It’s another FREE FILM SCREENING @ Sugar City:
“Freaks” (1932) by Tod Browning
Monday, March 22, 8:00pm
(Come early to enjoy free popcorn and refreshments, and a program of vintage trailers and shorts!)
Few films in cinema history are as notorious as Tod Browning’s “Freaks” (1932), which stunned audiences and shocked critics by casting actual deformed “human oddities” as themselves in a behind-the-scenes tale of love, deceit and revenge amongst a traveling carnival. The unforgettable cast is made up of a who’s-who of the top sideshow attractions of the era, including the legless Johnny Eck, the conjoined Hilton Sisters, the hermaphrodite Joseph Josephine, Prince Randian the Human Torso, and lead actor Harry Earles, who was 30 years old and 39 inches tall at the time of filming.
The plot follows the midget Hans, who is seduced by the evil trapeze artist Cleopatra with the aim of poisoning him to get at his fortune. Slowly, Cleopatra ingratiates herself into the private society of freaks until she is fully accepted as “one of us” in a bizarre, elaborate ceremony. Eventually her scheme is found out, however, and the freaks exact a horrifying revenge on her in the film’s unforgettable climax.
Far from being exploitative, director and ex-circus performer Tod Browning (whose previous film was the horror classic Dracula starring Bela Lugosi) took great pains to humanize his cast and present them with dignity, showing them not as monsters but as honorable individuals who hold proudly to a code of conduct that takes an affront to one as an affront to all.
The empowering message was entirely lost on audiences at the time, though, and it was met with near-universal revulsion on its release. Critics were horrified by the frank treatment of the deformed cast, and some audience members at early screenings literally ran for the exits. The film ignited controversy in every city where it played, and was frequently banned (but not in Buffalo, incidentally, where it sold out the Court Street Theatre for 4 days straight). The U.K. prevented it from being shown for 30 years. Not until the 1960s was the film unearthed and rediscovered as the invaluable cultural artifact that we know it as today.
So come on out to Buffalo’s favorite all-ages culture spot Sugar City on Monday 3/22 for another FREE night of unforgettable classic cinema.
Olga The Bearded Lady!
Joseph Josephine, the half-man/half-woman!
Johnny Eck, the Half-Boy!
Prince Randian, the Human Torso!
Schlitzie The Monkey Girl!
Koo-Koo the Bird Girl!
Harry and Daisy Doll, the 3-ft Midgets!
The Living Skeleton!
Frances the Armless Girl!
Daisy and Violet, the Siames Twins!