Carnival of Blood (1970)

Carnival of Blood


A dingy carnival becomes the location for a grisly crime when a woman ends up beheaded on one of the rides. But this wasn’t an accident, this was a deliberate act by an unknown killer. Dan, a newly promoted Assistant District Attorney, wants to investigate the crime scene, and drags his very reluctant girlfriend, Laura, along with him. They don’t find out any useful information, but they do stumble upon another body, confirming that there is a crazed killer loose, and he’s clearly hanging out near the carnival. The police department must be stretched thin, because Dan wants to do some more personal investigations involving the case. He also wants to bring Laura along, but by this point Laura wants nothing more to do with his murder case. But unfortunately for her it looks like she’s going to be pulled in anyway, because it doesn’t take too long for the killer to suddenly set their sights on her.

Yeah, I was confused by his infatuation with you, too.

So this was actually the film I meant to watch when I started watching Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood  instead. Who knew there were such similarly titled films made so close together? But by the time I realized my goof I was already half-way through and invested. Oh well. Turns out I should have stopped while I was ahead, though. Because while Malatesta’s is undoubtedly an odd film, it’s also got heart and an attempt at a vision I can get behind (though perhaps not necessarily understand). But when held up side-by-side, regular ‘ol Carnival of Blood just feels like a dull, plodding mess by comparison.


Carnival of Blood is the kind of movie that’s not only light on story, but also all of the aspects that might help liven or cover up said story deficiencies. Instead it relies on the tried and true method that many a filmmaker has fallen back on when they desperately feel they need to stretch their movie out to feature length. I am of course talking about the familiar culprit known as ‘padding.’ If by some miracle you don’t understand what I’m talking about, you will by the time you finish this movie, because I suspect that over 80% of this film is nothing but padding. Around eleven of the first 15-or-so minutes of the beginning of the movie are taken up by following around a very bored and cranky husband and his obnoxious “Jersey Girl” wife, who both proceed to whine and moan and bitch about everything. EVERYTHING! Never before have I been so simultaneously annoyed and bored by a pair of characters. And that was only after the first minute. You’re forced to spend a good sixth of the movie’s runtime watching these two clowns do nothing but complain about everything, give each other dirty looks, and play carnival games. That’s it. Carnival games may be fun to play, but it’s not fun to watch other people play them, especially when those people do nothing but complain nonstop. So the woman’s predictable death feels like a blessing, if only for the fact that it means you won’t have to spend any more time watching these two dunderheads anymore. Only—Surprise!—the movie’s only going to get worse because that was just the film’s first victim. What’s that you say? Surely the movie would come up with a different setup for the other two? And you, my dear friend, would be wrong with that assumption, because that assumption assumes the filmmakers had a competent story in mind, which is clearly beyond their capabilities. No, instead, the name of the game in Carnival of Blood is repetition. Not only do you have to spend two more sessions following two more sets of incredibly obnoxious people aimlessly wandering around the carnival, but you’re also forced to watch them do the exact same things as the previous victims. They wander around the carnival, play the balloon-pop game, go to the same fortune teller who gives them all the same cock-and-bull spiel about seeing something dangerous in their future before hastily asking them to leave, and they do this all while going out of their way to make complete nuisances of themselves to anyone in earshot. It’s literally the same setup repeated over and over again. There is no deviation. Dozens of rides and attractions may be on display, but they all get completely ignored. So you’re forced to sit through the exact same lengthy scenario three separate times. The only thing that changes is that the victims seem to get more and more annoying to the point where you’ll be tempted to shove a pencil in your ear in an effort to dull the pain. Worse still? You also have to sit through Laura and Dan having the same relationship issues, because for some reason that man is dead set on taking his fiance to this potentially dangerous carnival, not once but twice, and she, wisely, doesn’t want to go and calls him out for putting her in potential danger. I kept rooting for her to dump him so the movie could replace him with a better hero, but it didn’t happen and I was forced to watch Doofus Dan continue to endanger the woman he claimed to love all the way up till the end of the movie.

I was so disappointed.

After digging through all that padding, what little story you do get is poorly written… assuming of course most of it was written at all. Much of the dialogue is clearly improvised, with characters constantly talking over one another. Or at least I hope this is all improvised, because the only alternative is that someone actually wrote most of this, and that alternate possibility is actually pretty terrifying. Not just because of how dumb most of it is, but because half of it seems to go out of it’s way not to make any sense. All of Dan’s motivations are completely illogical. Not only does he unnecessarily put Laura in danger (TWICE), but what the hell is he doing investigating anything? Yeah dude, you’re an ADA now, but where are the police? Isn’t that their job? The killer winds up faring a bit better in the motive department, but his reasoning predictably boils down to some incredibly convoluted and confusing “mommy issues”, so there’s not really anything surprising or noteworthy going on there, although it does lead to a very strange scene later in the film involving poor Laura. Who, by the way, somehow ends up simultaneously being the best and most poorly written character. Writer/director Leonard Kirtman seems to have seen fit to give her enough of a brain for her to realize that Dan’s insistence on her accompanying him to the carnival is solely motivated for his own personal gain and that he’s completely disregarding her safety, which is actually kind of unusual for a sleazy pseudo-slasher from this era. But he also makes her easily manipulated and even a damn pushover when she ends up blatantly insulted and threatened, which is a stark contrast to the brief glimpses of wisdom she showed prior. So, yeah, she’s a smart, modern 70’s woman all right… but only when it’s convenient for her to be. When we need her to be a victim, we need her to be as naive as a slug headed towards the free salt bath sign.

Dear writers, please stop assuming that ‘sweet’ and ‘stupid’ are synonymous. Thank you.

The only thing Carnival of Blood really has going for it was that it was filmed at an actual, honest-to-god carnival that looks to be near the height of its prime. Most of the place still looks like a dingy mess, but hey, that’s a carnival for ya, and at least this one is populated and well traversed, so it helps add a lot of authenticity to the production. At the very least, all that dirt and grime fits in perfectly with all the equally dirty and grimy film-stock they used, which is filled with pops, scrapes, and one insistent green scratch towards the left side of the frame. All that muck helps cover up some of the film’s poor framing and most of the gore effects. Which is good, because the gore looks cheesy enough as it is, and I’m sure if you could actually see any of it it’d just look downright goofy.



I don’t know what I expected when I started Carnival of Blood, but whatever it was this fell short of my expectations. The movie is filled with endless scenes of repetitive nothingness, and everything is written and shot so badly that it’s almost painful to watch. The only positive thing I can think about to come out of this movie is that it stars a young Burt Young (Chinatown, Rocky) in his first film role. But he uses the pseudonym John Harris for his part, so I think it’s a safe bet to assume that even back then he knew this one was gonna be a dud. The rest of the main cast either didn’t do anything else, didn’t do anything noteworthy, or tragically died young. Except for director Leonard Kirtman, who it seems just went back to producing and directing porn, which he worked on for another 16 years. And if that’s the case, I feel sorry for his viewership, because if the production values of Carnival of Blood are anything to go by, then I guarantee those viewers did not have a good time. So if for some reason you absolutely must watch a carnival-related horror movie from the 70’s, then go watch Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood instead. It might be weird (it is), but at least it can claim to be interesting. This Carnival of Blood will more likely just put you to sleep.

Carnival of Blood is available on a variety of streaming services.

Carnival of Blood is also available on DVD.



2 thoughts on “Carnival of Blood (1970)

  1. “The movie is filled with endless scenes of repetitive nothingness, and everything is written and shot so badly that it’s almost painful to watch.” This sounds like most things that win academy awards to me.

    This one doesn’t sound too wonderful either.

    Liked by 1 person

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