'Freaks' (1932) - A Movie Review
'Freaks’' dark atmosphere has made quite an impression on the world, especially across all generations.
Gooble gobble, one of us! We accept her, we accept her. Gooble gobble.
Freaks set out an endless bout of controversy when it was released into cinemas in 1932. Hans, a dwarf, is in love with a beautiful ‘normal’ woman. The physically deformed circus performers stand by their friend's side when an evil plan is brought to their attention.
I became intrigued in this uniquely dark film a few years ago after seeing a trailer. Freaks’ dark atmosphere has made quite an impression on the world, especially across all generations. While Freaks was meant to distribute a much different message, the dark underlining tone does not stop viewers from becoming invested in the contents of the film’s nature.
The physical deformities of the circus people are real! It’s startling and off-putting to see people with no arms, or no legs, and even a man with no legs or arms! Watching them live on their own, living life as if they’re not different was an eye-opening experience.
Many actors ended up backing out of the film upon finding out who they were going to co-star with. The film asks a question about who the real monsters are. Understandably, it is easy to answer based on the discriminating actions of the ‘normal’ people.
Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Rosco Ates, Henry Victor, and Rose Dione all delivered great performances whether they were fighting for or against the carnies. I especially enjoyed Ates's hilarious stutter. Ford and Hyams's romantic subplot felt like it took away from the story. Then again, Freaks is not just one story, and that’s what I like about the film.
One of my favorite performances of all was Olga Baclanova as the vulgar beautiful trapeze performer, Cleopatra, who seduces Hans. Baclanova was not afraid to show the ugly side of women, especially when laughing drunkenly like a horse, viciously lying, and carrying out a plan that is so evil.
Hans and Frieda were played by Harry and Daisy Earles (siblings playing a couple). As their relationship was understandably subdued, it still did not stop them from presenting a dramatic showing of their argument about the true meaning of love.
At times Harry Earle’s character got on my nerves. I felt that he was too selfish, especially when breaking Frieda’s heart to be with Cleopatra. Then again, it was the whole message of the film. Despite the hardships, Daisy Earles stood her ground, even confronting Baclanova in one of my favorite scenes of the film.
Some other notables who played the carnies were conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, pinhead Schlitze, Johnny Eck who had no body below the waist, Prince Randian who had no legs or arms, Peter Robinson who was a human skeleton, and many other notable people who appeared onscreen.
Filmmakers try to give each actor a chance to shine, even giving them time to show off their talents. One of the most famous scenes of all is the wedding celebration as carnies chant their acceptance. That scene alone is one of my favorite scenes of the film.
We should be considered lucky that this film exists. It’s dealt with extreme controversy and backlash, even getting banned in some parts of the world. With a runtime of only 60 minutes, the cut footage is deemed lost.
Freaks is a very important movie that you should add to your watch list. It’s a mark on history at how society has been overlooked. Watching this film certainly opened my mind. Nobody can help who they are or how they are born. What matters is the way you look at life.