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Bound by Flesh (2012)

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A biography of Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins who started as "freaks" in side shows, then went on to be stars of Vaudeville and films.



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Credited cast:
Daisy Hilton ...
(archive footage)
Violet Hilton ...
(archive footage)


This remarkable documentary tells the amazing story of Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins who rose to superstardom at the beginning of the 20th century as sideshow attractions, performing alongside the likes of Bob Hope and Charlie Chaplin. Ruthlessly exploited by their managers, the sisters ultimately sued for their freedom-which they won at a terrible cost. Bound By Flesh puts a touchingly human face on two outsiders who went from the lowest rungs of society to the big time and back again. Written by Sundance Selects

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19 October 2012 (USA)  »

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Good and Sad Look at the Hilton Sisters
9 December 2014 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

Bound by Flesh (2012)

*** (out of 4)

Highly entertaining documentary taking a look at the lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton, the conjoined twins who are best remembered today for their role in Tod Browning's FREAKs. The documentary covers pretty much every aspect of their lives ranging from their mother giving them away at a very young age, their rise in the carnival circuit and their later years when they were basically living in poverty, unable to exploit themselves as times started to change.

BOUND BY FLESH is without question a well-meaning and entertaining documentary but I think where the film really works well is in its heart. Director-writer Leslie Zemeckis obviously has a passion for the subjects because there's so much heart in the picture and one can't help but really feel heartbroken for the sisters and especially at the end of their lives. In fact, hearing there entire story makes you wonder why Hollywood hasn't tried to tell it, although I'm sure the appeal might not be that wide.

The film's strongest points come in the history of the circus. It was very fascinating learning how the circus worked back in the day, how the "sideshow" was added and how much certain acts were making a week. It's certainly fascinating seeing how the sideshow world worked at one point in time and how popular it was. Hearing the Hilton sisters earning $5000 a week is pretty impressive and especially when you hear stories about how their "managers" were making good money on top of that. Of course, the documentary also covers other subjects including the personal lives of the two sisters and there's even an exploitation feel dealing with their sexual lives and the various men who were in and out of their lives.

We get several talking heads telling some wonderful stories and sharing their opinion on the sisters as well as what was going on during this period in history. It's hard to believe that this type of thing was once normal but at the same time it's easy to see why the trend really didn't stay around too long. As for the Hilton sisters, they've certainly always had their fans since FREAKS has become a cult favorite but you'll certainly see them in a different way after viewing this rather touching film.

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