I myself am in the sympathetic camp, drawn to the characters’ dealings of jealousy, treachery, and code of brotherhood under the rooftop of the circus. Based on Tod Robbins short story “Spur”, Freaks plot is a simple one. Among the traveling sideshow performers and workers, a little person named Hans (Harry Earles) falls for normal sized trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova). When Olga and her brute strongman lover (Henry Victor) find out about Hans’ inherited fortune, they conspire to have Olga marry Hans and slowly poison him to death.
Casting real circus folk, including little people, quadriplegics, pinheads, and more, audiences were so outraged at the time that it was re-edited for most theaters and was banned in England for 30 years. Whether you feel the film to be a sympathetic portrayal of those with abnormalities or an exploitation of them, there is no question Browning delivers chills to the bone and a creepiness that is unmatched by most of today’s standards.
The famous scene of Hans and Cleopatra’s wedding dinner where all “not-normals” celebrate with the chant, “Gooble gobble, gooble gobble, one of us, one of us,” is delightfully wicked. The only scene scarier is the terrifying ending, a slow revenge taken in the muddy rain. Freaks, watch it if you dare.
Undoubtedly one of the more controversial movies ever made, Tod Browning’s Freaks has stood the test of time as one of the better horror films ever made.
Take a Drink: whenever Hans is dissed.
Finish Your Drink: in the Gobble gobble scene.