Movie Review #688
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), controlled by Loew’s Incorporated
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer – Excelsior Pictures Corp. (1949 re-release as “Nature’s Mistakes”) – Joseph Brenner Associates (JBA) (1970 re-release)
Spoken Languages: English – German – French
Tod Browning’s Production. (Directed by Tod Browning.) Produced by Tod Browning, Harry Rapf, and Irving Thalberg (all uncredited). Reissue produced by Dwain Esper and Hildegarde Stadie (both uncredited). Suggested by the story “Spurs” by Tod Robbins. Additional dialogue by Al Boasberg and Edgar Allan Woolf (both uncredited). Screenplay by Willis Goldbeck and Leon Gordon (both uncredited). Additional uncredited writer: Charles MacArthur.
Passed by the National Board of Review. Currently unrated by the MPAA. Runs 1 hour, 4 minutes. Wide release in the USA on February 20, 1932.
Starring Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles, Daisy Earles, Daisy Hilton, and Violet Hilton. Also starring Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Rosco Ates, Henry Victor, Rose Dione, Schlitze, Josephine Joseph, Johnny Eck, Frances O’Connor, Peter Robinson, Olga Roderick, Koo Koo, Rardion, Martha Morris, Zip, Pip, Elizabeth Green, Angeo Rossitto, Edward Brophy, and Mat McHugh. Also featuring an uncredited cameo appearance by John Aasen as a giant.
“The Big Lebowski”, “Clerks.”, “Videodrome”, “The Evil Dead”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “Pink Flamingos”, “Fritz the Cat”, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, “A Clockwork Orange”, “A Bucket of Blood”, “Plan 9 from Outer Space”. “Freaks” has existed and maintained a strong cult following longer than any of these films. Released in 1932, still beloved by some today. Seemingly, its time capsule significance is more than just that. This isn’t just a cult film. It’s one of the most influential movies ever made. David Lynch, for instance, would be unemployed without this movie; Twin Peaks, “The Elephant Man”, and “Eraserhead” owe so much to it.
“Freaks” was one of the earliest independent films. That’s not a problem (the film would have no other way of being financed). What is a problem is that this is obviously an indie production. One moment the acting will be solid. Then the actors become disinterested and start line-reading. The technical department does no better on “Freaks”. Film editing is horrible, often cutting out little bits of certain shots. Sound editing is good, but when characters who pitch their voices high can’t be understood, it isn’t exactly great.
Myself hating circuses, I would never expect much of a topical movie like “Freaks”. What I found was an interesting story to surprise me. Tod Browning’s controversial film offers an intriguing inside look at “circus freaks.” It’s a really weird movie, and it did take some warming up to, but I had quite some fun watching it. This black comedy isn’t pointless, either. By the end, “Karma is a bitch” becomes a more than obvious message. “Freaks” is a must-watch for some. For others, I’d advise steering clear. If you’ve gotten this far into my review, I’m guessing you already know which of the two camps you belong to. If not, then it can’t hurt to give it a go anyway. The movie is far tamer than you’d expect for a Pre-Code movie (not to mention, one called “Freaks”), and at just an hour, you’d run into trouble considering it a waste of time.
Hit the jump for an announcement regarding the 2nd Annual Cinemaniac Awards:
Blackfish has won 2014’s Cinemaniac Award for Best Documentary of Foreign Motion Picture of the Year. The most controversial movie of the year, Blackfish is also the most eye-opening. You’ll never want to go to SeaWorld again, and for good reason. You’ll also be touched by a documentary, maybe for the first time. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s announcement for Best Sounds of the Year.