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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Freaks can be found here.
Freaks is based on Spurs, a short story by American author Tod Robbins [1888-1949]. Spurs was first published in the February 1923 issue of Munsey's Magazine. It is also included in Robbins' anthology Who Wants a Green Bottle? and Other Uneasy Tales (1936).
The "freaks" featured in the movie are actual individuals who have appeared as "freaks" in various carnival, circus, and vaudeville shows. Consequently, we are introduced to real midgets Hans (Harry Earles) and Frieda (Daisy Earles), Siamese twins Daisy Hilton and Violet Hilton, Half Boy Johnny Eck, Armless Girl Frances O'Connor, the Living Skeleton Peter Robinson, Bearded Lady Olga Roderick, the Living Torso Prince Randian, Bird Girl Elizabeth Green, and pinheads Schlitze, Zip (Elvira Snow), and Pip Jenny Lee Snow.
"Pinhead" is a term used to describe a cephalic disorder known medically as microencephaly ("small brain") in which the head fails to grow while the face develops normally, producing a child with a small head and a receding forehead. Microencephaly can occur due to a genetic disorder or to other maternal factors, such as alcoholism, diabetes, or German measles (Rubella), that stunt the growth of nerve cells in the brain of a developing fetus. Similar to microencephaly is another disorder called anencephaly ("no brain"), in which the child is born without a brain or only the rudiments of a brain stem. Having no brain, anencephalics never gain consciousness and usually die within a few days after birth, while microencephalics may survive into adulthood but with associated problems such as retardation, dwarfism, and speech or motor disorders.
When the freaks find out that Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) has been poisoning Hans in order to obtain his inheritance, they attack her and Hercules (Henry Victor) with various knives. The final two scenes occur some years later. The first scene revisits the opening scene, and we see Cleopatra in her box, looking like a squawking human chicken, her tongue cut out, one eye gouged, and her legs hacked off. In the last scene, Venus (Leila Hyams) and Phroso (Wallace Ford) reunite Frieda with Hans, who has been living in seclusion in his mansion.
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