Joan was not only the "ringmaster" in "Berserk" but in all her films.
Cast: Joan Crawford~Ty Hardin~Diana Dors~Michael Gough~Judy Geeson~Robert Hardy~Geoffery Keen~Sydney Tafler~George Claydon~Phillip
Madoc~Ambrostine Phillpotts~Thomas Cimarro~Peter Burton~Golda Casimir~Ted Lune~Milton Reid~Marianne Stone~Miki Iveria~Howard
Goorney~~Reginald Marsh~Bryan Pringle.
Director: Jim O'Connolly
Producer: Herman Cohen
Costumes by Jay Hutchinson Scott
Box Office Figures for "Berserk":
Top Grossing Film Position: Ranked #85
Gross Rentals: $1,100,000.
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Review: "Berserk" is another of these degrading B-pictures the legendary Joan Crawford was handed in her later
career (so many of the great female stars of the prior decades were reduced to such an unworthy fate in male-dominated Hollywood)
and another in which she approaches it with 200% zeal. Hey, her fourth husband left her in debt and she needed the money. Plus,
as Joan herself attested, she wanted to be known as an actress, not just someone who hawked Pepsi products. But the results
with the cheezy production values are moderate camp.
I suppose aficionados of camp and B-films will debate the fine points as to whether "Strait-Jacket" or "Berserk"
is the "better" of two essentially schlocky films; my vote is for "Strait-Jacket" which is actually really
good in spite of the odds, mainly due to Crawford. Like "Strait-Jacket," I'd watched "Berserk" on television
as a kid and enjoyed it. As an adult, it holds up less well for me, however, due primarily to the stock footage of circus
acts (as incongruous against the set as the vintage news reels in Woody Allen's "Zelig") and the absurd impossibilities
about some of the actual murders. It might be my imagination but Joan Crawford, in spite of keeping her head held high, actually
looks more embarrassed in this one and I'm sorry for her. But she still gives it some kick and there's some fun to be had.
Crawford plays Monica Rivers, owner of the Great Rivers Circus, which is being plagued by a series of grisly murders.
Valiantly trying to inject some glamour into this film, Crawford had costume designer Irene provide her leotard and shows
off her still-good legs at sixty thereabouts. But with her beehive, bull whip, and boy-toy (Ty Hardin), the latter currying
her affections to the fury of sometimes-lover/business manager Dorando(Michael Hough), it only adds to the camp, particularly
when Crawford is bothering to act and boy-toy isn't. (I smell the hand of a drag queen in the writing of this one, especially
when the killer spouts the immortal line, "Kill! Kill! Kill!" What else?) Horror films of varying degrees of
quality were the rage in the 60's and early 70's, particularly grisly ones, so there are many close-ups of victims' faces,
and all the innocuous acts (like performing poodles) are just warm-ups for the gory mishaps of the more dangerous ones to
follow. In case you might forget it's a B-picture, there's even a cat fight -- between two women, not lions.
Although fun, several red herring plot threads go unresolved and the unmasking of the killer is such a non-issue that
it's actually used as a clip in the documentary "Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star." (Talk about spoilers.)
Not a bad film actually, but it truly saddens me that people remember Joan Crawford more for these horror films or even worse,
"Mommie Dearest" (a camp travesty full of holes and blatant inaccuracies, not a serious biopic), than for her glory
days at MGM when she was at the height of her beauty, glamour and charm or for her many sterling performances at Warners,
MGM, and other studios. It is unfair and unworthy of the contributions of this great actress and star who, even in her later
years, was still capable of delivering (as proved in some of her television outings like "Della"). However, it's
still kind of fun in its own cheezy way and I've seen far worse. Judy Geeson plays Monica's daughter Angela.