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There's one person Dublin (Sean McClory) really hates - and that's
Clyde Beatty, famous animal tamer and owner of the circus Dublin once
worked for as a ring director. But then he got caught in the lion's cage,
could only be saved by Beatty, and became the laughing stock of the whole
crew - including Valerie (Marian Carr), the aerialist he was in love with.
After that, he disappeared from the face of the earth. He told everyone he
fought in Korea of course, but actually, he spent some years in the loonie
bin - and was ordered into solitary confinement when he escaped. Seems
like nobody even tried to pick up his trail though ...
Well, back out,
Dublin blackmails his old friend from the circus days, clown Twitchy
(Emmett Lynn), to commit a handful of acts of sabotage. Then Dublin
himself appears on the scene and is hired as ring director by Clyde
himself on the spot. Meanwhile, Clyde's manager (Pat O'Brien) has hired
private eye turned famed crime novelist Mickey Spillane to do some
investigating on everything that's happening. The circus has of course a
staff of 300, so it takes Mickey a time to figure everyone out, and Dublin
is low on his list of suspects since he has only offically joined the
circus after the acts of sabotage were beginning to happen ...
Dublin has left, Valerie has married someone else, aerialist Armand (John
Bromfield) - and now Dublin blackmails Twitchy into killing him - Twitchy
fails this time, but Mickey's now hot on his trail ... so in order to not
be found out, Dublin drowns Twitchy. Then he goes after Valerie, but by
now Mickey and Clyde are already after him ... so ultimately, he releases
a tiger on them then hides out in a freight wagon. But Clyde is of course
able to handle the big cat, and without knowing Dublin is in there, he
drives the tiger into the wagon as well - well, ouch for Dublin (which
happens off-screen of course) ...
Ring of Fear was
pretty much sold entirely on its premise: Throwing Clyde Beatty and Mickey
Spillane (both celebrities but not movie stars back in the day) together
and let each do what he does best - so now you have an animal tamer and a
hard boiled detective, and the combination is not the most fortunate one,
because if a suspense thriller is interrupted by circus performances a few
times too often, the tension is likely to suffer. Likewise, all the
characters (apart from Dublin) remain disappointingly flat and clicheed
throughout, plus an over-reliance on lion-taming does prevent the circus
flair from unfolding properly. On the plus side, at least Sean McClory is
a creepy maniac, also due to his soft voice - but the rest of the cast
isn't nearly as interesting, with both Beatty and Spillane not being
Now don't get me wrong, the film is not a
disaster, it just has a few too many flaws to come of as anything more
than a just about mediocre gimmick movie.