Freaks

Freaks

4.6 11
Director: Tod Browning

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

     
 

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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, See more details below

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.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/01/1998
UPC:
0027616084330
Original Release:
1932
Rating:
NR
Source:
Mgm (Warner)

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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