Cult Cut: Freaks (1932)

     Freaks is a true oddity. A masterpiece of American Cinema banned for over thirty years, a commercial failure that destroyed the career of Tod Browning who just the year before embarking on the making of Freaks had directed Dracula for Universal Pictures in 1931. Freaks is at it's heart not a true horror film as it is billed, but rather a morality tale, a revenge film. A film about karmic justice.  Browning shocked the studio and audience in adapting Tod Robbins' disturbing circus set short story "Spurs" by casting real life "freaks". The term "freak" may make people cringe today but it is widely embraced amongst the circus and sideshow communities.  Here on display were actors with real life deformities and disabilities portraying  sideshow performers with the same challenges and skills. It blurs the line between fact and fiction. The story is rather simple, a scheming trapeze artist (Olga Baclanova) and her strong man lover ( Henry Victor) plan to dupe a wealthy little person by marrying him (Harry Earles) and stealing his fortune to escape the circus life. When the other performers, the aforementioned freaks as well as two non-disabled performers get wind of the plan, revenge and/or tragedy ensue (depending on your take)

    Many have criticized the film for decades for exploiting the actors involved and for making them the perpetrators of some truly heinous violence in the film. I disagree, however. I feel Browning, who began his career in sideshows shows an amazing amount of warmth and heart while delicately exposing the world of sideshows to the outside.  They are beautifully portrayed not as monsters but as people who happen to be born different and the "horror" elements are only reveled in defense of self and their way of life.  I've seen this film numerous times over the years, (recently picking it up on DVD-Happy Hanukkah to me!) but I'm always shocked how many people have never seen this lost classic. Most have at least heard of it or can quote the famous chant "One of Us!" well now Here's you chance to educate yourself I've posted the entire film via some delightful third party (on youtube) after the jump .

This is required viewing.

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