A circus' beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.A circus' beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.A circus' beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.
This movie came out in 1932 so before I watched it I also was nervous that these people would be used to make others laugh at their expense but it was the furthest thing from the truth. This film hands its subject matter with such care and deft that I was astounded that it came out in 1932.
It can be like looking at window into the past as sometimes it almost plays like a documentary due to the fact that most of these actors were actually circus performers. There are so many scenes where the performers are just relaxing and chatting to each other. It shows people they are just like us, it doesn't mater if they look different. It shows them doing mundane things like hanging washing, struggling with problems like infidelity. It shows ignorant people that they are human just like you.
I think the title "Freaks" is interesting. I think there is two ways to look at it. The first way is the obvious and offensive way demeaning the performers but I think by the end of the film the only freaks in this movie are the people who look normal. The movie shows this makeshift family coming together for each other, the only people who are outcasts are the able bodied "normal people". I think that is one way to interpret it any way or maybe I am reading into it.
That is the interesting thing about this movie. You can read a lot into it and it is never clear what the director was really trying to say as another interesting part is all of the performers are shown to be good people, kind people for the most part friendly and loving. Once again the only truly evil people in this movie are the people who are able bodied people. The reason I lean to the side of the director was showing these people are simply just people is it is framed as shocking and wrong when bad things happen to the performers and I don't think it is ever played for laughs.
It also really bothers me that this movie is labelled a horror movie. It is a drama. There isn't really any horror elements to be found.
One more thing I just want to point out is that I am astounded how much Ryan Murphy took from this movie for season 4 of American Horror Story. Like I think his only reference point for "freak shows" was this movie. Just a stray observation.
So I would say definitely watch this movie. It is only short as it was cut down due to the fact people believed it was too outrageous and offensive. It has a lot of heart and is really head of it's time.
- May 25, 2020