Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A review of "Freaks"

Confessions of a Film Junkie:  A review of “Freaks”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Director Tod Browning broke all sorts of barriers and standards of film when he directed his 1932 film, “Freaks”.  Browning first gained his notoriety in the cinema world in the early 1930’s for his collaborations with early horror movie icon stars Lon Chaney Sr. and Bela Lugosi; Browning was the director of the original film “Dracula” (1931).  One year later Browning decided to push the envelope of shock value in horror films and make the movie “Freaks”.                                         “Freaks” is set in France in the late 18th century and tells the story of a group of circus performers.  One of the circus performers, a midget named Hans, falls madly in love with a trapeze artist named Cleopatra.  Hans begins to buy Cleopatra gifts and lend her money because he believes that she loves him, but Cleopatra doesn’t really have any feelings for Hans; she’s just using him to get whatever she wants.  One day Cleopatra finds out that Hans has inherited a large fortune and decides that she will marry him and then poison him so she can inherit Hans’s fortune and run off with her lover—the strong man, “Hercules”.  However, if the other circus performers find out about Cleo’s plans they could be ruined and she and Hercules could be in a lot of trouble.                                      
I really like how Browning cast actual circus “freaks” in this film.  Many people who saw this film in theatres walked out before the films shocking ending because they were appalled and repulsed by the people that appeared on the screen.  Browning actually posted in a disclaimer at the beginning of the film that basically said that the people that appeared in his film were real people and just because they look different it doesn’t mean that they should be judged or looked down upon and that everyone is unique and special.  I was absolutely blown away at how sensitive and ahead of its time this film is on the issue.  All the freaks that appear in the film are memorable and really likeable and here’s a fun trivia fact; the actor who played Hans in this film, Harry Earles, was also a member of the “lollipop guild” in the “Wizard of Oz”.                   
I cannot say enough nice things about how great this film truly is; it is definitely my current favorite classic-film, and I think it should be seen by everyone.