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Old October 5 2009, 09:54 PM   #1
Kirkman1987's Avatar
Location: Missouri
Todd Browning's Freaks

I just watched this on google video for the first time, anyone ever seen it?

basically, it's a movie about circus freaks. the catch is that the freaks in the movie are real live freaks. It's fascinating to watch them. Of course its un-pc to say that, but they are extremely interesting, and the movie ultimately cast those who abuse them as the real villians.

The ending is of special interest. Very creepy and effective. for a movie from the 30's it's very dark. apparently the original ending they shot was even worse, but has been lost (all together 30 mins were taken out....lame)

So what do you think? Exploitive? Classic?

Last edited by Kirkman1987; October 5 2009 at 11:52 PM.
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Old October 6 2009, 05:23 AM   #2
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Re: Todd Browning's Freaks

"We accept her! One of us! Gobble gobble! One of us!"

I just know that one scene.
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Old October 6 2009, 07:59 AM   #3
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Re: Todd Browning's Freaks

That Scene sticks out as one of the highlights. It's very impressive that the film is able to revel in the creepiness whille still maintaining the audience's sympathy with the freaks.
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Old October 6 2009, 08:55 AM   #4
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Re: Todd Browning's Freaks

It's actually one of my absolute favorite movies. I saw it about a year ago on TCM and went out and had to have it. Actually, I had been staring at the VHS cover since I was a child at our local Blockbuster, and had always had it in my mind that I really wanted to see it (didn't have the guts to rent it as a child), but jumped on the opportunity when it was shown on TCM.

I have a great deal of respect for the lives of many of those people. Some of them were truly talented individuals far beyond their supposed handicaps. I mean, for crying out loud, look up Johnny Eck, the Hilton twins, Angelo Rossitto, the Doll Family, Prince Randion, Frances O'Connor, etc... These were people who truly lead fascinating lives or were pinnacle examples of human adaptation.

In fact, I became such a fan of Johnny Eck, I made a point of almost completely revamping and writing his Wikipedia page. My second favorite is definitely Angelo Rossitto (his facial expressions make the film--both the scene with the Loving Cup getting splashed on him and looking through the window at Cleopatra's treachery).

I've always been attracted to stories about outsiders (while certainly nothing close to what these people experienced, I have Asperger's Syndrome; thus, I've always sort of connected to the outsider on that level).

The fact that Tod Browning ran off to join the circus when he was 16 years old and became a carny, himself, really shows in how he depicts these people (he was deeply familiar with the acts and picked out the most talented and famous performers of the era for his cast). These people were his friends (there are behind-the-scenes anecdotes about how he always had Johnny Eck at his side and always had him sit next to him) and people he had a great deal of empathy for. Even though the audience at the time couldn't see past the "monstrosity", he went out of his way to make a picture that, while it doesn't shy away from the concept of good people doing bad things because of the very human need for emotional vengeance (part of the concept of showing that these people are just like us), it also made a very strong point of making the "freaks" or "monsters" the characters that you are rooting for wholeheartedly.

The ending is basically a reverse of Frankenstein, except with the righteous mob being the monsters, while the normal folk are the real monsters. Edward Scissorhands is exactly the same concept of reversing the famous Frankenstein scene, except the townspeople are evil and the monster is good. Edward Scissorhands actually strikes me as probably the closest we'll ever get to having a story that genuinely has the same message as Freaks (right down to the idea of Edward killing Jim to protect someone he loves--very similar to the freaks mutilating Cleopatra and Hercules because they tried to poison one of them).

It's not what you are on the outside, but who you are on the inside. That's the message. And it was a message that was so far ahead of its time that it wasn't until decades later that the film could be properly viewed and understood.

The film also is uncomfortable with people who still think that these people shouldn't be seen OR even born. The caretaker at the beginning of the film even says that they should have been killed at birth. And sadly, it's a practice that is still going strong to this day, except that eugenics and leaving an undesirable child out in the wilderness to die has been retitled abortion. It makes the accomplishments of the people in this film (really, look some of them up) really stand out that much more. Just because someone looks pretty on the outside doesn't mean that they'll be pretty on the inside. And just because someone is born with some undesirable trait, doesn't mean they don't deserve to live the best lives possible for them. And many of this remarkable cast truly did make the best possible out of their lives.

One thing that MUST be watched with this film is the behind-the-scenes documentary on the DVD that tells about the lives of each of the performers. It's really half the film.

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Old October 7 2009, 11:07 AM   #5
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Re: Todd Browning's Freaks

^^ Indeed. I love the guy in the documentary. His obvious respect and admiration for the "freaks" is very touching.

This is a great movie; it's a classic example of pre-Hays Hollywood.
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Old October 7 2009, 08:30 PM   #6
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Re: Todd Browning's Freaks

I saw it a long time ago on TCM & thought it was pretty cool. I was rewatching the youtube link in Kirkman1987's post, what was the deal with the tall blonde lady sitting b/w the pinhead & the pretty blonde midget? was she/he suppose to be a tranny?
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Old October 7 2009, 08:46 PM   #7
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Location: Missouri
Re: Todd Browning's Freaks


I am a bit fuzzy on it, and it's been a few days, but I don't think she was deformed at all. She was some sort of caretaker for the freaks, and allowed them to play on her property.

I caught that documentry you guys are talking about (Yes, The film and this documentry are extremely easy to find on google video, public domain I think) and it is fabulous. It was nice to hear that most of these people lived very prosperous and fulfilling lives.

Very good movie that Is still on my mind. I'll have to pick it up sometime.
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Old October 7 2009, 09:26 PM   #8
Greg Cox
Location: Oxford, PA
Re: Todd Browning's Freaks

A classic, one-of-a-kind movie.

If you like FREAKS, you might want to check one of Browning's other films, THE UNHOLY THREE, about a bunch of sideshow performers who quit the circus to become jewel thieves. It's a much lighter film than FREAKS, but holds up surprisingly well.
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Old October 7 2009, 10:23 PM   #9
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Re: Todd Browning's Freaks

Interesting. It's available on Google which says it in public domain. It has been removed from Youtube which says Warners has staked a claim on it.

Oh, and if it's exploitive, then so has been the entire career of Michael Berryman, aka. Captain Rixx.
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