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Freaks (1932)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother)
Genres:
Drama, Melodrama, Psychological Thriller, Thriller
Director:
Tod Browning Tod Browning
Starring:
Wallace Ford Wallace Ford
Leila Hyams Leila Hyams
Olga Baclanova Olga Baclanova
Roscoe Ates Roscoe Ates
Henry Victor Henry Victor

7.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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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. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: August 24, 2004
The movie starts off with a guy giving a bit of a history lesson about freaks, and preparing the audience to see something truly terrifying that's stuck down inside of a cage. The crowd gathers around the cage; some scream, others turn away in disgust. This leads us into the movie, where we see a bit of how life is in the circus, and more importantly, in the freak-show. Cleopatra, a trapeze-artist, has just joined this circus and has been toying with Hans, a midget. She's pretending to be in love with him, while in reality, she's just using him for his money, laughing at him behind his back, and holding a real relationship with Hercules, the strong-man. Hans is engaged to Frieda, another midget, and she sees what's going on between Hans and Cleopatra, but Hans won't listen to her and grows more and more distant from Frieda. Up until this point, it was just a big joke to Cleopatra, but when she finds out that Hans is insanely rich due to a large inheritance, she plans to go one step further in their "relationship"... she plans to marry Hans, and then kill him in order to get his cash. However, Hans finds out about her plans, and gathers up the freaks in order to extract revenge...

For a movie that was initially released over seventy-two years ago, this one has really stood the test of time. While it's nowhere near as shocking as it was back then, it's still got a solid storyline going for it along with some great visuals. The nifty thing about this film is that all of the freaks involved with the storyline were actual circus freaks... there were no actors or makeup jobs used for those roles. The storyline would have held up even without that aspect, but that definitely added something to the viewing experience. The final running time of just over an hour was a bit short, but that gave them plenty of time to tell their story and get the job done without padding things out, unlike in modern movies. Also, this movie didn't try to vilify the freaks, it tried to show things from their point of view; how the "normals" are cruel to them, laugh at them, and use them for whatever they may be worth. That was a definite twist to things, and it made the vengeance at the end of the film that much more satisfying.

The acting performances in this film varied; the normal people did great in their roles, especially Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova). She really did a fantastic job in getting the viewer to despise her with her actions and mannerisms, and she did it in such a subtle way; it wasn't a force-fed "she's the villain, hate her" way of doing things as has become the norm in today's movies. The two main freaks in the film, Hans (Harry Earles) and Frieda (Daisy Earles) also did quite well in their roles, which did indeed shock me. Their voices take some getting used to and they're a bit hard to understand at times, but things all work out over time. The rest of the freaks employed here definitely weren't actors, but that didn't hurt things as much as one would imagine; instead, it gives the movie more of a realistic feel, almost as though you were watching a genuine freak-show. The director did handle this small problem well, and did a good job in covering up the acting weaknesses of these freaks by giving each one roles and lines in the film to compliment whatever acting abilities they did have, and shying away from things they'd have problems with. This didn't wind up being an exploitation of them as one would imagine, and things worked out great as a result of that.

Definitely worth the viewing, as there's a great storyline to be told here, and it was done up in a superb manner. Buy it, rent it, download it, whatever needs to be done... but check it out. 10/10 from myself.
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George Snow #1: George Snow - added 08/02/2013, 01:19 AM
A little trivia on this flick. Lon Chaney Sr (man of 1000 faces) was suppose to be in this movie. But, he died before production began. If you've seen it, you know what happens to Cleopatra at the end. That piece was made by Chaney, and there's a famous picture of him in it with Browning at his side.

Lon Chaney Sr. The MAN!

If you ever get a chance, West of Zanzibar, The Unknown are excellent features that are available. The subject matter is pretty incredible for the time. The Unknown features a really young Joan Crawford. Think of that, Chaney Sr starring above the great Ms Crawford.
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