starring Norma Shearer and Charles Emmet Mack
June, 1926

Don't take any peanuts; it's not that kind of circus. This picture is pretty darn grim -- you know, one of the kind that makes you ponder on Life as it is, and take that crick in your neck seriously. A compromise between European realism and Hollywood sweetness and light, "The Devil's Circus" doesn't quite jell. It isn't just the best little entertainment in the world. But it is interesting.

Introducing Benjamin Christianson from Sweden, friends, bringing with him considerable technique. You can't help wondering how good he could be if he let himself go. As director and author of "The Devil's Circus," he seems home-sick. He makes Norma Shearer a shy circus girl, with Charlie Mack as a young crook in love with her. There are glimpses of life behind the scenes of a continental tent show into which Mr. Christianson injects flavor and meaning. The tale unfolds the circus boss' passion for the heroine, the jealous rival's revenge, the crook's reformation -- and the cruel fate which overtakes them all. I said it was grim, didn't I? But it is still interesting. It is only in the last reel or two that the director deliberately bumps his brainchild on the head; and you know it will never be the same. The incongruous ending is a sop to the Cerberus of the box-office. I can't tell you more about the story, except that the big scene provides a real thrill, involving Norma as a trapeze artist and a lot of hungry lions. Incidentally, the camera plays some pretty smart tricks. As the girl who's a little too good to be true, Norma is incredibly believable. If she makes you believe in this sap heroine, she can make you believe anything. Charlie Mack works hard, but I can never decide whether he is impersonating Dick Barthelmess or John Barrymore. Altogether, Mr. Satan's circus isn't as much fun as some I've been to.

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