mysterious circus ‘Circus Of Night’ gets through the road blocks and into town and performing for the village with their troop, but before long more people begin dying and it isn’t from the disease. Could the Count really be plotting his revenge on the town that ‘killed’ him?

Hammer films were known for being extremely atmospheric and Vampire Circus certainly has that and uses it well. It feels very fresh and different despite being a film that is almost 50 years old, the whole relevance in 2021 with a plague and quarantine hits very close to home for example. Also using a circus trope to infiltrate the town also feels so different to other vampire films, they are sinister characters and the performances are great. This is a film that those who love their vampire films should see, but also if you do enjoy Hammer track this one down, it’s worth the watch.


Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea

Please check out FThisMovie.net, with many thanks to the crew for the concept of Junesploitation and some excellent prompts for 2021!

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