|Judy Geeson, Ty Hardin, La Crawford and Diana Dors|
BERSERK (1967). Director: Jim O'Connolly.
"It's a good thing you're inhuman."
The chief reaction of cold-blooded Monica Rivers (Joan Crawford), owner of the Great Rivers Circus, to the "accidental" strangling death of her high-wire star -- in a rousing opening sequence -- is that it will bring in more people who are hoping to see somebody else die. Unsentimental Rivers only cares about her circus, but dapper Detective-Superintendent Brooks (Robert Hardy) is more concerned with preventing future murders, especially after Monica's business partner (Michael Gough) gets a steel rivet hammered into his head. Monica also has her hands full with Matilda (Diana Dors), who gets sawed in half nightly, and who thinks Monica is behind all of the killings. Then there's Frank (Ty Hardin), the new high-wire star, who moves in on Monica as if she were a 25-year-old beauty, and Monica's daughter, Angela (Judy Geeson), who has come home from school with the stern headmistress who's expelled her. Which is the killer, and who will be fricasseed next? The odd thing about Berserk is how entertaining and amusing it is, with more than one well-handled murder sequence, and good performances from most of the cast. Dors has zesty fun as the belligerent Matilda, including a lively cat-fight with another gal who makes fun of her. Some of the sideshow "freaks" sing a zippy tune called "It Might Be You," and John Scott's jangling score is effective. As for Crawford, this will never go down as one of her more memorable performances, but she struts through the picture with her customary authority and exhibits smashing legs when in her ringmaster's outfit. Geeson was also in Inseminoid, and O'Connolly also helmed and wrote Tower of Evil/Horror on Snape Island.
Verdict: No masterpiece, but suspenseful and engaging on its own terms. ***.