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Film / Ring of Fear

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Ring of Fear is a 1954 American mystery/adventure film directed by James Edward Grant, starring Clyde Beatty, Mickey Spillane, Pat O'Brien and Sean Mcclory.

After unstable former circus performer Dublin O'Malley (McClory) escapes from a mental institution, he goes after Clyde Beatty (Beatty), the animal trainer whom O'Malley blames for his fate. He is also obsessed with Valerie (Marian Carr), a trapeze performer and old flame. When O'Malley arrives, dangerous accidents start happening around the circus, and manager Frank Wallace (O'Brien) calls for help from mystery writer Mickey Spillane (Spillane).

Tropes of Fear:

  • The Alcoholic: O'Malley's main accomplice is Twitchy, an alcoholic clown. Beatty has stated that he will fire any member of the crew who buys Twitchy alcohol.
  • Animal Assassin: O'Malley attempts to kill animal trainer Clyde Beatty by having Twitchy use acid to weaken the harness rope restraining a touchy tiger Beatty is training. When the tiger lunges for Beatty, the rope snaps and only Beatty's superior reflexes allow to escape the cage in time.
  • Animal Nemesis: Dublin O'Malley hates the tiger that almost killed him, and plots to turn it into an Animal Assassin to use against Clyde Beatty, the man who saved him from the tiger: thereby destroying the two beings he holds responsible for his humiliation and downfall.
  • As Himself: Clyde Beatty and Mickey Spillane. Additionally, various members the Clyde Beatty circus appear as themselves performing their circus acts.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: After rejoining the circus, O'Malley constantly torments the tiger that he blames (along with Clyde Beatty) for his downfall and humiliation; doing such things as shooting it with a slingshot. His cruelty to the big cat will come back to bite him in the end: quite literally.
  • Blinding Camera Flash: O'Malley blinds Spillane by jamming his camera in his face and triggering the flash. While Spillane is blinded, O'Malley knocks him out.
  • Brats with Slingshots: Wallace confiscates a slingshot from a trio of boys who are looking at the animals. O'Malley later uses the slingshot to further antagonize the tiger he hates.
  • Circus of Fear: The Clyde Beatty Circus seems jinxed, falling victim again and again to apparent accidents which are actually the acts of a murderous saboteur.
  • Faking and Entering: After drowning Twitchy, O'Malley fakes a break-in on his trailer so it looks like Twitchy had broken into his liquor cabinet and stolen the bottle of rum that was found at the crime scene.
  • Faking the Dead: After stealing a railroad worker's clothes, O'Malley dresses the worker's in his uniform from the insane asylum and shoves him in front of a train: causing authorities to believe he had died attempting to hitch a ride on the train.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Dublin O'Malley has an easygoing charm that makes him instantly likable and an excellent ringmaster. However, it is all just an act and beneath it he is a homicidal maniac who will kill you just as soon as look at you.
  • Happily Married: Trapeze stars Valarie and Armand St. Dennis are happily married: a fact that drives Dublin O'Malley, who is an old flame of Valerie, into a murderous rage.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: psychopath Dublin O'Malley turns loose the half-wild tiger that he has been tormenting thoroughout the movie as his final act of vengeance on the circus as he makes his escape. He then hides in an empty boxcar on a freight train. However, lion tamer Clyde Beatty drives the tiger into the boxcar to corral it, and then shuts and locks the door. It is only as the train starts pulling out that they hear the growls of the tiger and O'Malley's screams and realise what has happened.
  • "Inescapable" Prison Easily Escaped: O'Malley escapes from a maximum security facility for the criminally insane mere minutes after his appeal is turned down, with no indication that he has done any planning or preparation for it.
  • Karmic Death: O'Malley dies at the teeth and claws of the tiger he has spent the movie tormenting when he frees it from its cage to create havoc while he escapes from the circus.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: O'Malley makes his attacks on the circus look like accidents, such as weakening the rope holding a tiger with acid or sabotaging Armand's trapeze. This causes some performers to believe the show is jinxed.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: A brief visual gag shows a bored looking father sitting in the circus audience surrounded by at least eight children: all of whom are identical twins.
  • Mugged for Disguise: After escaping the asylum, O'Malley knock out a railroad worker and steals his clothes. He then dresses the worker in his asylum uniform and pushes him in front of a train to convince the authorities that he has died.
  • Mystery Writer Detective: Wallace calls in Mickey Spillane to investigate the sabotage at the circus because of his fame as a mystery writer.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Star billing goes to circus owner/lion tamer Clyde Beatty and mystery writer Mickey Spillane.
  • Off Bridge, onto Vehicle: When escaping from the asylum, O'Malley jumps off a walkway on to a truck, which he then steals.
  • Oral Fixation: In just about every scene he is in, Spillane is either eating or drinking, or has a cigarette, piece of straw or toothpick in his mouth.
  • Serenade Your Lover: Comic Relief Pedro is serenading his latest romantic interest outside her caravan window with a guitar. She dumps a bucket of water of him.
  • Sound-Only Death: The characters (and the audience) can only hear the growls of the tiger and the screams of O'Malley as he is mauled to death inside the locked boxcar.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Jumps straight from the gruesome Sound-Only Death of O'Malley being mauled to pieces by a tiger to the ridiculously cheerful and upbeat song "The Circus is Coming".
  • Train Escape: After escaping from the asylum, O'Malley is spotted and pursued by the police. He scrambles on to a passing freight train and is followed by one of he cops. He then leaps from the top of the train onto another train going the opposite direction on the next track and losses his pursuer.
  • Villain Protagonist: Although he is fourth billed, psychopath Dublin O'Malley (played by Sean McClory) is actually the central character. And the first two credited names weren't actors, but were famous for other things: Clyde Beatty as a Circus Owner/Lion Tamer and Mickey Spillane an author: both playing themselves.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Twitchy develops a guilty conscience and decides to go to Beatty and confess about the sabotage. However, he decides to tell O'Malley first and give him the opportunity to come clean as well. On hearing Twitchy's plans, O'Malley drowns him in the animal trough.