The Big Top on the Big Screen

Explorations of the Circus in Film

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About the Book

Circuses and film are a natural pairing, and the new essays making up this volume begin the exploration of how these two forms of entertainment have often worked together to create a spectacle of onscreen alchemy. The films discussed herein are an eclectic group, ranging from early silent comedies to animated, 21st century examples, in which circuses serve as liminal or carnivalesque spaces wherein characters—and by extension audience members—can confront issues as far-reaching as labor relations, sensuality, identity, ethics, and more.
The circus as discussed in these essays encompasses the big top, the midway, the sideshow and the freak show; it becomes backdrop, character, catalyst and setting; and it is welcoming, malicious or terrifying. Circus performers are family, friends, foe or all of the above. And film is the medium that brings it all together. This volume starts the conversation about how circuses and film can combine to form productive, exciting spaces where almost anything can happen.

About the Author(s)

Teresa Cutler-Broyles teaches film and cultural studies in the cinematic arts, architecture, and freshman learning communities departments at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and creative nonfiction at the Umbra Institute in Italy. She writes fiction, travel, popular culture and nonfiction, and has been published in numerous academic volumes on subjects ranging from Star Trek to belly dance.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Teresa Cutler-Broyles
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 172
Bibliographic Info: 8 photos, notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7118-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3775-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Introduction 1
(Re)Producing the Circus: Defining Circus Cinema (P.A. Wilder) 5
The “Universal Soul” of the American Circus at ­Mid-Century (David Blanke) 17
Spectrality and Spectatorship: Heterotopic Doubling in Cinematic Circuses (Whitney S. May) 31
The Normal Abnormal: The Case of Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (Lisann Anders( 47
Horror Movies, Horror Bodies: Blurring the Freak Body
in Cinema (Jessica L. Williams) 60
The Spectacle of Sensation in British Film: Circus of Horrors,
Berserk! and Vampire Circus (Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns) 75
After the Glitter Fades: Analyzing Ingmar Bergman’s Cinematic Representation of Circus Life (Kylo-Patrick R. Hart) 92
Dumbo and the Circus of Childhood (Michael Charlton) 103
Problematic Participants and Circus Ethics: The Human/Nonhuman Concurrence of Jacob and Rosie in Water for Elephants (Rachel L. Carazo) 114
Under the (Bi)g Top (Ayal C. Prouser) 132
Liminal Spaces and Identity in MirrorMask (Teresa ­Cutler-Broyles) 149
About the Contributors 159
Index 161