Dir: Tod Browing
Starring: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Roscoe Ates, Henry Victor, Harry Earles, Daisy Earles, Rose Dione, Daisy Hilton, Violet Hilton, Schlitze, Josephine Joseph & Johnny Eck.
58 mins | Drama, Thriller, Cult Cinema | PG
It’s the final curtain for Chapter Arts Centre and their Circus Season. Wrapping up with a classic and a no doubt infamous picture is never a surprise from Chapter.
Tod Browning as a director is best remembered for the iconic Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. Yet, Freaks is his most scandalous film, banned by British censors for 30 years, was only to be released the same year he died in 1962. This still remains an incredibly misguided error from censors who were only concerned about the effect watching the film could have upon the public, as opposed to the voice these characters are given.
We see the entire circus troupe: clowns, aerial artists, sword eaters and the “freaks” in question. It is the trapeze artists who conspires with her lover to rob one of the dwarf out of his fortune. The real humanity here is seen in the absorbing and heartbreaking scenes with the married dwarf couple. It feel’s like watching children dressed up in adult clothes and imitating their mannerisms. These are the misunderstandings you feel whilst watching this film. Like with The Elephant Man, pity is soon replaced with respect.
There is little to no shock value in this film unless you can’t bear the plight of disfigurement, then this is not a film for you. Yet, it is through the powerful and inspiring nature that we see the troupe in, is what makes you feel like you yourself could do anything in life. The revenge plot against the deceitful trapeze women, now the wife of the dwarf is incredibly satisfying. Everyone’s declaration of “One of us! One of us!” is perhaps one of cinema’s famous quotes and a foreboding utterance for things to come. She gets what she deserves after the discovery of her poisonous plot. Her downfall arches the film’s story and her shocking and absurd conclusion remains a great mystery.
At less than an hour in length, everyone should pay their respects and watch this at one time, forgotten classic.
A tense and thoughtful film.
Photo Credit: TCM