[ber-surk, -zurk]

(from Old Norse beserkr, “bearskin”) In premedieval and medieval Norse and Germanic history and folklore, any member of unruly warrior gangs that worshiped Odin and attached themselves to royal and noble courts as bodyguards and shock troops. They raped and murdered at will in their host communities, and their savagery in battle and animal-skin attire (they are also said to have fought naked) contributed to the development of the werewolf legend in Europe.

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Berserk! (1967) is a feature film starring Joan Crawford, Ty Hardin, and Judy Geeson in a macabre mother and daughter tale about a circus plagued with murders. The screenplay was written by Herman Cohen and Aben Kandel, and the film directed by Jim O'Connolly. Berserk! marks Crawford's penultimate big-screen appearance.

Plot and cast

Monica Rivers (Crawford) is the owner and ringmaster of a traveling circus where mysterious murders occur. After her tightrope walker (Thomas Cimarro) is killed, she hires high-wire walker Frank Hawkins (Hardin), and begins an affair with the muscular and handsome young man which arouses the jealousy of her previous lover Durando (Michael Gough). When Durando is found dead, the other performers begin to suspect Monica of the killings. Monica's unruly, sixteen-year-old daughter Angela (Geeson), is expelled from school and joins the circus as the partner of knife-thrower Gustavo (Peter Burton). Meanwhile, the deaths continue. An investigation reveals Angela Rivers is the killer. She has hated her mother for years as a result being ignored and has been "removing" those who take up her mother's time. At the end, she attempts to murder her mother, too, but is killed by lightning during a storm. Cast includes Diana Dors as Matilda, Robert Hardy, Geoffrey Keen, and Sydney Tafler.


Frank Leyendecker in Greater Amusements wrote, "Joan Crawford gives authority and extreme conviction to the colorful role of a circus owner and ringmaster...she consistently rises above the highly melodramatic, yet exploitable, material."

Lawrence Quirk wrote in Hollywood Screen Parade, "[Crawford] is all over the picture, radiant, forceful, authoritative, a genuine movie star whose appeal never diminishes."

See also


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