140 words; Tod Browning’s “Freaks”


Released in 1932, Freaks tells the story of a family of circus ‘freaks’ alongside their ‘normal’ counterparts. It centres on a marriage between group leader, Hans (a dwarf), and Cleopatra, who is the circus beauty. What appears as a coming together of two people in love, is actually for something entirely different. When Hans’ troupe of ‘freaks’ discover her motives, things take a turn for the worse.

A tale of love, acceptance and honour, when considering the time, Freaks is extremely progressive. We are never laughing at the afflicted; it even addresses this within 2 minutes; Hans states, when asked why people laugh at him ‘…most big people do, they don’t realize that I’m a man with the same feelings they have.’

It’s only 64 minutes, but Freaks tackles contemporary issues of acceptance in a more breathtakingly honest way than anything released since.


8 thoughts on “140 words; Tod Browning’s “Freaks”

    1. It didn’t shy away from presenting the people as they were. And there were no reveals if their various ailments either; it was just awesome. Very good movie!

  1. I saw this a while back and it still sticks with me to this very day. A great drama somewhat masked as a horror. Plus, that ending is so obscure and unsettling. Overall, a film that is highly underrated.

    1. It’s sold as a horror, and to be fair, to a contemporary audience of the time it probably would have been. But it’s great to see the way Browning didn’t present them as ‘freaks’. It was a liberating film and definitely underrated. I think they should show it in ethics classes.

      1. They should show it in ethics classes, that’s a great point. I’m sure you’re right, it was more than likely presented as a horror back in the day. What truly makes Freaks great is how it has evolved since its release.

  2. I thought this was a pretty tough watch…. I don’t know if it’s wrong to say but those folks – were they dancing around or in a pond?? – really kinda freaked me out. Also – it was pretty amazing how that dude with no arms or no legs rolled a cig…

    1. I loved how honest it was, and that cigarette scene is the best example; triumph over adversity, while not being patronising. It’s obviously got horror undertones, which at the time would have been overtones, but now I think it translates to a modern audience in an additional way. Bloody great movie.

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