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Freaks

Year: 1932
Studio: MGM
Director: Tod Browning
Producer: Tod Browning
Cast: Leila Hyams
You'd think a movie trying to highlight the plight of the malformed, calling for society to see them as human and stop being repulsed by them could only come from the politically correct or at least modern era (and indeed plenty from Mask to Monster have).

But this was made in the 1930s, so it's almost as if Tod Browning (Dracula) had no choice but to turn it into a horror story where these revolting creatures turn on us, the same Promethean myth that had made him a famous director a few years previous.

Browning found a cast with an astounding host of deformities and disabilities. They're all freakshows in a travelling circus. Some of the other performers are friends and comrades to them, some hate and fear them.

When Hans the husband of the midget lovers (in reality brother and sister) falls for Venus the acrobat and leaves his tiny wife, the cruel acrobat and her lover Hercules the strongman hatch a plan to swindle and kill him and make fun of the whole deformed population of the circus.

One dark and stormy night as the circus makes it way across the country, he gets wise to the scam, and the freaks band together and turn on their detractors in the 1930s version of an orgy of bloodletting and violence.

It's not as 'big' a story as you think it'll be, a plain revenge story centred around a couple of characters rather than the epic story it looks like, and it can't escape the 1930s moviemaking conventions or technology so the impact is a little diminished. But props are due to Browning for trying something like this in such an unenlightened era - you can almost imagine the studio locking the cast in cages on the back lot between takes.

A major scandal at the time and what you think will be a cult classic now except for the social comment Browning wants to make.

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