Freaks (1932)

directed by tod browning
Metro-goldwyn-mayer

Disjointed as hell due to excessive editing undertaken in a doomed effort to make a disturbing revenge picture even somewhat palatable to a viewing public it never found, this disastrous flop remains one of Hollywood’s most ill-advised creations – for any number of reasons, not limited to how it may make its audience feel. One can only imagine how appalling the excised material must have been, and marvel as to the effect it could have added to a production that remains troubling after nearly a century. The decision to cast real circus sideshow performers was perhaps an inevitability, but the majority of them aren’t film actors and can’t much pretend to be. Saddest, though, is probably the loss of the chance to really experience the capacity for a full range of emotional responses from these morbidly maligned people, as only glimpses remain. As it is, 60-odd minutes doesn’t give anything of real resonance a real chance to coalesce, and what we’re left with often plays like a soap opera interspersed with sitcom skits. How this one ever got the green light remains a question to ponder.

why did i watch this movie?

It’s number nine on Johnny Ramone’s list, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise as it was a huge influence on his band. They identified, but that story’s been told elsewhere. (Marky’s Punk Rock Blitzkrieg might tell it best.)

should you watch this movie?

If the original print existed, I might say yes. But it doesn’t.

highlight and low point

The scene that most inspired the Ramones – the “One of us! One of us!” wedding dinner – remains a powerful and chilling experience. Those that seem to exist for comic relief at the expense of one or more of the title freaks are unfortunate.

rating from outer space: {   }

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