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Film / The Freakmaker

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The Freakmaker (a.k.a. The Mutations) is a low-budget 1974 British-American science fiction/horror film directed by Jack Cardiff, and starring Donald Pleasence and Tom Baker.

Students have been going missing from the local college, and the one person who knows what's happened to them is Dr. Nolter, a rogue biologist. Not satisfied with the pace of natural selection in driving evolution, Nolter wants to push things further by creating his own genetically engineered creations. Having already created some amazing specimens by mixing the DNA of plants and animals, the doctor has now set his sights higher, and want to work on modifying humans, as well. The failed experimental mutants are then given to a cruel circus freakshow owner who exploits them to the fullest. However, the mutants and the circus freaks will not be denied justice.

Tropes in The Freakmaker include:

  • Angry Guard Dog: Prof. Nolter keeps a pack of angry Alsatian guard dogs on the grounds of his house to discourage nosy visitors.
  • Bathtub Scene: Heidi (played by scream queen Julie Ege) takes a long bath after she calls Brian to discuss her concern about Tony's disappearance. Her bath is disturbed by the arrival of Tony who has been transformed into a Plant Person.
  • Circus of Fear: Lynch runs a traveling carnival and freak show that he rules through fear and a fist of iron. He uses the freak show as a means of disposing of the experiments of Prof. Nolter that have gone wrong. The actual freaks who work for him are genuinely nice people, however, who only stay because they are afraid of Lynch and have nowhere else to go.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Lynch wears a black greatcoat with the collar turned up and a wide-brimmed black fedora pulled down low whenever he goes out to hide his facial deformities. While the hat and coat do mostly hide his deformities, the distinctiveness of the outfit, combined with his height, still makes him stand out.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Lynch catches Brian trying to break in to Prof. Nolter's lab and knocks him to the ground. He is about to smash Brian's head in with a rock when the freaks arrive and Popeye throws a knife into Lynch's back; causing him to drop the rock and stagger away from Brian's unconscious form.
  • Disposable Vagrant: A tramp getting drunk under a bridge becomes the first victim of the human/plant hybrid that climbs out of the river.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The freaks that Lynch has systematically bullied, terrorized, and treated as slaves gang up and turn on him. They leave him badly wounded and he is ripped apart by Nolter's Angry Guard Dogs as they walk away, not even turning back to look.
  • The End... Or Is It?: At the end of the film, Nolter and Lynch have been killed, Nolter's lab has been burned down—destroying Tony and the mutant plants—and Brian has rescued Heidi before anything could be done to her. Or so it seems. As Heidi and Brian start making out in Brian's car, a close-up of her arms shows leaves starting to sprout.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Prof. Nolter believes that creating a race of human/plant hybrids will save the human race by eliminating starvation.
  • Girls with Moustaches: The freak show includes a bearded woman.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The other freaks manage to persuade the dwarf Burns that by aiding Lynch he is not actually helping the freaks' cause, but actually making things worse. He leads the freaks when they rise up and turn on Lynch.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Prof. Nolter is killed by the one successful human/plant hybrid he manages to create.
  • The Igor: The hulking Lynch assists Prof. Nolter in his experiments, and supplies experimental subjects by abducting girls and bringing them to Nolter's lab, in exchange for Nolter curing his physical deformities.
  • Mad Scientist: Professor Nolter is obsessed with creating a race of human/plant hybrids and is kidnapping and experimenting on unwilling victims as of way of achieving this.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Professor Nolter admires carnivorous plants for possessing attributes of both plants and animals. He has mutated several to giant size and feeds them cats and rabbits. He uses the DNA from a giant Venus flytrap to mutate Tony into a human/Plant hybrid, and later gets eaten by the mutant, whose chest opens up like a flytrap to swallow him.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: Lynch stands stock still and poses as one of the dummies in the 'Haunted Goldmine' ride, and Tony runs straight past him.
  • Plant Person: Prof. Nolter is obsessed with creating a race of human/plant hybrids that he believes is the next stage in human evolution. He conducts experiments on unwilling human subjects that create freaks that do not live long. He eventually succeeds in creating a successful hybrid, but is killed by his own creation.
  • Scenery Censor: When Heidi is unconscious and naked on Nolter's operating table, her breasts are visible but her crotch is obscured by a tray of surgical instruments above the table.
  • Signature Item Clue: Burns makes the mistake of wearing the medallion he took off Bridget when he and Lynch abducted her, which attracts the attention of her classmates when they visit the freak show.
  • Trail of Blood: Tony's escape from the lab is shown by the camera following a trail of blood across the laboratory floor to the French windows when it disappears outside into the night.
  • Working for a Body Upgrade: The physically powerful but deformed Lynch (who used to be a freak show act billed as 'The World's Ugliest Man') acts as The Igor to Professor Nolter in exchange for Nolter curing his deformities.