Freaks
  • Freaks
  • Freaks

Freaks

4.6 11
Director: Tod Browning

Cast: Tod Browning, Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova

     
 

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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.See more details below

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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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.

Product Details

Release Date:
08/10/2004
UPC:
0012569519121
Original Release:
1932
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[B&W]
Time:
1:02:00
Sales rank:
16,428

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

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 Actor
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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