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I was somewhere around 8-12 years old, which would be in the 1974-1978 span, the movie would possibly be older since it was on television at the time, and shot in black and white. (Of course, since it was on television, it's entirely possible that the TV was simply a B&W set.)

Remembered plot

Circus based, revolved around the high wire act. One element was that the high wire act was performed over a wooden bed that had swords, or sword like blades sticking up.

Key scenes (Definitely remember)

  1. A close up shot of the foot on the wire, and a slip where someone had greased it with vaseline or similar, and the artist grabs the wire as he falls to recover.
  2. Another high wire shot, there is an image of a hand with a knife in a curtained booth at the end of the wire, the knife is thrown into the back of the artist who falls onto the sword bed below.

Vague memories

There was a conflict about selling (?) the circus, or possibly a love triangle (?) involving the high wire artist, dim memory that the hand that threw the knife belonged to a woman, some recollection that the freak show people gathered around the body at the end.

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It doesn't really fit the bill. But I came across The Great Wallendas a couple of years ago. – coleopterist Dec 3 '13 at 17:40
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I immediately thought about Joan Crawford as the ringmaster in Berserk, and found a review on imdb attached that describes the falling onto swords scene.

In fact, for the kitsch film lover, the many deaths in the film are all rather entertaining and silly--a lady getting sawn in half, a man being hung by a high wire rope, a guy getting a knife in the back and falling to his death on a bed of swords! I tell you, it's never dull! It's also very reminiscent of the Dr. Phibes films because of all the clever killings. In addition to a fun script and lots of shrill acting, the film features some dandy real circus acts.

Here's a trailer on youtube.

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I took a look at a few film clips, and you are correct. I had searched for this before, and the black and white is what threw me. I must have been watching on a b&w television. Thanks! – JohnP Dec 6 '13 at 15:49

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