InsidePulse DVD Review – Ring of Fear

image courtesy of

James Edward Grant

Clyde Beatty….Himself
Mickey Spillane….Himself
Pat O’Brien….Frank Wallace
Sean McClory….Dublin O’Malley
Marian Carr….Valerie St. Dennis
Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzales….Himself
Emmett Lynn….Twitchy
Jack Stang….Himself
Kenneth Tobey….Shreveport

Paramount Home Entertainment/Batjac presents Ring of Fear. Screenplay by Paul Fix, James Edward Grant and Philip MacDonald. Running time: 93 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release 1954. DVD released June 6, 2006.

The Movie

If Cecil B. DeMille had made The Greatest Show On Earth with Jack Daniels as his co-director, it would have turned into Ring of Fear. The plot sounds like something the clowns made up while stuffed into their car. Dublin O’Malley was driven insane when his attempt to crack the whip on lions went bad. He escaped the cage only to have Clyde Beatty, the legendary big cat tamer, laugh at him. This snapped something in Dublin. He became criminally insane and locked up for his crimes. During a parole hearings at the mental hospital, he’s shown a pic of Valerie, the girl on the flying trapeze. This triggers him to escape and head to Clyde Beatty’s circus for revenge. Clyde doesn’t perform any background checks so Dublin gets hired to be the ringmaster. But even with a cushy job, Dublin starts sabotaging acts. Who could imagine the ringmaster being a criminal ringmaster? Probably the same guy who doesn’t check references to discover his employees have escaped from a mental hospital for the criminally insane. Luckily Clyde decides there’s only one person that can solve these crimes: Mickey Spillane. Yes, it’s the writer of the Mike Hammer books that gets called in to play himself and solve the case of the circus saboteur. We don’t even know if Spillane is a licensed private investigator although he does look good in a trenchcoat and hat. He might catch on to Dublin’s plot.

Dublin isn’t doing these crimes himself. He’s enlisted a drunk clown into his plot. Of course Spillane also brings in back up. A magazine writer shows up wanting to do a feature on circus life. It’s hard image he’s a reporter since he has the vocabulary and charm of a boxer after the 10th round. It turns out he’s a private eye working with Spillane. Unfortunately this expert subterfuge doesn’t get Dublin to spill the beans when approached to be the star of the story. He’s committed to taking out Clyde and the daring young man on the flying trapeze that married Valerie. He’ll sell his story after their funerals!

Was this film made because John Wayne lost a bet? It’s easy to imagine the Duke playing cards with the crime writer and the lion tamer. But I’m not sure who won the pot. My guess is not Pat O’Brien since he’s left to do the heavy work of acting between Spillane and Clyde. Plus Pat has to avoid being devoured by the maniacal overacting of McClory as Dublin. At least Pat got to hang out with the Flying Wallendas.

What makes this trainwreck of a movie fun to watch is the circus action captured in Cinemascope. All three rings fit into the frame. When Clyde only has to deal with lions instead of lines, he’s amazing. Spillane is fun to watch as he tries to figure out ways to plug his paperbacks. There’s a reason why after this and The Girl Hunters, he stuck to acting in beer commercials with his dame. Also playing himself is Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzales. John Wayne discovered him when he was a contestant on Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life. And the Duke turned him into comic relief amongst the man eaters.

Mickey Spillane just passed away (7/17/06) at 88. If you’re a fan of his Mike Hammer fiction, it’d be a fitting memorial to watch Ring of Fear and remember those days when he defied cinematic death.

Ring of Fear is also available as part of John Wayne’s Batjac Productions Presents The Suspense Collection along with Track of the Cat, Plunder of the Sun, and Man in the Vault

The DVD:

The Video:
The film is Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1.

The Audio:
This film is presented in English Dolby 2.0 Surround and 4.0 Surround. Subtitles are in English.

Special Features:
None. It’s a shame they couldn’t find old documentaries on Clyde Beatty or Mickey Spillane.

InsidePulse’s Ratings for Ring of Fear
(OUT OF 10)