by Tod Browning(1932)
I felt the ultimate obligation to write a review about this film. It is a shame that it was shunned upon in its time for its extreme level of terror. I believe it was banned in North America for nearly half a century. And in Europe, only the censored version was allowed. The film was originally 90 minutes, but after cutting out all the "illegal" scenes, Browning was left with an hour-long, watered-down horror flick. The film was so scary partly because Browning casted ACTUAL FREAKS.
The film begins with a circus announcer, beckoning a crowd of people into a circus attraction. He shows them one of the "freaks" in the attraction. The freak itself is not shown, but when the people see it, they are frightened to death. The announcer then says that this freak was not always so ugly, and begins to tell the story of how it came to be a freak. Now the film flashbacks into the story and the plot begins.
The film is exactly as the title implies; it is about freaks, who work as circus performers for a living. The line-up of circus freaks include: a midget named Hans, played by Harry Earles, of course, and his real-life (and also in-film) sister, Frieda, who is played by Grace Earles.
Also included in the varied cast of freaks: the Pinheads, a group of young "girls" who are grossly deformed in the head (and GOD IT IS TERRIFYING, I KNOW IT'S WRONG TO SAY THAT BUT THEY ARE SO UGLY ), the Human Torso, a guy without any arms or legs (who can light a match with his friggin mouth), and the Other Midget with a Weird Back, who is also ugly but is such a nice guy. Then, there is Hercules, the strong man, who is a jerk. More freaks are: the conjoined sisters, the bearded woman, and the he-she. There might be other freaks but I can't seem to recall anyone specific.
Also part of the cast is a sinister but beautiful woman whose stage name is Cleopatra. She is in a secret relationship with Hercules. Hans starts to fall in love with her, and even though he is constantly put down for being a midget, he is determined to be with Cleopatra. His sister, being the very kind and loving midget she is, tries to warn him that if he attempts a relationship with Cleopatra, he will only be hurt. She knew deep down inside that Cleopatra was a wicked woman regardless of her looks.
Cleopatra, learning of Hans's massive inheritance, decides to take advantage of his love, and marries him for the money. Meanwhile, she still carries on her affair with Hercules.
At the wedding dinner, the Other Midget with a Weird Back passes around a large glass goblet of wine for every freak to sip from, in celebration of the wedding. All the freaks at the dinner table chant "We accept her! ONE OF US! ONE OF US!" ("one of us" means "[i]even though she is a normal human, we accept her into our family of freaks"), but then when they begin to chant "Gobble gobble gobble!" it kind of creeps out Cleopatra, so she tosses the wine in the face of the Other Midget with a Weird Back, completely humiliating him and ruining the festivities of the freaks. (I personally thought that though the freaks' traditions may have been creepy, they were after all humans too and she had no excuse to be so rude to them, especially to the Other Midget with a Weird Back because he honestly means good for everyone.)
Cleopatra and Hans go on a road trip afterwards, on a horse-carried wagon, in the middle of a rainy night. Hans is ill, and so he is in the bed on the wagon, while Cleopatra pretends to get medicine for him. She plans to kill Hans, take his money, and run away with Hercules. She gets a teaspoon of poison instead of medicine and gives it to Hans, but when she turns her back, sneaky little Hans silently spits out the "medicine," obviously knowing all along of Cleopatra's plan (because the Other Midget with a Weird Back was eavesdropping when Cleopatra and Hercules were discussing their plan, and he informed all the other freaks of the evil afoot).
Soon afterwards, it is revealed to Cleopatra that all of the other freaks had snuck onto the wagon when it left the circus, and so the wagon was then taken over by the freaks. After the wagon crashed, Cleopatra ran through the heavy rain in the middle of the night in the underbrush, panicking to get away from the freaks, wherever they were. (Hercules was also there, but the version that I saw was the hour-long one, and it did not include Hercules allegedly getting his balls chopped off by some freaks). Cleopatra trips and falls in the thick mud, and she sees the freaks we know and love, except this time they are freaks with a vengeance, crawling, limping, and advancing in other nasty manners toward her, carrying guns and knives and other tools of death. "ONE OF US! ONE OF US!", but this time in a different sense of the phrase.
The flashback ends and the circus announcer from the beginning of the movie is seen again. He concludes his story, and the freak that he introduced at the beginning is shown at last:
It is Cleopatra! But she is, as he said, no longer beautiful. Due to the torturous revenge of the freaks, she is now the Human Chicken: one eye gouged out, tongue chopped off, and both legs missing.
"She is now, truly, ONE OF US."
Dr Madly says:
Loved the cast, full of real freaks, and I'm a huge fan of Harry Earles. There was no actual suspense, but I loved the drama of the Frieda scenes. I was beyond satisfied by the time I got to the ending. Also, I made the mistake of eating while watching this for the first time; the first scene in which the Pinheads appeared was so terrifying that I literally threw up in my mouth.I wish that I could see the deleted scenes though.
THE FREAKS. And of course, the two ending scenes.
10/10 (an all-time unforgettable, regardless of the lack of music, and/or the atrocious production quality at some parts)
NOTE: No one will ever see those deleted scenes that I talk about. Those scenes were lost when locked away in the vault since this movie was banned for so long. They are a piece of cinematic history gone forever, and never to be viewed by another generation.
Thanks Dr. Madly for this great review of this great film..