Thursday, January 14, 2010

68. FREAKS (1932)

Running Time: 62 minutes
Directed By: Tod Browning
Written By: Clarence Aaron "Tod" Robbins, from his novel Spurs
Main Cast: Wallace Ford, Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles, Henry Victor, Daisy Earles, Leila Hyams

Sidenote: Just wanted to take a moment and make mention of the fact that the entry for "Freaks" appears on page 100 of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book. With 942 pages of movies to watch, I'm approximately 1/9 of the way complete, which may not be anything to boast about, but I felt it was somewhat of a menial accomplishment.


Tod Browning's final film in the "1001" book, "Freaks" was a really good movie, but I think it may have fell below my expectations and not lived up to the hype, as it is Browning's most famous film, yet in my opinion, not his best.

The movie takes place in a circus, much like Browning's previous and better film, "The Unknown", and the first characters that we're introduced to are Hans and Frieda, two midgets who are very happily engaged. At least they're very happy until Hans lays his eyes on one of the few non-freaks in the film, Cleopatra, the trapeze artist. Hans quickly becomes smitten with the goreous Cleopatra and before you can say "oddity" he's head over heels for her, and has forgotten all about his fiance. Meanwhile, Cleopatra's real intentions are purely monetary, as she goes gaga for all of the gifts and cash that Hans presents her with. In actuality, Cleopatra is really having an affair with the circus strong man, Hercules, a very rude, obnoxious, brute of a man who gets his jollies making fun of the physically less fortunate circus acts.

When Cleopatra learns that Hans has come into an inheritance and that he's loaded with cash, she gets the idea to marry him and then "dispose" of him, so that the inheritance will be hers, and so she can be with Hercules. Cleopatra and Hercules devise the scheme and the tall woman and the short man are soon married, in a very festive ceremony. When the freaks decide to make her one of their own, by passing a large goblet of wine around a table and chanting, she "freaks" out and throws the wine into one of their faces. She shortly thereafter apologizes to Hans for insulting his friends, blames it on the wine and continues forward with her plan to get rid of him, by poisoning him.

The freaks in the picture are really kind of a side element, as they don't play any real part in furthering the plot and are seemingly just put on camera for shock value. There's also a small side plot involving Phroso the Clown and Venus, a normal woman who travels with the circus and the romance that develops between the two. There are a few other very small plots involving the freaks, that really don't take up much of the short sixty-two minute film and are really just playing sexond fiddle to the Cleopatra/Hans stuff.

I was really disapointed in this film and the main reason I was, was because I really expected more out of it. That's not to say it wasn't enjoyable, but it certainly wasn't as good as "The Unknown", another one of Browning's films and a lesser known one at that, that is actually much better than this. This film did have it's moments and really, in the end, it wasn't bad at all and it's a movie that I could definitely see growing on me in time, and something that I wouldn't mind seeing again down the road. The acting was mediocre, the plot was better than average and everything else was good, so I call that a good day at the office and it could've been way worse.

RATING: 7/10 Before I watched it, I was really expecting this one to go all the way and snag a '10' rating, but it'll have to settle for a '7'

NEXT UP: Me and My Gal...My first Spencer Tracy movie and unfortunately I'm going to have to skip it.

January 14, 2010 2:42am


  1. I'd heard about this film for years, and got it as soon as it became (afordably) available.. Oh boy.. was it worth the wait.
    (Unfortunatly I carn't get hold of 'Unknown here in UK land)
    Again, I think a little harsh on the acting point.. well, yes, you are right, but then acting styes were so very different...
    Did your disk have the alternative endings, commentry etc? Fascinating...
    If I may beg to differ, this is a 9+ (But, hey, who's blog is this?? Yours. If I want to give it more, let me do my own..)

  2. I'm not sure if my discs had alternate endings or commentaries, as I didn't look. I did like this movie, I think I just overhyped it in my own head. I loved "The Unknown" so much, that I figured the more talked about "Freaks" would be better, and it simply wasn't.


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