Berserk! - Berserk!(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse Films - 2018]Berserk! is a late 60ís circus set British murder mystery/ horror flick featuring Hollywood legend Joan Crawford. The film features fairly impressive- if-fleeting murder sequences, a fair bit of cutting & bitchy banter, a lot of overlong circuses performances, and the odd quirky/ bizarre twist like a sudden & un-prompted musical number. Here on Uk Powerhouse Films is a recent Blu Ray presentation of the film- featuring a good selection of interesting & informative extras, and a new 2k print of the film.
Berserk! Was the second to last film Crawford made, and while it still shows her glamorous film presence & often biting dialogue- itís hardly her greatest latter-day performances. The film was directed by Birmingham born Jim O'Connolly, who didnít really have a horror background as before it he'd directed comedy dramas & crime dramas. The film was co-written by Aben Kandel & Herman Cohen- who had a background in exploitation pictures.
Crawford stars as Monica Rivers- the matriarchal & hard-faced owner of circus, whose family has owned & run the business for the last 50 years. The film opens in a most effective & shocking manner with a high wire artist been hanged by his tightrope- and then macabrely swinging back & forth in front of the films multicoloured title cards. Sadly after this things become decidedly uneven, as we move from prolonged banter inside the circus caravans, dated & rather starchy police investigation, over lengthy circus performances, and the occasional murder. Iíd say this is much more of a murder/ mystery then itís a horror film- though there are some neat touches like the black-gloved killer & a few of the more tension building murder scenes. In supporting roles, we have some recognisable brit Horror names such as a young Judy Geeson, and Michael Gough- as well as Diana Dors, who of course in her later career appeared in more than a few British sexploitation pictures. The film its self is well enough made, and at times entertaining enough- itís just a pity more focus couldnít have been made on the horror elements- as a blood-soaked circus based stalk Ďní slash film would have been great.
The new print here looks good- highlighting the colourful side of the circus, though horror wise the murders are largely bloodless. Extras wise as weíve come to expect from Powerhouse Films releases we get a great selection of well put together & interesting extras- which really add a lot to the package. First off we get a commentary track from film historians Lee Gambin and Eloise Ross Ė this is excellent, very well researched & informative- with pair discussing everything from Crawfordís later career & shifting wardrobe through-out the film, circus films in general, other players bios & memorable performances, the film's production, and much much more. Next we get a just over thirty minute appreciation of the film from Jonathan Rigby- this see him discussing the film's production & itís original title Circus Of Blood, the two writers behind the film, interesting visual titbits to look out for, and his general thoughts on the film- Iíve now seen a few featurettes from Mr Rigby, and he really does put a lot of thought, humour & passion into his look at films.
Next, we get a few short stand-alone interviews- one audio only one with Crawford from the early í60s, and a more recent one with Didier Chatelain discussing Herman Cohen. Another with Pamela Hutchinson discussing Crawford. We also get outtakes, onset picture gallery, and trailer too.
I guess how much you get out of & enjoy Berserk! Is down to what you're expecting- so if you enjoy latter day Crawford films, late 60ís British murder mystery films, or circus based movies- I think youíll get something from this. If though you going into this expecting a great British horror film, or an effective & gory circus based chillier - I think youíll be disappointed.Roger Batty