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"Freaks" (1932) Tod Browning

In 1932, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released a Pre-Code, horror romantic film entitled “Freaks” directed by Tod Browning. The “Freaks” were people that were born different and were made fun of by several of the normal characters. The main conflict was a love triangle was created between the circus lady, Cleopatra, a strong man, Hercules and a little man and woman, Hans and Frieda. Throughout the conflict, several unique events occurred to share a message that all people should be treated equally, no matter what their appearance is.


In this version of “Freaks”, a definition of the film’s title was illustrated at the beginning, where it was stated that all people are a part of society, even if their appearances are different. The opening were several sub-plots of several different conflicts between Cleopatra, Hercules, Hans and Frieda. The opening scene illustrated Cleopatra with Frita and Hans at the circus, preparing for a fun evening. At the circus, Cleopatra learns that Frita and Hans were already engaged. The reason why Cleopatra was having an affair with Hanz was because he had a lot of money. The conflict continues on and on until Hanz finally decides to break up with Frita. Then, Hans learns that Hercules also has an affair with Cleopatra. Following the breakup, Cleopatra talks with Frita about their breakup about the affair she has with Hanz. In that moment, viewers unexpectedly realize Cleopatra is evil to Hanz. On the day of the wedding between Cleopatra and Hanz, Cleopatra and Hercules poisoned Hanz. Once that occurred Frita told another woman, Venus about the conflict, and Hanz was in danger. Shortly after, Cleopatra kept trying to poison Hanz, but he figured out that she was trying to kill him. Finally, the family of “Freaks” rallied to prevent him from being killed by Cleopatra and Hercules.


The “Freaks” were several people that looked different in society. These people included Frita and Hanz, a short man, a living torso, a half man-half woman, conjoined twins, a bearded lady, an armless girl and several other people that have unique characteristics. Their intention was to teach viewers and our society that they are just regular people that should be treated like everyone else. In order to overcome their conflict, they tried to educate viewers and their antagonists that everyone should be treated with equality. Throughout the conflicts, Tod Browning used a perfect stormy night where the “Freaks” took revenge against their antagonists, which educated viewers that they were a family. By the end of the movie, everyone became one big safe happy “family”, where they would be protected from any forms of danger. The camerawork was a typical standard Pre-Code Hollywood Film, where if there were few if any special effects or special camerawork. “Freaks” teaches viewers that equality is extremely important but not always present.


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