in about 100 words or less
USA 64m, sound (B&W)
Director: Tod Browning; Cast: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles, Henry Victor
Freaks was originally intended as a horror film but is a whole lot more. It’s a fictional account of circus “freaks” who seek revenge on Cleopatra, a “normal” who marries, and then attempts to murder and rob one of their own, a little person named Hans. Browning used real circus performers who suffered from a variety of deformities for the majority of his cast. Despite showing these people in a most favorable light, and vilifying the normals, Freaks was viewed as an exploitative and offensive film which led to it being shortened and ultimately banned in many countries. While it remains an important part of the history of the horror genre, it can equally be viewed as an important piece of social history. In historical context, it was clearly 40 or so years ahead of its time, but remains a curious project for a major film studio like MGM release (Klaus Ming December 2008).