In 1932, Tod Browning’s feature film Freaks gave an unprecedented insight into the world of the side show. It forced the audience to consider whether able-bodied people can ever really see beyond a disability. Featuring a large cast of genuine freak show artistes, the film revealed the supposedly normal members of the travelling circus as the true monsters, as a glamorous trapeze artiste plans to marry and murder a midget for his fortune.
Originally commissioned by MGM as a straightforward horror film, audiences were so shocked and nauseated that the studio withdrew it. Banned in Britain too, Freaks was rarely seen without major cuts until the 1960s. Later critics have also perceived the film as a subtle critique of the Hollywood studios, which generate vast profits by concentrating on the physical form rather than the creative talents of their leading players."
The key scene in this sexually charged movie occurs at around the 45 minute mark when ‘Freaks’ at the wedding party sing a song of acceptance to the ‘normal’ trapese artist bride, who, in a monstrous rejection, throws wine in their faces. The film ends in acceptance. The jilted midget is embraced by one of his own. "I love you." This movie, or at least response to it, ruined Browning’s career. He subsequently lived the life of a recluse, and died at 82 in 1962.
Watch the sixty four minute version of the film here. The original was 90, but apparently the studio quickly chopped (!) the more grotesque scenes, including castration of Hercules.
Before proceeding with the showing of the following HIGHLY UNUSUAL VISUAL ATTRACTION. a few words should be said about the amazing subject matter:
BELIEVE IT OR NOT – - – - STRANGE AS IT SEEMS.
|Somebody needs Nad’s!
(Of course, American political leaders are strapping, virile examples of humanity. It really doesn’t need to be stated.)
HISTORY, RELIGION, FOLKLORE and LITERATURE abound in tales of misshapen misfits who have altered the world’s course. GOLIATH, CALABAN, FRANKENSTEIN, GLOUCESTER, TOM THUMB, and KAISER WILHELM are just a few, whose fame is worldwide.
(We’re glad to see that the confusion between Dr. Frankenstein and his monster is not a recent phenomena, but was full in force a mere year after Boris Karloff made the Universal version of the monster famous. We suspect this whole thing was written quickly, and evidence suggests the crawl was added to the movie at the last minute to add some kind moral context to the proceedings. Caliban is misspelled, and the inclusion of defeated war enemy Wilhelm seems petty.)
The accident of abnormal birth was considered a disgrace and malformed children were placed out in the elements to die. If, perchance, one of these freaks of nature survived, he was always regarded with suspicion. Society shunned him because of his deformity, and a family so hampered was always ashamed of the curse put upon it.
(Today that curse has a name: Jerry Springer.)
|"I’ll get Dick Tracy this time for sure!"
(This is another good description of the Jerry Springer Show. )
For the love of beauty is a deep seated urge which dates back to the beginning of civilization. The revulsion with which we view the abnormal, the malformed and the mutilated is the result of long conditioning by our forefathers. The majority of freaks, themselves, are endowed with normal thoughts and emotions. Their lot is truly a heart-breaking one.
They are forced into the most unnatural of lives. Therefore they have built up among themselves a code of ethics to protect them from the barbs of other people.
Their rules are rigidly adhered to and the hurt of one is the hurt of all; the joy of one is the joy of all. The story about to be retold is a story based on the effect of this code upon their lives.
Never again will such a story be filmed, as modern science and teratology is rapidly eliminating such blunders of nature from the world.
(Considering the time frame, this is probably a reference to eugenics.)
|Look Who’s Talking VIII.