Friday, January 18, 2008

Freaks


Wow, what a masterpiece! This movie was made by Tod Browning (original film version of Dracula, Bela Lugosi) and has all the same subtle creepiness building into a most satisfying climax that all of his films seem to possess. When Freaks was filmed in 1932, the carnival sideshows were a big hit and there were many traveling circuses that had a freak sideshow. Mostly comprised of people born with deformities, women who have hormone problems and grow beards, conjoined twins, etc. Tod Browning used this freakshow backdrop as the frame for the moral plot of the story. The plot being as such... Hans and Frieda are two dwarfs that have a romantic relationship (which must have been odd because they were in reality brother and sister). That is until normal sized Cleopatra, the trapeze artist, comes along. Hans is instantly smitten. He callously dumps Frieda to pursue Cleo, who is definitely beautiful but is still by all means a conniving bitch. She milks Hans' generosity and makes fun of him behind his back, all while she secretly is having an affair with Hercules, the circus strong man. Cleo discovers that the reason Hans is so generous is that he has inherited a huge fortune. She then decides to convince Hans to marry her, then bump him off and make off with the loot. At their wedding reception, with all the freaks present, Cleo puts poison into Hans's champagne in an attempt to kill him then proceeds to make a drunken ass of herself by calling everybody a dirty slimy freak and to get away from her. She puts Hans on her shoulders and humiliates him by treating him like a child. She then fakes nursing him so that she can continue to poison him to death. Luckily one of the freaks overhears her plans to kill Hans and decide that she must pay. Apparently, when it comes to circus freaks, harm one and you piss off the entire tribe. In the middle of traveling through a rainstorm, all the freaks gang up on Cleo and chase her into the woods... a strike of lightning hits nearby. Fast forward a little and we see Cleo in a freakshow of her own, having been somehow changed into a sort of chicken woman. What's great about this film is that Tod Browning didn't want to fake the freaks, he wanted the real thing and throughout the movie we are shown some pretty incredible people. There's a woman with no arms that can do absolutely anything with her feet, a man with no arms or legs that can roll, light and smokes his own cigarettes. For some reason, this use of real persons really "freaked" people out. Apparently the audience is much happier knowing that there is a zipper somewhere that can be pulled and out comes a normal person. It freaked people out so much that it was banned for literally decades. Made in 1932, banned shortly after release and didn't make it onto video cassettes until the mid-80's and even then it was really hard to find. It's been released on DVD finally as of 2005. It's also been recently voted a cinematic masterpiece. It's not vulgar at all and has some very endearing characters as well as a great story, so why was it banned for so long? I wish I knew, but by the time it was released on video, there were all sorts of video nasties out there that are far more disturbing than Freaks. Due to it's notoriety as being banned for so long and it's difficulty in locating a copy, it has gathered a huge cult following and now thanks to DVD, can finally be appreciated and praised by future fans and admirers.

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