In the early part of the twentieth century, horror grew to be a very popular genre of film. The world came to know such iconic horror characters like Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein, Quasimodo, and The Phantom (thank you Universal Studios). Audiences were scared, Hollywood became rich, and everybody wanted a piece of their monsters. Amidst these tales of frightening creatures emerged a unique, daring and profoundly poignant tale about the different, the malformed, and the societal “throw-away”. I bring to you Freaks!
… everyone looks down and proceed to gasp in shock and terror.
1932’s Freaks is an eccentric horror film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, directed by Tod Browning, but based on a 1923 short fiction story written by Tod Robbins titled Spurs. Freaks begins with a carnival Barker leading a group of customers on a tour of oddities on display. He and the group come to a stop at one particular attraction; everyone looks down and proceed to gasp in shock and terror. The Barker then starts to explain, “She was once a beautiful trapeze artist …” So begins the plot of Freaks.
Cleopatra (portrayed by Olga Baclanova) is this tale’s beautiful, conniving trapeze artist, who you already sense has been taking advantage of the sideshow’s dwarven leader, Hans. She quickly discovers that he has inherited a fortune. Together with her boyfriend, Hercules (Henry Victor), they plan a very cliché scheme for Cleo to marry Hans, then to quickly poison him. Naturally, when Hans dies, Cleopatra inherits his fortune, and then becomes free to run off with Hercules and live a luxurious life away from the sideshow. Sounds simple enough, right? WRONG!!!
REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED COLD!!!
After Cleo and Hans marry (Oh, did I fail to mention that Hans already had a wife when the tale begins?Well, he does.) The deformed sideshow performers, whom are fiercely loyal friends to Hans, soon learn that he is being poisoned by this horrible bitch and her boyfriend. Now, what do you do when you discover that two pieces-of-shit stuck to the bottom of Satan’s hooves are attempting to destroy one of your ilk? I will now take the time to remind you of that old Klignon proverb: REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED COLD!!!
The sideshow performers wait for one appropriately dark, stormy night when the carnival has packed up and are traveling on the road to a new location. First, they satisfyingly kill Hercules; which makes this lady smirk. The film cuts to Cleo escaping the melee she just witnessed in the pouring rain, fleeing from her attackers, scared for her life. She stops to rest against a tree and looks to see if she’s outrun them. What does this asshole see instead? The most creepy, scary and disturbing thing ever: all of the performers sprinting towards this bitch in the rain, each one with a knife in his or her hand. The film, again, cuts back to the beginning with the carnival Barker and the group on tour looking down in horror. What do they see? They see the aftermath of what was done to Cleo on that dark, stormy night when she dared to fuck with the wrong dwarf. I can’t tell you what they did to her; it will spoil it for those of you who are going to seek Freaks out and watch it.
I will say the following to you. This movie is far ahead of its time. The real “freaks” here are obviously Cleopatra and Hercules, not the malformed sideshow performers. The performers love one another, look after each other, and support everyone, both deformed and “normal” alike. Since society, at that time, typically mistreated, abused, and mocked people like them, they created a code that was rigorously adhered to. The joy of one is the joy of all; however, you harm one, and you harm them all. Then they do to you what to happened to ol’ Cleo … they fuck you up royal! Moral of Day: Treat others how you wish to be treated. Should you decide not to, well, that’s your ass. Go now and view this film for yourself and come to your own opinion. It will be the least disappointing thing you watch this year; I promise.
If you care to own this true cinema classic, please feel free to do so here:
Special kilScene Contributor