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Circus of Horrors

Novel by Tom Owen 1960.

Tod Browning's early horror film Freaks set the scene for a number of other circus-based horrors, none of which touch its authenticity and power. Circus of Horrors is the novelisation of another film, based on a screenplay by George Baxt, which lurks very much in the shadow of Freaks. Dr. Rossiter is a plastic surgeon, unorthodox in his methods, but highly effective in his results. He is also the possessor of a huge ego, one which leads him into trouble when he accepts the challenge of reconstructing the horribly disfigured face of Evelyn Morley. The challenge is beyond him and Morley is sent insane. The police are naturally after Rossiter and he makes his escape only to be ironically disfigured himself. Luckily for him, his assistants save his face, and together they carve out a new existence in a French circus. Rossiter, now Dr. Bernard Schuler, acquires criminals for his circus by recreating their faces, and the scheme is a huge success. The circus, however, is becoming known for its inexplicable accidents, mostly Schuler's way of dealing with people who wish to leave.

Tom Owen is a writer of the old school. His prose and his structure are far more literate than most of the new breed of authors. Though the story is not his creation, he injects the characters and the action with something of his own, and turning the whole into a novel worthwhile on its own merits as well as being a worthy accompaniment to the film. The Freaks connection reaches plaguarism with its stylish ending, but Owen does enough to keep everything on track. Only a short book, nevertheless it holds its own against most more modern competitors.


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