28 March 2012

Freaks was studio MGM's first dip into the horror genre and director's Tod Browning's next film after 1931 Dracula in 1931. The story was adapted from Tod Robbins short story, Spurs and also undoubtedly heavily influenced by Browning's own time as a circus performer before he made it in the film industry. The cast of Freaks actually consisted of people with real life deformities who had come from worldwide sideshows.

Freaks is about love in the sideshow, a twisted affair full of triangles and upset, where, the "beautiful" people plot and conspire to murder and the "damned" are the trustworthy ones. This was a difficult idea for Hollywood to consume when the film was released in 1932. The star Cleopatra is a trapeze artist who is on a mission to seduce and marry Hans the circus midget after hearing about his large inheritance. At the wedding party, the circus freaks make the decision to accept her and welcome her into their group with one of the most famous quotes from the film...

"One of us, one of us. Gooble gooble. Gooble gooble. We accept her, we accept her. One of us, one of us."

This actually creeps Cleopatra out and she ends up revealing that she is having an affair with Hercules the strongman! Hans forgives her, but it is too late for him, as he has already been poisoned. What unravels after this is a film full of devious plots, distrust, treachery and mutilation . . .

After it's release, Freaks had a difficult time becoming a mainstream success. It was actually originally disowned by MGM and banned in Britain due to its gory scenes. It was only granted its original license by the MPAA after half an hour was cut including the original final scene of Hercules the strongman singing soprano after being castrated! It wasn't until it was screened at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival, 30 years after it's release that Freaks was finally allowed to be played on British screens. Interestingly, the film now has a 12A classification. 

Freaks is showing at 3pm on Sunday 1 April as part of the Vintage Sunday series. You can buy tickets online, in person at the Box Office, or by calling 0871 902 5737. 

Further films in the series include Citizen Kane, A Night to Remember and Metropolis