A circus' beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.
Runtime: 64 minutes
Release Date 1932-02-20
Tagline: The love story of a siren, a giant, and a dwarf!
This is for the misfits the freaks and the runts. Tod Browning's Freaks is as infamous today as it was back in the 30s when it shook film watchers to the core. Of course time has diluted some of its impact, you can imagine that a modern day horror fan drooling over torture porn et al being completely bemused by the reputation afforded Freaks. Yet it still remains a unique and nightmarish piece of film making, the sort of picture that if someone like David Lynch had made it in the modern era it would be heralded as a masterpiece of daring and genius like artistry. Browning pulls us the viewers into this bizarre carnival society of oddities who are genuinely portrayed by real people. Their codes and ethics are laid bare, but not in some sort of yearning for sympathy, but in a factual way of life. Browning toys with his audience, planting suggestive images of sexual dalliances and role reversals, then he completely pulls the rug from under us to deliver his flip-flop finale. The messages aren't deep, but they need to be thought about. For even as the freaks of Browning's play terrifyingly pursue their quarry through the rain and mud, as the blood freezes and the macabre imagery strikes the senses, it would be a shame if themes such as love and loyalty be forgotten. 9/10
If I have to be honest, I'd say that I have uncertain opinions concerning this film on the whole. On the one hand, I can't say that I didn't enjoy 'Freaks', mainly because of its nice display of bizarre cast members. On the other hand, I can't help feeling slightly at fault, considering that these were real people who probably suffered a lot in their lives because of their malformations, something they obviously couldn't help. Here's a movie that basically became popular precisely because it's about real life 'freaks' (?) and here's the audience that somehow takes pleasure from a film that consciously makes profit out of unfortunate human beings. Being aware of this, I can't lie and say that I didn't enjoy this movie, because… I honestly did!. I'm not going to say that 'Freaks' fascinated me because of the plot, or the locations or the unspoken moral, because even though all those things were fine too, I mostly wanted to see the film because of its characters, that's the reality. However, I suppose it is not so bad to enjoy this movie because of this reason, considering that these people actually agreed to appear in the movie and the fact that they appeared here, didn't make their lives any better or worse, so in the end… it's not really a crime, but I can't help having vague ideas about it. As the movie begins, we see a scrolling prologue, which pretty much encourages the audience to root for the side-show performers and incite us to feel terrible for them, since people with deformities has been always predestined to the most awful chastisements and degradations… which worked for me!. I felt really bad at first, but in the end, it was comprehensible that this film clearly tries to give a message in a far-reaching and yet hideously pleasurable approach. Therefore, my personal opinion, is that the title 'Freaks', doesn't necessarily have to be a reference to the side-show performers with malformations and perhaps, it may be an allusion to the fully grown characters who were the real freaks because of their wicked hearts. In 'Freaks' the story revolves around a circus that offers all kinds of shows, including the exhibition of people with malformations as if they were exotic animals. Cleopatra, a beautiful and promiscuous trapeze artist from the circus, maliciously deceives an innocent midget named Hans and makes him believe that she is in love with him. On the other hand, Frieda, Hans' former fiancée, hopelessly tries to warn his beloved one and make him realize that Cleopatra is just making fun of him deliberately and that she's only with him because of his money. Ignoring Frieda's friendly warning, Hans eventually marries the trapeze artist, only to realize that she was indeed poking fun at him from the very beginning and that her only business with him is to poison him to inherit his wealth later. However, the rest of the side-show performers become aware of this and decide to rise up against the vicious Cleopatra and her lover Hercules. Like I said, the film is remarkably engaging and regardless of the unassuming plot and the short duration, it still doesn't leave the audience with a feeling of disappointment. For the contrary, during that short hour and four minutes, the movie pretty much develops all the necessary conflicts, situations, beautiful music, nice scenarios and perfect interaction between the characters. Tod Browning managed to achieve a highly compelling drama flick with some of the finest and most atypical actors, who captivate the audience with their charm and innocence. Give this movie a chance and decide which ones are the real freaks and which ones aren't.