Shocktober #1 – Tod Browning’s FREAKS
Freaks is a 1932 American Pre-code film (pre Hayes code censorship) in which the title characters were actually played by by sideshow performers with real deformities. Directed and produced by Tod Browning, whose career never recovered really from it. Freaks has been described as standing alone in a subgenre of one.
Because of Browning’s success as the director of Dracula, he was given a considerable leeway for a major studio’s first horror film. In the film, the physically deformed “freaks” are inherently trusting and honorable people, while the real monsters are two of the “normal” members of the circus who conspire to murder one of the performers to obtain his large inheritance.
Among the characters featured as “freaks” were “The Human Skeleton”, “The Bearded Lady”; Frances O’Conner and Martha Morris – The armless wonders”; and conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. Among the microcephalics who appear in the film (and are referred to as “pinheads”) were Zip and Pip (Elvira and Jenny Lee Snow) and Schlitzie, a male named Simon Metz who wore a dress mainly due to incontinence. Also featured was Johnny Eck, the legless man; the completely limbless Prince Randian and Koo-Koo – The Bird girl, who had Virchow-Seckel syndrome or bird-headed dwarfism (?!).
Following disastrous test screening in January 1932 (one woman threatened to sue MGM, claiming the film had caused her to suffer a miscarriage), the studio cut the picture down from its original 90-minute running time to just over an hour. Much of the sequence of the freaks attacking Cleopatra (the villain), as she lays under a tree, was removed, as well as a gruesome sequence showing Hercules (The Strong-Man, & Cleopatras lover) being castrated. It’s current running time is just 64 minutes. No matter how much was cut it still managed to negatively effect people and lose money. The Kansas City Star said “There is no excuse for this picture. It took a weak mind to produce it and it takes a strong stomach to look at it.” Harrison Reports – “Any one who considers this entertainment should be placed in the pathological ward in some hospital.” With these kinds of reviews Tod Brownings career was doomed and he would never recover the fame he had pre-Freaks. It is indeed creepy and disturbing and absolutely great. If you’ve seen American Horror Story Freak Show recently you’ll see the impact this film has made (and sort of know how it ends).
THE FINAL REVENGE – CRAWLING IN THE RAIN