Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Roscoe Ates, Henry Victor
Genres: Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy
TREACHERY IS DISCOVERED AMONGST A TRAVELING CIRCUS SIDESHOW.
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An unsettling, yet human, masterpiece.
David Grant | Lancaster, PA USA | 12/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tod Browning's Freaks is a prime example of what films used to be and a sad reminder that they will never quite be like this again. Based on the short story 'Spurs' by Tod Robbins, the movie tells the story of a circus midget who falls in love with a beautiful, 'normal' trapeze artist. When she and her strongman lover try to poison him for his money, the 'freaks' exact their revenge on them. Browning, a former circus performer himself, treats his unusual cast of real-life circus freaks with genuine sympathy. They are the true human element of the film. In most ways this is the first truely compassionate horror film ever made. But upon it's release, censors flipped, audiences ran in horror, and the film was yanked from the screen and banned in Europe for 40 years. A shame, indeed, as the film is a true triumph for Browning. A film that makes a convincing argument about our expectations of beauty and humanity. Sure, it's creepy and frightening. But it's also very sad. It shows you that it's not what we look like that makes us human or that we don't have to be beautiful to be respected. A strange argument for a 'horror' film to make. The only downside to this long-lost and vastly underappreciated film is that the sound can sometimes be rather muffled and a few of the actors have thick accents that sometimes make understanding the dialogue a chore. But it's a minor complaint and doesn't really distract from the wonder up on the screen. If you're in the mood for something a little... uh... different... definitely check this one out. You will be thankful you did."
Exploitation or compassion?
Steven Hellerstedt | 07/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The story isn't much. Beautiful woman marries a rich man for his money, all the while carrying on with another man behind his back. The rich man, of course, is the only one blind to the beautiful woman's duplicity, and when he finally finds out there's all heck to pay.
This time around, though, the woman is a towering 5'4", the man is a midget and his friends include the Human Torso, the Human Skeleton, and an assortment of microcephali (a.k.a. `pinheads'). Tod Browning's FREAKS (1932) started its career as a critical and box-office disaster, was resurrected in the 1960s and by the 1990s was added to the National Film Registry by the National Film Preservation Board in 1994. Very few movies start out so despised and end up so revered. But then, FREAKS is like no other movie ever made.
Even today, with my senses dulled beyond repair from years of exposure to outrageous special effects and incredible cgi animation - even though I've seen this movie three or four times over the years - it still seems shocking and unsettling. The special hour long `making of' special included on the disk, featuring David Skal and a host of circus side-show historians, provides plenty of background on many of the `freaks' in the movie. Skal also provides a commentary track, in which he discusses the many hurdles FREAKS had to overcome during its troubled early history. Better yet, he provides the viewer with information on the many deleted and edited scenes.
On one level, FREAKS isn't a very good movie. Some of the acting is terribly wooden, the A-List original cast (Myrna Loy, Victor McLaglen, Jean Harlow) begged off the project and considering their replacements and the film's short running time of 62 minutes it's obvious that MGM quickly decided that this was a b-picture. On another level, because it so humanizes those we usually avoid (and thus in a sense deprive of humanity), and because it does so without resorting to optical tricks, FREAKS is a movie like no other, before or since.
Banned in Boston, "Freaks" is Tod Browning's best film
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For years I had heard about the legendary Tod Browning film "Freaks" that so upset audiences it was banned in Boston and Great Britain. I had read the short story "Spurs" on which it was based and when the film was finally screened on campus I talked my roommate into going with me. Most of the people sitting around us knew nothing about the film and when I told them about it everybody started to get nervous. Then the film began...and we all loved it! My roommate and I both had crushes on Daisy Earles who plays Frieda in the film, opposite her husband Harry as Hans. The story is quite simple: Hans and Frieda are a pair of midgets in love, but Hans thinks that Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) the bareback rider is beautiful. Cleopatra plays with Hans' affections until she learns he has money. Over the objections of her boyfriend, Hercules (Henry Victor) the freak show strongman, she accepts Hans' proposal. During the wedding feast when the freaks accept her into their ranks, she makes it clear how much she despises them all. But when Hans starts to become ill because of the poison she is feeding him, the freaks decide it is time to take matters into their own hands. The film's climax, when the freaks chase Cleopatra and Hercules during a rainstorm, is truly chilling, although Cleopatra's final fate is as unreal as it is ironic.All Browning really did to terrify audience was to include real freaks in his film, such as Daisy and Violet Hilton the Siamese Twins, Schlitze the Pinhead Girl, Josephine Joseph the Half-Woman/Half-Man, Johnny Eck the Half Boy, Frances O'Connor the Turtle Girl, Peter Robinson the Living Human Skeleton, Olga Roderick the Bearded Lady, Koo Koo the Bird Girl, Martha Morris the Armless Wonder, and Randion the Living Torso (who rolls his own cigarettes despite having neither arms nor legs). However, the film clearly portrays the "freaks" with dignity. As Madame Tetrallini (Rose Dione) tells someone, "These are all God's children." The true monsters in this film are the "normal" human beings, who receive their just desserts (supposedly a scene in which Hercules is castrated was cut from the film). This is Browning's best film, not "Dracula." It is not even close. You might screen this film for the first time because of its reputation, but you will watch it again because it is a good film."
The ONLY Film to show real "physically different" people!
firstname.lastname@example.org | San Rafael, CA | 08/23/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The story is simple as was noted by another viewer, but this movie doesn't need anything more. It is the chance to see some of history's famous sideshow "freaks", though I would just call them physically different. Featured are the beautiful sisters who are joined at the hip ("siamese twins"); the amazing and arresting Johnny Eck--who has no legs but who gracefully runs around on his hands and is outgoing and quite handsome; the trio of "pinheads," who were displayed as "sisters" although they were boys in dresses--they were mentally disabled and not actually related; the "human torso" who had no arms or legs but was quite happy enough and could move around by inching himself along on a surface; a bearded lady, a giant, a super skinny guy, a fat lady, and "miniature" folks as well. (I may have missed a couple!) Such a group of people could never be seen today and it wasn't long after this movie was made that sideshows (specifically: showing off physically different people for a profit) were made illegal. The sad thing is these people were able to make a decent living from sideshows and the people in it were all a tight-knit family--taking away the sideshow meant the loss of any ability to make money for the majority of these folks, and it desolved the sideshow families. Most people don't realize that the majority of the stars of side shows worked there by their own CHOICE!"Freaks" is a very special film and shows many very special people. I only hope that viewers will appreciate how unique and individually wonderful each of these people were. I don't think we will ever see such a group of people like this in one setting ever again. The director didn't make fun of any of the people and showed them for what they were: folks just like you and me, except for being physically different. (Excluding the very happy, but truthfully mentally disabled "pinheads.")It's a great movie! END"