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Big Circus, The (AA 1959, Victor Mature, Vincent Price)

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Victor Mature plays Hank Whirling, the owner of a circus on its last legs. A bank loan overseen by Randy Sherman (Red Buttons) and press agent Helen Harrison (Rhonda Fleming) could help him back to his feet but there’s also a saboteur at work whose increasingly desperate actions eventually lead to death and destruction…

This was Irwin Allen’s first major outing as a producer and it set the tone for many of his later films such as Five Weeks in a Balloon and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Taking the theme of Cecil B De Mille’s The Greatest Show on Earth, he recruited a cast of established actors and set up a similar plot, including a train crash. But this isn’t simple plagiarism – Allen knew the virtue of briskness and fun and the film moves at speed, including a tightrope walk across Niagara Falls set up by Harrison without telling rope-walker Gilbert Roland, and a thrilling climatic chase after the saboteur.

production details
USA / AA / 109 minutes / 1959

Writers: Irwin Allen, Charles Bennett, Irving Wallace
Cinematography: Winton C Hoch
Music: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter
Producer: Irwin Allen
Director: Joseph Newman

cast
Red Buttons as Randy Sherman
Peter Lorre as Skeeter
David Nelson as Tommy Gordon
Adele Mara as Maria ‘Mama’ Colino
Rhonda Fleming as Helen Harrison
Vincent Price as Hans Hagenfeld
Victor Mature as Henry Jasper ‘Hank’ Whirling
Kathryn Grant as Jeannie Whirling
Gilbert Roland as Zach Colino – the aerialist
Howard McNear as Mr. Lomax
Charles Watts as Jonathan T. Nelson – Banker
Steve Allen as Himself – Cameo appearance

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