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Circus Of The Scars

By Bobby LePire | January 15, 2024

Circus Of The Scars, the feature-length debut of writer-director Cory Wees and co-writer Jan Gregor, explores a peculiar moment in the early 1990s. Alongside the rise of grunge, the revival of the sideshow act occurred. Jim Rose spearheaded the show in and around Seattle. He recruited several offbeat people whose acts would gain notoriety. While things were going well, and the show was getting bigger and bigger, Rose wanted more. To that end, he took The Jim Rose Circus sideshow on the road. Then they broke through big time by appearing at Lollapalooza alongside Soundgarden and other soon-to-be big names, eventually touring with Nine Inch Nails. But the pressure of the tour began to grate.

The acts included Zamora the torture king (real name Tim Cridland), who would pierce his skin with all kinds of implements. He’d also lay on top of sharpened weapons and have a cinder block broken over his chest. Beatrice Aschard, aka Bebe the circus queen and Rose’s wife, would have a watermelon sliced by a machete while it was balancing on her neck, among a bevy of other performances. Paul Lawerence started off as Slugs before changing his stage name to The Enigma. The sword swallower would also eat slugs and eventually covered his entire body in tattoos and whatnot to become something beyond human. Matt “The Tube” Crowley ingested a tube and had all manner of things pumped into and out of him, brewing “Bile Beer.” But everyone who saw the show agreed that the best act was Joe Hermann, performing as The Amazing Mr. Lifto. He could clamp chains to his nipples and groin and use them to lift weights and other heavy objects.


Alongside the rise of grunge, the revival of the sideshow act occurred.”

Circus Of The Scars is as exhaustive a narrative as one could hope for on this subject. Most of the players are interviewed, and archival footage is extensively used. This does mean parts feel repetitive, as each person goes into their perspective on specific issues. A variation of “Touring was fun, but you do it long enough, and seeing the same people day in, day out starts to grate” is spoken by just about everyone. It is remarkable that everyone who participated gets a say on every major moment, but it does mean some stories are told often.

On the flip side, it is genuinely awesome that so many people willingly take part. Wees and Gregor allow the audience to truly understand Rose, Cridland, Aschard, and the rest, warts and all. Each person’s introduction takes time to establish why they were looking for an avenue off the mainstream ramp. Everyone’s story, why they stayed, why they left, all make complete sense, and just about everything one could want to know is covered at some point.

Circus Of The Scars is sometimes repetitive, but that’s a byproduct of overturning every stone and getting as many viewpoints as possible. But this is an engaging documentary thanks to the subjects’ personalities and the skillful way the filmmaker interweaves the interviews with archival footage and the one-of-a-kind story.

For more information, visit the official Circus Of The Scars site.

Circus Of The Scars (2023)

Directed: Cory Wees

Written: Cory Wees, Jan Gregor

Starring: Jim Rose, Tim Cridland, Beatrice Aschard, Paul Lawerence, Matt Crowley, Joe Hermann, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

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  2. Carry Langston says:

    You forgot to mention that it is a total hit job on Jim Rose that tells a lot of bull s**t…you forgot to mention that the brief interview segments with Jim were sold to them from another interview and he never signed off on it…They never even asked to interview Bebe who was as important as anyone .because they don’t want the’s simple after 30 years all they really have to show for their lives was about a year and a half w/ Jim..but what really pissed them off is they quit thinking they could do what Jim was doing and they bombed..Jim’s show got huge after they left and had more professional performers.

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