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Freaks

( 11 )

Overview

The genesis of MGM's Freaks was a magazine piece by Ted Robbins titled Spurs. The story involved a terrible revenge enacted by a mean-spirited circus midget upon his normal-sized wife. In adapting Spurs for the screen, writers Willis Goldbeck, Leon Gordon, Edgar Allan Wolf, and Al Boasberg retained the circus setting and the little man-big woman wedding, all the while de-vilifying the midget and transforming the woman into the true "heavy" of the piece. German "little person" Harry Earles plays Hans, who falls in...
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Overview

The genesis of MGM's Freaks was a magazine piece by Ted Robbins titled Spurs. The story involved a terrible revenge enacted by a mean-spirited circus midget upon his normal-sized wife. In adapting Spurs for the screen, writers Willis Goldbeck, Leon Gordon, Edgar Allan Wolf, and Al Boasberg retained the circus setting and the little man-big woman wedding, all the while de-vilifying the midget and transforming the woman into the true "heavy" of the piece. German "little person" Harry Earles plays Hans, who falls in love with long-legged trapeze artist Cleopatra Olga Baclanova. Discovering that Hans is heir to a fortune, Cleopatra inveigles him into a marriage, all the while planning to bump off her new husband and run away with brutish strongman Hercules Henry Victor. What she doesn't reckon with is the code of honor among circus freaks: "offend one, offend them all." What set this film apart from director Tod Browning's earlier efforts was the fact that genuine circus and carnival sideshow performers were cast as the freaks: Harry Earles and his equally diminutive sister Daisy, Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, legless Johnny Eck, armless-legless Randian who rolls cigarettes with his teeth, androgynous Josephine-Joseph, "pinheads" Schlitzie, Elvira, Jennie Lee Snow, and so on. Upon its initial release, Freaks was greeted with such revulsion from movie-house audiences that MGM spent the next 30 years distancing themselves as far from the project as possible. For many years available only in a truncated reissue version titled Nature's Mistakes, Freaks was eventually restored to its original release print.
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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: 9/1/1998
  • UPC: 027616084330
  • Original Release: 1932
  • Rating:

  • Source: Mgm (Warner)
  • Format: VHS

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(7)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

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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