Freaks (1932) is a horror film about sideshow performers, directed and produced by Tod Browning and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, with a cast mostly composed of actual carnival performers. The film was based on Tod Robbins' short story "Spurs". Director Browning took the exceptional step of casting real people with deformities as the eponymous sideshow "freaks," rather than using costumes and makeup.Browning had previously worked as a contortionist in a traveling circus, and much of the film was drawn from his personal experiences. In the film, the deformed "freaks" are generally kind, well-meaning people. This contrasts with two of the "normal" performers in the circus, who conspire to murder one of the freaks and steal his large inheritance.One bit of influence the film has had: The "Gooble gobble, we accept you, one of us" chant with which the freaks welcome Cleo (not that she appreciates it) was worked into the song "Pinhead" by The Ramones.* The same phrase also appears in aMarillionsong.Not to be confused with Freaks and Geeks, despite the etymology of the word Geek.
Battle in the Rain: The final confrontaton between Cleo, Hercules, and the freaks, in a driving rain.
Beauty Equals Goodness: inverted at first with the titular 'freaks' (who are not most people's idea of beauty, but are the good and sympathetic characters) and with Cleo (for whom it's entirely the opposite).
Determinator: The "freaks." Their lack of limbs and/or other essential parts would not stop them from trying to have as good a life as possible.
Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: Notably, "Prince Randian" (who was born without limbs), Simon Metz (born with microcephaly, a smaller skull and brain), Minnie Woolsey (who suffered from Virchow Sekel Syndrome, a combination of skeletal malformation and dwarfism), and Johnny Eck (no body below the waist).
Elephant in the Living Room: Nobody mentions that Daisy and Violet are conjoined twins, not even when the fiance of one meets the fiance of the other.
Even Evil Has Standards: While not evil, Roscoe was a bit of a jerk, and hung out with Hercules and mocked Josephine Joseph at the start. But toward the end, after it's learned that Hercules probably (and of course, did) have a hand in poisoning Hans, we see Roscoe and Hercules together in the same place, and this time Roscoe just glares at Hercules, says nothing, and walks away from him.
Expy: Not in the movie itself, but in "Spurs", Jacques Coubré (renamed Hans for the movie) is basically this for Tweedledee, the Big Bad of Tod Robbins' earlier work, The Unholy Three. Essentially, he's what Tweedledee would have been like had he actually gotten away with his crimes. The movie version of Hans is nothing like Tweedledee, however (despite his actor playing the character in the Unholy Three movie adaptations).
How We Got Here: The film opens with a carnival barker telling circus-goers about a beautiful woman who was turned into a terrible freak. Then the camera cuts to Cleopatra in her trapeze, and the story starts.
Incestuous Casting: romantic couple Hans and Frieda were played by siblings Harry and Daisy Earles. Naturally, the love scenes with them are really downplayed.
Instant Soprano: A now-lost alternate ending has a scene of Hercules the misogynist singing soprano.
Reality Subtext: Notice that Frieda and Hans' romantic relationship is very muted. It's because they were played by brother and sister.
Sex by Proxy: Daisy and Violet, necessarily. They can each feel the other's emotions.
The scene where one twin kisses her fiance and the other twin lights up with pleasure is a surprisingly explicit allusion to thisl
Soundtrack Dissonance: SCARY SCARY TITLE CARD! Perfectly normal hanging-out scene involving circus performers. Who are freaks.
Stalker with a Crush: There's a scene where one of the circus workers is telling a story about a guy who keeps showing up in the audience and proposing to marry her, but the viewer is probably too busy watching the armless Frances O'Connor use a knife and fork to listen.