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Freaks (1932) -- Reviewer: Eric B.

Freaks:

Who is the real monster?!

In 1932 Lousiville native Tod Browning followed up his most important work, Dracula, starring the inimitable (well, okay completely imitable) Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi, with a film that is now mostly a cult classic but is really a much more meaningful and important work. The film in question is called Freaks. Tod Browning does in 64 minutes and with no well known actors things many directors cannot do with the biggest stars in 2 hours. Tod Browning entertains, instills true fear, and inspires deep thought. The main stars of the film are the actual performers from Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus’s sideshow. Who needs special effects when you’ve got the real deal! This is also great because it turns this horror drama into a partial documentary about people who have made life’s ultimate lemons into spectacular lemonade. The plot involves a love affair between a trapeze artist and a sideshow performer named Hercules. They derail their affair when the trapeze artist learns one of the midgets who is sort of the ringleader of the sideshow performers has inherited significant money. The trapeze artist decides to get the midget’s dough by romancing him into a sham marriage. The rest of the sideshow performers find out about this abuse of their leader and decide to play along while planning to help the trapeze artist land a new gig in the sideshow by doing to her what nature did to the rest of the sideshow! This film is great fun and challenges us to ask who the real freaks are. It shows that the scary monsters are really not external but within. The film is also a great look back at a now defunct form of entertainment: the sideshow. By playing to our fears in and insecurities, the sideshow provided a reasonable living to folks who in earlier times had no other opportunity for such. In many ways the sideshow continues to exist. We call it reality tv. Personally, I’ll take the folks in Freaks!

Freaks is now available on DVD and on sale at Amazon.com.



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