We will make you one of us.

Following the success of Dracula with Bela Lugosi, Tod Browning was asked to do another “horror” picture, this time by MGM. He turned to the world of the carnival freak show, assembled the most unusual cast in cinematic history, and created a film that was heavily censored, frequently banned, and would not find its audience for decades.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Director: Tod Browning
Writer: Tod Robbins et al

Features:

Wallace Ford…Phroso
Leila Hyams…Venus
Olga Baclanova …Cleopatra
Harry Earles…Hans
Henry Victor…Hercules
Daisy Earles…Frieda
Roscoe Ates…Roscoe
Rose Dione …Madame Tetrallini
Daisy Hilton…Siamese Twin
Violet Hilton…Siamese Twin
Schlitze the Pinhead…Himself
Radian….The Human Torso

Additional Credits

Available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

Premise:

When a sideshow midget inherits a fortune, a beautiful but cold-hearted trapeze queen plots to wed him, and then murder him with the aid of her lover. The little guy’s friends in the sideshow take a dim view of the situation.

High Point:

The scene of the freaks, crawling through the mud on a stormy night remains an unequalled, bizarre thrill from cinema’s history. It epitomizes the film’s divided mind, its desire to both elicit sympathy for these people and yet play their deformities for shock value.

You’ll not soon forget Freaks.

Low Point:

Some of the sideshow freaks just couldn’t act.

The DVD boldly announces three alternate endings, which might lead one to believe they’ve recovered the original ending footage, which was (and is) thought to be lost. Basically, this is an out-take from the included documentary in which one of the talking heads describes what the original ending included. Then, we get three slightly different edits of the ending we saw, two with different credit sequences. It’s interesting to see these three variations (all of which toured), but the promotional for them seems misleading.

The Scores:

Originality: 6/6 .

Effects: 3/6. There’s really only one special effect, at the end, but it’s pretty effective.

Story: 4/6:

Acting: 3/6: This ranges from good to abysmal. Poor Frieda manages sincerity in her later appearances, but between her limited acting experience and her thick accent, her early lines border on the incomprehensible.

Production: 3/6 Most of Freaks was filmed on an obvious soundstage.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6. The film presents a shockingly unvarnished picture of circus folk. It’s surprising to see an American film from 1932 where the heroine shacks up with a man, and then leaves him. It’s also surprising to witness Hans’s actions in the end– although the epilogue absolves him of responsibility.

In total, Freaks receives 29/42.

Additional Comments

Certain excised scenes have never been recovered. We don’t learn, as the original audiences did, what the fate of Cleopatra’s lover is. Reportedly, in the original final sequence, we hear him singing soprano. This doesn’t really make sense; a eunuch must be castrated before puberty to achieve that special voice. I also think it would detract from the shocking revelation regarding Cleopatra. The original also featured a slightly longer storm/revenge sequence. The epilogue, which was added in response to the previews, indicates that Hans had no part in the revenge. The movie clearly shows otherwise.

Extras include commentary, a documentary, a long-winded prologue (originally shown in some theatres), and the “alternate endings discussed earlier.”

The Ramones’ “Gabba Gabba Hey” chant came from their misremembered recollections of this film, and the freaks’ “Gooble Gobble” chant.

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