Horror film master Tod Browning (who also directed “Dracula”) gathered an incredible cast of real life sideshow freaks for this bizarre, yet fascinating movie about a beautiful trapeze artist who agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, unaware that his deformed friends had discovered that she is only marrying him for his inheritance. A living torso who nimbly lights his own cigarette despite having no arms or legs is one of the highlights of this truly unique movie. Yet it would be decades before this widely banned morality play gained acceptance as a cult masterpiece. The power of the film is within the freaks themselves. We are invited to stare, but ultimately sympathize with them. We want to see anyone who threatens them get what they deserve, and boy do they ever get that. I guess the main issue here is that the true freaks are not the story’s sideshow performers, but “normal” people who mock and abuse them. I can understand why such a topic could easily be dismissed back then, but this same story of the abused and disabled taking charge of their own lives and punishing their abusers definitely stands on its own today. And in order to enjoy this truly groundbreaking film, one should get passed the silted acting, and soak up the wonderful message. It’s a classic.
Categories: The 30's