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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
The Last Circus (2010)

The Last Circus (2010)

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Released 5-Oct-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Black Comedy/Drama Theatrical Trailer-International Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Madman Propaganda x 4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 101:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:32) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Álex de la Iglesia

Madman Entertainment
Starring Carlos Areces
Antonio de la Torre
Carolina Bang
Manuel Tallafé
Alejandro Tejerías
Manuel Tejada
Enrique Villén
Gracia Olayo
Sancho Gracia
Paco Sagarzazu
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Roque Baños

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Madrid, 1937: a circus performance by two clowns, one the happy clown who makes the children laugh, the other his stooge or sad clown, is interrupted by Republican soldiers who forcefully induct the circus performers into the army to fight against General Franco’s Nationalist soldiers who are nearby. Still in his clown suit and make up, the happy clown decimates the Nationalist soldiers with a machete before being captured. He remains in prison after Franco wins the Spanish Civil War, and is put to work with other prisoners building Franco’s Valley of the Fallen Monument to the civil war dead. He is killed when his young son Javier attempts to set him free.

     Madrid 1973, towards the end of Franco’s dictatorship. Now a grown man, Javier (Carlos Areces) joins a circus as a clown. But he has seen too much pain and death and so cannot be funny; instead he has become the sad clown, the foil upon whom the jokes are played. The circus’ happy clown is Sergio (Antonio de la Torre), a violent, brutal, spiteful man who beats his beautiful acrobat wife Natalia (Carolina Bang) when he is drunk, which is every night. Javier falls madly in love with Natalia, and she encourages him although she seems to like Sergio’s brutality. One night when Sergio is drunk Natalia takes Javier on an innocent outing to a fun fair; there they are discovered by Sergio who assaults Natalia. When Javier tries to intervene, he is brutally beaten and ends up badly injured in hospital.

     Fearing for Natalia’s safety, Javier flees the hospital, returns to the circus and attacks Sergio, leaving him for dead as he flees from the police into the wilderness. But Sergio survives, hideously disfigured, and the film turns even more surreal: in sequences of escalating obsession, madness and murder, the paths of the three protagonists intertwine until a climax in the Valley of the Fallen.

     The Last Circus (Spanish title Balada Triste de Trompeta - Ballad of the Sad Trumpet, the title comes from a song by Raffaella Carra in the film), is by Spanish cult writer / director Alex de la Iglesia who has a brand of black humour all his own with such films as The Day of the Beast (1995). The Last Circus is a very dark, confronting film, with the opening battle scene brutal, chaotic and violent, and the film certainly does not shy away from violence towards women, humiliation, death and disfigurement. Clowns are hidden behind their masks of makeup, and the face behind the mask can be disfigured, the character behind a happy clown brutal and violent. But the film is beautiful to look at with some wonderfully vibrant blue and red colour palates and surreal images; a boy with a lion, a clown in the midst of the carnage of battle, a woman on a trapeze, a circus elephant in the rain. The film is also very well served by its cast; Antonio de la Torre and Carlos Areces as the clowns are excellent, while Carolina Bang as the woman who has choices, but has her own mask, is wonderful, although every supporting actor within the circus is equally good.

     The Last Circus is an unusual and complex film, dealing with identity and masks, love, obsession, choice, madness and disfigurement, set in the dying days of Franco’s regime. The Last Circus is a beautiful looking, surreal and confronting film with a deep strand of very black humour. It is very different from anything you will see this year.

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Transfer Quality


     The Last Circus is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a fabulous looking print. It has a wonderful depth, and is as sharp and detailed as you would want. The colour palate is often dark, with greys and browns predominant, and these colours are beautifully realised. Blacks are solid and shadow detail very good. When the film breaks away into the more surreal sequences the colours, especially blues and reds, are vibrant without ever being garish. Brightness and contrast are consistent and I saw no artefacts. This is about as good as a SD DVD is capable of looking.

     The English subtitles are in a yellow font. There are no obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

     The layer change at 63:31 created a slight pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps.

     This is a very good audio track. Dialogue was clean and centred, the surrounds used with subtlety throughout the film. From the start the surrounds are in use when children’s laughter at the circus comes from every speaker. Of course, during the battle scene it is a full on assault but elsewhere ambient sound is a constant with voices, music and gunshots. The subwoofer supported the battle and explosions well and also gave bass to the music.

     The musical score by Roque Banos was aggressive when it had to be, more subdued in other moments. It was an excellent score, perfectly supporting the moods and tones of the film.

     Lip synchronisation is fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


International Trailer (1:52)

Madman Propaganda

     Trailers for other films from Madman: Biutiful (1:59), The Housemaid (1:46), Bunny and the Bull (2:24) and Splice (2:13).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The only other version currently listed is a Region 2 Spanish release, that includes a “making of” and production notes. This version does have English subtitles for the feature; I don’t know if this applies to the extras.


     The Last Circus is a beautiful looking, surreal, confronting film that has a deep strand of black humour, says something identity, love, obsession and madness, and which never goes quite where you think it will. It is very different from anything you will see this year.

     The video is as excellent as a SD DVD can get, the audio is very good. A trailer is the only extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Saturday, July 07, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE