Going way way back to a controversial classic horror movie. Freaks from 1932 is about a traveling band of circus performers and freaks. The main plot thread is about one of the performers taking advantage of one of the freaks for his money and let’s just say the other freaks are not having any of it. I liked this movie a lot more than I thought I would; the characters were well rounded, some of the jokes were funny, and the horror elements made me uncomfortable. This is a movie that hits all the marks and is made even more legendary because of its history which I’ll get into in a minute. Before that, I just want to apologize for referring to them as freaks for the rest of this review, the exploitation of people with deformities and medical problems for entertainment is actually pretty messed up. Hans has it right when he says most big people laugh because they don’t realize he’s a man with the same feelings they have. But, on to the review…
You can read a lot more about this all over the internet, but this movie is famous for being so disturbing that the studio had to cut out almost 30 minutes and re-shoot a new ending. Based on the original script, some of the things they cut out were how Cleopatra turned into a duck woman and the scene showing that Hercules was castrated. That would’ve been shocking 30 years ago, but in 1932 I can totally see how it would’ve been too much for audiences. I, personally, would love to see the uncut original version but most of the deleted scenes were lost. I’ll count the world lucky to have even the scraps that we have now. However, it would be nice to have a more restored version with better audio because I had a hard time understanding some of the dialogue. The dialogue that I could understand, though, was really well crafted. I love early 30s movies because women were still given strong parts. Venus and Cleopatra (even though she was evil) had great parts with some funny lines. These were the times before women were confined to be the love interests of James Stewart and Cary Grant and what a wonderful time it was.
One scene that stands out for me is the wedding scene when the freaks try to initiate Cleopatra into the family by chanting, “We accept you, one of us! Gooble Gobble!” Not only is that weird but also very creepy. That kick starts the end of the movie where most of the creep factor is. You see the freaks under the wagons and you know they’re planning something big. Then comes the most well known scene where they’re chasing after Cleopatra and Hercules in the rain and mud… very disturbing. What’s even more disturbing, and sad to be completely honest, is that they used real–I’m sorry again, this is just the name of the movie–freaks. The core message of the movie is that we’re all the same and you shouldn’t treat people badly based on how they look, but it’s a little undercut by the title. Something like this would never fly today. In American Horror Story, they have a character that’s a “Pinhead”, but it’s accomplished with make up and effects not by actually using someone with that condition.
I don’t know how to recommend this movie because I think it was fantastic, especially for 1932, but at the same time I feel bad watching these people being used for entertainment and horror. This is all I can really say, you judge for yourself.
Verdict: 8.4/10 Gooble Gobble