Monsters & Memories 9: Freaks (1932) – By Ed Davis

Step right up, Groovy Ghoulies! Witness the best sideshow ever! It’s presented by Tod Browning, and it’s called “Freaks!” I’ve waited a long time to watch this movie, and I was not disappointed. It was released by MGM, and it’s based on a short story called, “Spurs.”

Following the success of Dracula, I was wondering if Browning could recapture the feel of that film. Freaks was a different movie all together, and it was good. It felt way too short, it clocked in at just over a hour. Doing some reading for this article, I discovered many thought the subject matter of this film was too controversial and the movie was a commercial bomb, and he had a hard time getting future projects off the ground.
The story is a good one. A sideshow midget named Hans has fallen for the beautiful trapeze artist, Cleopatra. He is in it for love, and she is in for money. After the sideshow attractions see her attempt to poison Hans at their wedding. Having already insulted the freaks, they decide to have their revenge, and turn her into one of them!

There’s a scene involving a rain storm, and a chase through it towards the end that is so creepy. Seeing an armless and legless man squirming through the mud with a knife in his mouth, is a lot to take. They used real sideshow attractions in the movie, and you can’t help but wonder what they went through in life. It’s definitely a different film, and I can’t think of one that has been like it since.
The subject matter was delicate, and it was banned for approximately 30 years in England. It’s hard to imagine that kind of thing happening today, but I also wonder if a film like this would be made. They would have to take it in a different direction, and most likely ramp up the violence. Still, I was glad I was finally able to see it.

Toys! I was driving home from work one day, and this toy popped into my head. I remember having Sucker Man, a toy produced by Mattel in 1978. I would bring him in the car with me, and hang him from the back window. I’m sure obstructing my Mom’s view to drive. He came in two colors, green and black. He worked well for a while, and then the suction lost it’s power. Then, I would play with him as some ugly, slimy creature attacking my other mego super-heroes. I wonder sometimes what happened to all these great toys. I hope they’re all still fighting one another somewhere.

Well, that’s all for this time, Ghoulies! The next time you head to the carnival, be careful who you fall for, and always Watch the skies!

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