Home | Films | Cast-aphrocies | Biography | Photos | Ask Casey | Crawford's Children | Crawford's Men | Radio Days | Television | Joan's Homes | Letters | Facts & Myths | Press/Media Contact


Joan was not only the "ringmaster" in "Berserk" but in all her films.


"Berserk" 1968

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.

If you have seen this movie, please write a review below. Once your review is submitted, I will post the review below. Thank you for your review on this film.

Your Email Address:
How many stars would you give this film? Four being the best.
Your review/thoughts on "Berserk":

Reviewer, Danny Fortune, says...

A delightfully daffy freak show on the surface, but underneath this movie could play as a 1940's Woman's Picture: Hard-as-nails female circus owner stops at nothing to get business for her show. But the garish Technicolor, cast of circus freaks, and blood-and-gore theme make it an exploitation film at best.

And who's being exploited? Joan Crawford as a 60-something ringmistress of ceremonies, in her fishnet leggings, getting romanced by a 20-something tightrope walker with a granny complex, played by Ty Hardin (who has the most sexually suggestive name I've ever heard, and a sexy enough physique to go along with it).

Co-star Diana Dors packs a powerful wallop as Matilda the tough-talking, cat-fighting stuntwoman. In fact everyone's given stabbing dialog to snarl at each other.

As Monica Rivers, Joan gets to spit out lines like, "I'm running a circus, not a charm school!" and calls Miss Dors a "slut!", quipping, "She's attractive in a common sort of way."

I love Joan's costumes: lots of blinding green suits, a blood-red cape, and those fishnet stockings! Oh, what legs! The ones that held her up for a "helluva long time."

Not to give away the plot, we're supposed to suspect that Joan is behind all the gruesome activity for publicity purposes. "Murder is good business," someone says. But don't forget Joan often has a rotten daughter not too far away. In one scene the kid gets expelled from a private school (Chadwick, perhaps?) for disobedient behavior. "You've always had a knack for causing trouble," Joan admonishes her.

And don't miss the best act presented by "The Great Rivers Circus": The sideshow performers singing an ominous little ditty called "It Might Be You." Personally I think this is one of the best movies Joan made after "Baby Jane." But be prepared to fast-forward all those boring circus acts. Watching poodles jumping rope could make anyone go "berserk"!


Reviewer, Simon Davis, says...

We've eaten caviar and we've eaten sawdust" states Monica Rivers, the all controlling and totally profit driven owner and ring mistress of the tawdry "Great Rivers Circus" in one of the all too rare reflective moments in Columbia Pictures 1968 release "Berserk". Starring none other than Hollywood legend Joan Crawford, that one telling line from the film illustrating the highs and lows of life in a circus is as many fans of Joan Crawford will no doubt agree almost a reflection of the career of veteran actresses like Joan Crawford around this time. The "sawdust" in this instance is this little 1968 suspense thriller that was very far removed from the "caviar" parts Joan had enjoyed through countless years as one of the most luminous actresses to grace the sound stages of MGM, Warner Bros. and just about anywhere else. With "Berserk", rather sadly, gone are the big budgets, the world renowned leading men, the glorious still photos and subtle lighting all engineered to sustain Joan's image as one of Hollywood's most unforgettable goddesses for well over four decades. Instead we have the mature Joan Crawford still every inch the star, appearing in the first of her two British made, low budget films developed by producer Herman Cohen. These two Cohen produced efforts (1970's "Trog" being the second of the two films ), always come in for a great deal of flak when any examination of Joan's films is undertaken. Long considered embarrassments to a long and brilliant career it is true that these two efforts couldn't even begin to compare to the films from Joan's earlier glory days at MGM, and Warner Bros. When titles such as "Grand Hotel", "The Women", "A Woman's Face", and of course "Mildred Pierce", come to mind I have to admit these later British thriller/horror efforts made at the end of Joan's five decade long career do indeed look very poor companion pieces. However I always believe that "Berserk" is far from the worst film ever made and in its own mediocre way is harmlessly entertaining. For me personally it's highly interesting simply to witness Joan Crawford, being the total pro and giving her usual 150% to a part that while certainly not without interest, is as stated earlier far removed from the "Mildreds", and the "Crystals", of Joan's golden era as Hollywood's brightest star.

In "Berserk!" also sometimes known by its English title "Circus of Blood", Crawford plays Monica Rivers the owner and mistress of ceremonies of a travelling circus. She is a woman hardened by the school of hard knocks common in circus life where beneath the fun and the bright costumes there often exists a hard and cold existence. Monica rules the circus with a firm hand and always with a determined eye on increasing her profit margin on the acts she has perform at the circus. When a series of fatal accidents begin occuring during the performances Monica sees that behind these tragedies is a way to increase publicity and thus profits for the circus. When it is revealed that the fall suffered by Gasper the Great from the tightrope was no accident and that his line had actually been cut. Monica comes into direct conflict with her business manager/sometime lover Dorando (Michael Gough) over how to handle the investigation into the "accidents". When he wants out from the circus Monica refuses and Dorando also finds himself jealous of Monica's attraction to much younger replacement Trapeze artist Frank Hawkins (Ty Hardin) who has turned up at the circus looking for work, and has wormed his way into Monica's affections. Shortly Dorando is also found murdered further scaring the circus performers who begin to wonder who will be next. The most vocal of all is the brassy loud mouthed Matilda (Diana Dors), who is one half of an act where she is sawn in half. She openly blames Monica for the murders but meets her own grisly end courtesy of a sharp electric saw before she can prove anything. Greater suspicion now falls on Monica and to further complicate matters for her at this moment her unruly young daughter Angela (Judy Geeson), suddenly turns up at the circus having dropped out of her school. Monica's romance with Frank also runs into rough seas when he begins blackmailing her for a share of the circus profits. After an investigation by Scotland Yard's Superintendant Brooks (Robert Hardy) gets under way the surprise murderer is suddenly revealed in the middle of a performance and in a fiery climax where Monica faces the knife weilding culprit single handed the murderer is struck down by a lightening bolt while fleeing the Big Top at the not so happy conclusion of the story.

Tacky melodrama perhaps but I've always enjoyed Joan Crawford in "Berserk". She is the total professional here tackling her role like it offered the chance for another Oscar nod for her. Despite many critics of her "look", in "Berserk", I fell Joan comes over as a remarkedly striking ( and interesting ), woman here and I have to say that in her classic leotard, scarlet jacket, and fish net stocking outfit for the Ringside scenes, which in a last touch of Movie Queen finesse Joan insisted famed designer Edith Head create especially for her, she has one of the really iconic outfits of her career on display. Despite its low budget the film boasts some very talented British performers who deliver professional performances often in spite of the material they have to work with. Michael Gough as Monica's tired business associate is long respected for his work with the Famed Hammer Studios and would also pair up with Joan again in her last Herman Cohen production of "Trog" two years later. He on both occasions has a wonderful on screen rapport with Joan Crawford and his few scenes in the first part of the story are very well done despite the total improbability of his staged murder. Diana Dors is one of my favourite British actresses who by the late 1960's was starting to move out of her earlier glamour girl roles into character parts that finally began revealing her as a very fine actress. She is excellent as the cheap, tarty circus performer Matilda who meets a grisly end under a cutting saw. I actually regretted her demise as she really brings the film to life with her caustic lines and especially in one scene with her hilarious cat fight complete with hair pulling and punching with another female circus performer. Her scenes opposite Joan Crawford are of particular note and the two have a great time in their verbal cat fights with each other. The two actresses became close friends during production of this film as Joan after some initial misgivings about working with the former blonde bombshell, instead found her as she quoted to reporters later, to be totally professional and enjoyable to work with. Judy Geeson in her first film role is adequate as Monica's daughter who as the story progresses is revealed to be not all she first appears to be. Her sweet and innocent playing of her part is well enough done to create the right suspense when all is revealed at the end. Robert Hardy playing Deputy Superintendant Brooks never I feel comes across as a terribly interesting character in the films I've seen him in and I believe that British horror veteran Peter Cushing would have been so much more effective in this part and would have made something infinitely more interesting out of it. Despite all this talent on show Joan Crawford, Grande Dame of Hollywood of course is the focal point of "Berserk" from beginning to end. Often accused of having no judgement in excepting this low budget feature Joan predictably had the totally straight forward answer to those critics in an interview just after the film's release where she said, quote, "I wanted to remain a working actress, not just an ex performer plugging softdrinks (Pepsi)" unquote. Sounds like good common sense to me and in the light of the scarcity of good roles being offered to her in the late 1960's at least these films kept her occupied for part of her time in the profession that above all else Joan loved for all her adult life. Despite the annoying inclusion of many circus acts in the film that stop the developing story dead in its tracks ( excuse the pun), the rich colour and good circus atmosphere of the film is well done. Especially amusing is the strategic inclusion of the expected Pepsi advertisements in various scenes which almost became a trademark in later Joan Crawford films akin to Alfred Hitchcock's walk on appearances in all of his films.

While far from the best horror circus thriller you will see "Berserk" is not the total mess that a lot of people make it out to be. I enjoy it not only for the lively later day Joan Crawford performance it contains but also because of the fact that no matter how cheap the production was Joan tackled it with the same commitment and seriousness that she did her great productions from earlier decades. That to me explains why Joan's amazing career in films spanned the decades from the 1920's right through to the 1970's. "Berserk", is a good but by no means great little mystery to spend 90 minutes with. Enjoy