Freaks

( 11 )

Overview

Without question one of the most shocking and controversial features in cinema history, director Tod Browning's Freaks arrives on DVD with some revealing extras. Presented in 1.33:1 full-frame, the image is crisp and clean -- free of debris or digital artifacting. Blacks are universally solid, and whites remain vivid without becoming too bright or washed-out. One notable exception is the film's brief coda, which appears much more washed-out and overblown than the majority of the film. Audio is rendered in ...
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Overview

Without question one of the most shocking and controversial features in cinema history, director Tod Browning's Freaks arrives on DVD with some revealing extras. Presented in 1.33:1 full-frame, the image is crisp and clean -- free of debris or digital artifacting. Blacks are universally solid, and whites remain vivid without becoming too bright or washed-out. One notable exception is the film's brief coda, which appears much more washed-out and overblown than the majority of the film. Audio is rendered in closed-captioned English Dolby Digital Mono with optional English subtitles (a welcome addition even to English-speaking audiences, as a few key lines of dialogue are virtually indecipherable) and is likewise bold and clean. Though fans who have been eagerly anticipating a DVD release for Freaks may lament the loss of key footage mentioned in both the commentary and featurette (the film originally ran at approximately 90 minutes before terrifying unsuspecting audiences and subsequently being trimmed down to just over 60), the generous extras as presented here may soften the blow of knowing that nearly a half-hour of Browning's masterpiece is likely lost forever. Commentary by Browning biographer David J. Skal explodes out of the gates by christening the film one of "the strangest and most controversial films ever produced by a major studio" before the title card is even displayed, and remains an informative and exciting feature before losing some steam toward the end of the film. Clocking in at just over an hour, the supplemental documentary "Freaks: Sideshow Cinema" offers an absorbing look into the lives of Browning and his unusual cast through interviews with such figures as Skal, sideshow performer/historians Todd Robbins and Johnny Meah, and actors Mark Povinelli and Jerry Maren. A special scrolling prologue will help to prepare unsuspecting viewers for the physical anomalies they are about to witness, and after giving a tantalizing look at the long-lost original ending, commentator Skal walks viewers through three alternate endings that are little more than slight variations of the ending viewers have grown accustomed to over the years. One could only hope that some day Browning's "lost" footage will emerge and pave the way for a more definitive cut of his original vision, but until then, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's fantastic release will likely stand as the definitive version of this one-of-a-kind film.
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Special Features

Commentary by David J. Skal, author of Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning, Hollywood's Master of the Macabre; All-new documentary "Freaks: Sideshow Cinema"; Special Message prologue added for theatrical reissue; Three alternate endings; Subtitles: English, Français, & Español
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
If you regard audacity as a quality to be admired in filmmaking, it's hard not to be a bit in awe of Tod Browning, who with Freaks made one of the grimmest and most offensive films of its era -- and managed this feat at MGM, the most glamorous studio in Hollywood. A pre-Code tale of love, deceit, and revenge at a carnival midway, with a frank-for-its-day approach to sexual gamesmanship and violent retribution among its characters, Freaks would have raised a few eyebrows under ideal circumstances. But Browning upped the ante by casting real-life human oddities in supporting roles, most of whom would never have appeared in a major studio film otherwise. You can't say that Schlitzie the Pinhead, Randian the Living Torso, or Daisy and Violet Hilton the Siamese twins are great actors, but their flatness merely adds to the film's impact. Incapable of "acting" in the conventional sense, they are what they are, and the blunt realism of their flat onscreen affect takes this film to a place that no other film of the day would dare to go. And while Browning uses the freaks for their shock value, he also allows them to live off-stage lives that aren't played for laughs; if their final revenge is ugly, it shows them seizing power in a way that would be denied them in nearly any other dramatic context. Freaks is generally considered to be the film that killed Tod Browning's career; but what's remarkable isn't that he would make only four more films after this one, but that he was allowed to make any more films at all.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/10/2004
  • UPC: 012569519121
  • Original Release: 1932
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Home Video
  • Region Code: 1
  • Aspect Ratio: Full Frame
  • Presentation: Subtitled / B&W / Full Frame
  • Time: 1:02:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 2,730

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Wallace Ford Phroso
Leila Hyams Venus
Olga Baclanova Cleopatra
Roscoe Ates Roscoe
Harry Earles Hans
Henry Victor Hercules
Daisy Earles Frieda
Rose Dione Mme. Tetrallini
Daisy Hilton Siamese Twin
Violet Hilton Siamese Twin
Matt McHugh Rollo Brother
Ernie S. Adams Sideshow Patron
Elvira Snow Herself
Josephine-Joseph Him/Herself
Frank O'Connor Herself
Randian Himself
Schlitzie Herself
Jennie Lee Snow Herself
Michael Visaroff Jean the Caretaker
Zip Themselves
Johnny Eck Johnny the Half Boy
Peter Robinson Human Skeleton
Olga Roderick Bearded Lady
Martha Morris Armless Girl
Elizabeth Green Bird Girl
Angelo Rossitto Angeleno
Louise Beavers Maid
Albert Conti Landowner
Tom London
Edward S. Brophy Rollo Brother
Technical Credits
Tod Browning Director, Producer
Al Boasberg Screenwriter
Merritt B. Gerstad Cinematographer
Willis Goldbeck Screenwriter
Leon Gordon Screenwriter
Edgar Allan Woolf Screenwriter
Basil Wrangell Editor
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Eyes for a Woman. [4:38]
2. Children in the Forest. [2:20]
3. Venus on the Move. [6:07]
4. The Hilton Sisters. [1:15]
5. Cleopatra's Wiles. [3:18]
6. Women Must Worry. [2:38]
7. Hit Me. [2:52]
8. Baby News; Twin Trouble. [1:57]
9. Conversations. [3:00]
10. Saying Yes. [4:07]
11. Frieda's Hurt. [2:31]
12. Frieda's Plea. [4:06]
13. Wedding Feast. [2:43]
14. "One of Us!" [3:10]
15. A Joke. [2:36]
16. Morning After. [2:19]
17. Tonight. [4:19]
18. Stormy Night. [2:56]
19. Surrounding Hercules. [2:30]
20. Code of the Freaks. [2:06]
21. Cast List. [:24]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Special Message Prologue
   Play Movie
   Scene Selections
   Special Features
      Special Message Prologue
      Commentary by David Skal
      Freaks: The Sideshow Cinema
      Alternate Endings
   Languages
      Spoken Languages: English
      Subtitles: English
      Subtitles: Français
      Subtitles: Español
      Subtitles: Off
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(7)

4 Star

(4)

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Classic Movie

    I remember watching this as a kid, and it was very old then. I made a lasting impression on me. For years this was not played again on commercial TV, when I saw it was on DVD, i had to purchase it. It still has a last power to stir the emotions. It still has revelance.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A very Shocking and Great Movie

    I must say that I would have never pictured such a scandelous movie like "Freaks" to have been at the time it was. I highly, highly recommend this movie to people who enjoy old classics and also to those who love great suspense in movies. Unlike many movies the ending does not disappoint you.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    wow....

    i saw this movie on t.v. and i loved it it was kinda weird but yet it is a very good and SUPER COOL movie lol.... i luv FREAKS lol!!!!! :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    freaks

    this is an interesting film and well done, as the characters are real but misunderstood. the ending sad yet true.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    one of the best movies EVER

    this movie was deffinatly ahead of its time. if you have a love of the sideshow, or "those who are not like us" you must watch this one.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Oh my God . . .

    This is one of cinema's most important films. This is a movie that should go down in history. a film like this would be absurd if it came out today.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    DISTURBING TERROR FEST A CINEMATIC SIDE SHOW!

    After scaring theater goers from their seats with his tale of the blood thirsty Count Dracula (1931) over at Universal, Tod Browning migrated to MGM for an even greater shock fest with ¿Freaks¿. Considered by many to be the most grotesque horror film ever made, ¿Freaks¿ is the story of a demented lover¿s triangle that, upon release in the U.S. was considered so disturbing, that it was banned for more than thirty years in Great Britain. In 1994 the reputation of this classic finally achieved its rightful status as a cinematic treasure with the National Film Registry. A wealthy midget, Hans (Harry Earles) is smitten with trapeze artist, Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova). Though advised against pursuing an affair by fellow midget performer, Frieda (Daisy Earles ¿ Harry¿s real life sister) who is actually in love with Hans herself, Hans bates the high wire diva. To everyone¿s surprise Cleopatra accepts her pint size lothario¿s advances and very soon the two become lovers and are married. But all is not as it seems. Cleopatra is really the secretive lover of circus strong man, Hercules (Henry Victor). The two have concocted a plot to do away with Hans and steal his money. Browning¿s direction ably fosters its morality play in the dichotomous relationship between the good willed and humane ¿freaks¿ and the treacherous and diabolical ¿normals.¿ Cleopatra slowly poisons Hans, making it appear as though he is merely suffering from some sort of malady from which he will recover. However, when two sympathetic ¿normals¿ Phroso (Wallace Ford) and Venus (Leila Hyams) discover the truth behind the sham marriage, the freaks decide to launch into their own special brand of terror. Amassing a cavalcade of real life circus performers for this film, Browning effectively alienated the top brass at MGM and its stars ¿ especially during lunch time in the commissary, where a special table partitioned from the rest played host to Radian; the living torso, Frances O¿Connor; the armless girl, Olga Roderick; the bearded lady, and other mutations of mankind. Upon its release in the U.S. audiences were literally shocked from their seats, particularly during the film¿s climactic revenge on Hercules and Cleopatra. The freaks emasculate the strong man and transform Cleopatra by amputation into a bird-like mute creature. Warner¿s DVD is very impressive. Minted from film elements which have obviously undergone some sort of restoration, the DVD exhibits a stunningly handsome gray scale with incredibly sharp images and a remarkable amount of fine detail. Though age related artifacts are riddled throughout and some softly focused scenes still exist, this is by far the most satisfying image quality for a film of this vintage. Blacks are solid and deep. Contrast levels are nicely balanced. There is an absence of digital anomalies for a nearly pristine and very smooth visual presentation that will surely not disappoint. (Aside: originally ¿Freaks was premiered with the final shot being that of Cleopatra¿s hideous transformation into the chicken woman. However, Browning originally intended there to be an epilogue in which Hans and Frieda are reunited. Since this footage was rediscovered in MGM¿s vaults it has been re-inserted into this version of the film. But these film elements are extremely poorly contrasted and softly focused, making the ending of ¿Freaks¿ the one let down of an otherwise impeccably rendered DVD.) The audio has been cleaned up and is equally impressive. Extras include a thorough and engaging audio commentary by noted author, David J. Skal, an all new almost hour long documentary (which is heavy and meandering in tracing the lineage of the real life circus performers but terribly short on documenting the production of the film itself), a prologue added to the film after its initial release and three alternate endings.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2003

    One of the best cult movies ever

    I bought ''Freaks'' after hearing about its extreme offensiveness and relative weirdness and I must say it is one of the best purchases I've ever made. This movie is not for the type of people who like things politically correct but if u have a slightly off-beat sense of humor and enjoy cult movies this is a must see.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews