The Freaks (1932) Reviewed

 

Tod Browning (center, standing) and some "Freaks" cast members.

FREAKS aka Nature’s Mistakes (1932)
Tod Browning’s ode to the misunderstood may be one of the more upsetting movies you’ll ever see. Riding the success of Dracula, Browning was given the opportunity to make Freaks for MGM. The result was considered an unreleasable disaster and MGM pulled their support assuring that the movie was barely seen at all.. Equal parts art and exploitation, the film gives a behind the curtain look at the circus sideshow and is cast with the genuine articles: bird ladies, human skeletons, Siamese twins, a human torso, pinheads and a handful of midgets and dwarves. The story involves Hans and Frieda, two engaged midgets with thick German accents who are being torn apart by the beautiful trapeze lady who, conspiring with the strongman, hopes to seduce Hans out of his fortune. The engagement party scene is a true classic horror of American cinema and incidentally the inspiration for a Ramones song. It’s pretty amazing how shocking this movie still is so many decades later. Imagine MGM’s initial reaction to their investment! For a bonus horror, note that engaged midgets Hans and Frieda are played by Harry and Daisy Earles: real-life brother and sister. Some of the dialogue (especially Hans’) is incoherent, so much so that even the closed captioning gives up in places. The tacked-on happy ending was filmed later, but I found myself thankful for it. How could you not root for these adorable midgets? Freak highpoint: Watch a man with no arms or legs roll a cigarette, light it with a match and smoke it!
***1/2

~ by Number5ive on February 19, 2010.

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