Freaks (1932)

 ●  English ● 1 hr 4 mins

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This thrilling and terrifying tale revolves around a carnival, which displays a sideshow freak called the Feathered Hen and tells her story. Cleopatra, a trapeze artist with the carnival, is adored by a midget named Hans. Frieda, Hans' fiancée (also a midget), warns Hans that Cleopatra is only interested in him so that he will give her money. Meanwhile, the deceptive Cleopatra continues her affair with Hercules, and when Frieda lets it slip that Hans is to come into an inheritance, Cleopatra and Hercules plan to get the money be having Cleopatra marry Hans. During the wedding reception, Cleopatra, although openly romantic with Hercules, is accepted by the freaks, but is revolted and mocks them. The freaks decide that they no longer need Hercules in their carnival and have a new career for Cleopatra all lined up, and make sure she doesn't "chicken" out.
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Rosco Ates, Wallace Ford

Crew: Tod Browning (Director), Merritt B Gerstad (Director of Photography)

Genres: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Release Dates: 20 Feb 1932 (India)

Tagline: Can a full grown woman truly love a MIDGET ?

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Did you know? In the United States, this film was banned in a number of states and cities. Although no longer enforced, some of the laws were never officially repealed. Therefore, it is still technically illegal for this film to be shown some areas of the USA. Read More
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as Venus
as Cleopatra
as Roscoe
as Phroso
as Human Skeleton






Story Writer
Screenplay Writer

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography


Film Type:
Feature Film
Colour Info:
Black & White
Sound Mix:
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1, 1.37 : 1
Can a full grown woman truly love a MIDGET ?
"We'll Make Her One of Us!" from the gibbering mouths of these weird creatures came this frenzied cry... no wonder she cringed in horror... this beautiful woman who dared toy with the love of one of them!
The Strangest... The Most Startling Human Story Ever Screened... Are You Afraid To Believe What Your Eyes See?
The Love Story of a SIREN, a GIANT, and a DWARF!
Audio/Video Mismatch
During the scene in which Hans' friends menace Cleopatra in the wagon, the flute soundtrack doesn't match the finger movements of the dwarf playing the flute.

Audio/Video Mismatch
In the first shot after the "Wedding Feast" title card, we see Violet Hilton & Daisy Hilton playing soprano saxophones, but we only hear a harmonica being played.

Audio/Video Mismatch
The shadow of the boom fall on Phroso's back when he and Venus are talking in the trailer, after her angry outburst at him.

Hercules rushes out of the wagon in pursuit of Josephine/Joseph, hot on his/her heels, but when Cleopatra looks out the window a moment later, Jo is leaning casually against a wagon applying makeup. He/she would not have had time to relax and get out a compact in that short amount of time.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was a member of the MGM writing department at the time the movie was in production. He never felt quite at home with all the movie stars and powerful moguls, and so he often dined in the commissary at the table of the sideshow attractions (freaks) during his lunch hour.

When MGM production chief Irving Thalberg gave Willis Goldbeck the assignment to write a draft of a screenplay based on Clarence Aaron 'Tod' Robbins's story "Spurs", the only direction he gave Goldbeck was that the script had to be "horrible". The writer completed his draft quickly and turned the script over to Thalberg. A few days later, Goldbeck was summoned to Thalberg's office, where he found the producer slumped forward on his desk with his face buried in his arms, as if overwhelmed. After a moment, Thalberg sat up straight and looked at Goldbeck. "Well," said Thalberg, "it's horrible."

Although production chief Irving Thalberg decided to re-cut the picture immediately after the disastrous test screening, he could not cancel the world premiere on January 28, 1932 at the 3,000-seat Fox Theatre in San Diego. This is the only venue at which the uncut version of "Freaks" is known to have played. Ironically, the unexpurgated "Freaks" was a major box-office success. Crowds lined up around the block to see the picture, which broke the theatre's house record. By the end of the run, word had spread that "Freaks" was about to be butchered, and the theatre advertised, "Your last opportunity to see 'Freaks' in its uncensored form!"

Prince Randian, the man with no arms or legs, developed a habit of lurking in dark corners and frightening passers-by with a blood-curdling yell.

In the United States, this film was banned in a number of states and cities. Although no longer enforced, some of the laws were never officially repealed. Therefore, it is still technically illegal for this film to be shown some areas of the USA.

The on-screen romance between Hans and Frieda was very subdued because the roles were being played by real life brother and sister Harry Earles and Daisy Earles.

This movie was rejected for UK cinema showing in 1932 and again in 1952. It was finally passed for cinema with an uncut X rating in May 1963, making it one of the longest bans in UK film history.

A woman who attended a 1932 test screening for the film claimed later that she suffered a miscarriage resulting from the film's shocking nature, and threatened to sue MGM.

The original casting had Victor McLaglen as Hercules, Myrna Loy as Cleopatra, and Jean Harlow as Venus. All balked at the prospect of co-starring with "sideshow exhibitions".

Schlitze, the microcephalic member of the cast who appears to be female, was actually a male. The dress was worn for reasons of personal hygiene.

Dwarf actor Angelo Rossitto, who appeared as Angeleno, went on to a successful career in TV and films including Little Moe in the Robert Blake TV series Baretta (1975) and as The Master opposite Mel Gibson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).

The original version of this movie was considered too shocking to be released, and no longer exists.

The eponymous characters of this movie were played by people who worked as carnival sideshow performers and had real deformities.

At 16 Browning had left his well to do family to join a traveling circus, he drew on his personal experiences for this movie. It was primarily because of his success as the director of 'Dracula', he was given a considerable leeway for a major studio's first horror film, this and the fact he was working in Pre-Code Hollywood enabled a unique production. However, his never recovered from the horror of this movie, which has been described as standing alone in a sub-genre of one.