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A carnival barker displays a sideshow freak called the Feathered Hen and tells her story. Cleopatra, a trapeze artist with the carnival, is adored by a midget named Hans. Frieda, Hans' fiancée (also a midget), warns Hans that Cleopatra is only interested in him so that he will give her money. Cleopatra has an affair with Hercules, and when Frieda lets it slip that Hans is to come into an inheritance, Cleopatra and Hercules plan to get the money be having Cleopatra marry Hans. During the wedding reception, Cleopatra, although openly romantic with Hercules, is accepted by the freaks, but is revolted and mocks them. The freaks decide that they no longer need Hercules in their carnival and have a new career for Cleopatra all lined up, and make sure she doesn't 'chicken' out.
A startlingly brave film for the time it was made in, Freaks is a genuinely empathetic story that still retains its power today. Quite who the real monsters are becomes clearer the more we are taken into the world of these circus performers. The horror arrives not from those who appear different from the 'norm' but those who cannot accept them.
There are moments of course where Tod Browning verges on exploiting the very same people he is trying to humanise. Some scenes are clearly set up as a spectacle, such as the man without limbs lighting his own cigarette or the rush to the bearded lady's tent to see her newborn. Yet by not filming their performances in the…
Film #7 of 31 in my Hoop-Tober 2016 challenge
Adapted for the screen by Clarence Aaron 'Tod' Robbins from his own short story "Spurs" (1923), this horror film directed by Tod Browning starred an array of real sideshow professionals, from dwarfs and microcephalic "pinheads" to a paraplegic "living torso" who could light cigarettes without arms or legs.
If one ignores momentarily the various physical deformities of many of the characters and looks only at the plot, it's really not much more than a soap opera in a circus setting. The strongman Hercules (Henry Victor) uses women, and after ditching the beauty known as Venus (Jean Harlow) when she runs out of cash, he hitches up with the haughty trapeze artist…
We accept you, one of us! Gooble Gobble!
A year after Tod Browning immortalized Bela Lugosi as Dracula he came out with the ever so controversial Freaks, a film that, all things considered, is better then the director's more famous earlier outing. It's also the film that supposedly brought on the demise of his career.
Looking at the poster you can see the studio trying to sell the picture as an exploitation flick with headlines like "Can a full grown woman truly love a midget?". MGM was basically acting like a carnival barker trying to get spectators to look at their "freakshow".
The film itself is much more then the poster suggests though. While it's cast mostly all have…
This holds up tremendously in one definitive category- the frank depiction of everyday freak-life. It's less about acting and more about real deformities captured in mundane existence. This is a sad film by the end, generating huge amounts of empathy without forcing trite stereotypes upon the freaks. They exist as they are and therefore the film refuses to spotlight the performers with any fake qualities. The honesty on screen is what has aged this finely. Director Todd Browning does not shy away from the shit luck these people were dealt in life. In the end, the story concludes as an essential morality tale and a fascinating window into the past.
If Richard Linklater time traveled and landed in a crazy circus atmosphere, Freaks is the movie that would have been inspired in him. Like Linklater films, the plot is there, but minimal and not as important as it's community of characters. We are given a glimpse into the life and mind of all the norms and "Freaks", capturing this twisted Circus World so vividly and sympathetically.
Now that's what I call an ending.
Hoop-Tober 3.0 criteria:
Film from before 1970
For much of this film's running time, I challenged its categorization as a horror film. While I'm sure it was horrifying to a 1930s audience, it treats its subjects with empathy and dignity. That climax, though, manages to simultaneously humanize its characters and make them uniquely terrifying, in the end wreaking a surprisingly terrifying revenge on its antagonist.
i hated almost every second of this, i'm sorry
I loved every moment. This clearly inspired AHS Freak Show. I can only imagine what kind of stir this made when it came out. My only complaint is that it isn't longer. I want Frieda to console me forever.
Shunned when released in very different times, "Freaks" seems to resonate differently in today's climes.
The circus performers are endearingly presented, as very real people with compassion and concern for each other regardless of their physical appearance or ostracizing from regular society. In truth, they are a family that looks after each other and even open their arms to newcomers who treat them with respect. Here, the villains are actually two of the "normal folks" who are held up as beautiful exemplars of regular society who end up being the "freaks" because they lack even shreds of decency and compassion for others.
I don't know what I was expecting exactly, but I wasn't expecting to be touched by Frieda, Hans,…
"We accept her, one of us"
Dat ending doe
Watched as part of the Hooptober season. Check out the entire season here
Freaks is undeniably deserving of its moniker as a classic of the grotesque but is also a heartwarming tale of triumph against adversity which asks its audience to emphasise with those members of society that are so often cast asunder and looked upon as amusing oddities. The cast is almost entirely comprised of real-life sideshow professionals and director Tod Browning's former life as a circus contortionist adds to the gripping realism of the film, which narratively plays out like any great piece of theatre - a simple premise, engaging characters and a wonderful, most horrifying and supremely gratifying conclusion. This is a true classic and every bit as relevant today as it was on release.
wow cant believe they ripped off toy story 1 .... embarrassing
Film #13 of Hoop-Tober 3.0
Freaks is a pre-code horror film of startling beauty and humility. Directed by Tod Browning, of Dracula, Freaks is remembered for using real "human oddities" to make up it's cast: Beard Lady, Armless Wonder, Conjoined Twins, The Human Torso, 1/2 of the Doll Family, etc.
Often described as a movie that could never be made now-a-days (at least, that's what it's opening crawl tells us), Freaks raises questions about the practice of using these people: is it treating them fairly by offering them the positions or is it treating them, as the title would suggest, as freaks? Well... it's a hard question. On the one hand, the "oddities" are the most emotionally connective and human…
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