Freaks - a quick review

Last night I saw the classic film Freaks for the second time. Released in 1932, it is a film about circus "freaks" and how they are treated by "normal" (able-bodied) people.

The film is certainly ahead of its time. The most "evil" people in the film are the circus strongman and a female trapeze artist who work together to rob a sideshow midget of his fortune - even going to such lengths as the woman marrying the midget while planning to poison him later.

The film was made in that interesting period pre-code and post-talkies where certain ethical codes had yet to be drawn up while film-makers began to experiment with their new audio/visual art form. For example, one of the characters, a young woman, is seen to "move out" of her relationship with the strongman and begin a new one with a clown - unmarried cohabitation being clearly implied. Moreover, a very disturbing relationship between the female trapeze artist and a male midget is also depicted. The midget - not a dwarf - is essentially a person who is as old as a normal man but who has the body of a child (proportionate dwarfism, a result of growth hormone deficiency which is now preventable), so the film depicts this strange relationship developing between a full grown woman and a midget who, for all intents and purposes, looks like a six year old boy.

The film is full of humour as well: One man is married to one female siamese twin but not the other, with the other eventually accepting a marriage proposal from another man (how would that work out in practice? The film leaves it up in the air!); The bearded woman gives birth to a bearded baby girl; a "human torso" (a man born without arms or legs) manages to put a cigarette in his mouth a light it without help from anyone else.

The film has a reasonably dark ending and the "freaks" do not come across as people who can be exploited easily. There's all sorts of stuff in the film that is not exactly "PC" but not exploitative either.

1 comment:

3guys1movie.com said...

This is a weird film for sure. Freaked me out for sure. Not a film for the squeamish.