Written by: Paula Limbaugh
With American Horror Story: Freak Show on the horizon, I thought now would be a good time to revisit Freaks, the 1932 Tod Browning classic. Tod’s original film was considered too shocking to show and was banned just about everywhere.
Filming was wrapped up in Dec. of ’31 and shown to test audiences in Jan 1932. It was met with disastrous results. Considered too horrific to show, Tod was forced to pare his movie down from 90 minutes to a measly 64 minutes. Gone were the scenes showing Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) being mutilated by the ‘freaks’, and Hercules the Strongman (Henry Victor) being castrated.
The movie centers on the ‘normal’ Cleopatra a trapeze artist who marries Hans (Henry Earles) a midget who has come into a large inheritance. Cleopatra slowly begins poisoning Hans but one of the ‘freaks’ overhears her discussing her treachery to Hercules and they band together to exact their revenge.
What really made this so amazing was the fact that Tod Browning hired actual sideshow performers of the day to appear in his movie. Two of these so-called ‘freaks’ were the Hilton twins. Conjoined Daisy and Violet are currently the subject of a documentary now airing on HBO.
Directed by Tod Browning, the cast include Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Henry Victor, Roscoe Ates and Henry Earle. This film was banned in the UK until 1965 and it is still technically considered illegal to be shown in some parts of the US. You can catch it here in its entirety.
Now let’s examine the 2007 remake Freakshow. Directed by Drew Bell this film from The Asylum was a major flop. Trying to keep along the same lines of the original film the story revolves around Lucy (Rebekah Kochan) who plans on seducing the Lon (Christopher Adamson) the circus owner and then killing him for his money.
Lucy and her 4 cohorts have it all worked until one evening two of the gang members are seen stealing food from the mess tent by one of the ‘freak’ children, rather than take the chance of her talking they skin her alive. At the same time the ‘freaks’ are now realizing what Lucy is doing and they band together to avenge one of their own.
I don’t know what happened, but the only horror in this movie is the acting. I can’t even call it a cheesy B flick because at least they are viewable. As in the original movie, actual sideshow performers were hired and they were the only redeeming factor of this farce. If it wasn’t for the benefit of this review I would have turned it off within the first 15 minutes. The movie poster states falsely, banned in 43 countries but I think this offering would have been lucky if 43 countries noticed it! Here’s the link so you can judge for yourself.
Okay, so hopefully I’ve got you in the mood to watch American Horror Story: Freak Show airing Oct. 8th. Let me know your thoughts on the upcoming show!