By Steve Anderson | January 10, 2007

What is it with Sid Haig and clowns?

After making famous the nightmarishly homicidal clown that was Captain Spaulding in the variable quality “House of 1000 Corpses”/“The Devil’s Rejects” block, Sid’s back, and playing a clown once again. This time, he’s Seymour Smiles, a liquored-up chain-smoking wreck who makes Bobcat Goldthwait’s Shakes look like the poster child for the temperance movement. Of course, we’re not going to get anywhere with eighty minutes of Sid Haig drinking and smoking, so we’ve got to have Seymour actually do something. So, not too surprisingly, it’s back to the circus for Seymour Smiles, an act that doesn’t sit well with the clown. And, after fortifying himself with all the liquor his last three dollars and change will buy in a truly laugh-out-loud sequence, Seymour hits the little big top once again.

First off, fair warning to all the gorehounds who are thinking there’s going to be a Captain Spaulding-style bloodbath in this one: wrong-o, kiddies. You’ll have to go elsewhere to get your psycho clowns. Seymour Smiles is just a bit down on his luck and rough around the edges. In fact, there’s a depth of humanity about the run-down clown that might not have been expected initially, especially thanks to Sid Haig’s surprisingly warm and human performance.

And, before Seymour gets his chance to work with the amateur clowns, they really are pretty lousy. In fact, the improvement is almost indescribable–it’s night and day what happens to this clown squad. And even Seymour’s rough edges get worn away by the constant exposure to more human elements. The one improves the other, and that’s a great effect.

But perhaps more importantly, “Little Big Top” is just a riot. There are plenty of laughs to go around in this circus, and some real surprises, too.

All in all, you’ve got to be impressed with “Little Big Top”. Sid Haig’s performance is a glory of human warmth and feeling, for a change, and everybody else involved backs him to the hilt as a spectacular supporting cast. “Little Big Top” may not be the greatest show on Earth, but it’s close enough for me.

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