directed by Tod Browning
Universal, the studio that basically popularized the monster movie, was always great about sympathizing the monster — Tod Browning’s Freaks is maybe the strangest and greatest example of this, taking the “monsters” and making them the ultimate heroes. By using real-life circus side-show performers the film stands as both a great horror film and one of the great documents of a particular cultural subset. The real appeal of Freaks is seeing the performers in their element, whether watching a man with no hands or legs light a cigarette or a little person fall in love. It brilliantly takes a society of people who are misunderstood and shunned and makes them appear normal — Browning never pokes fun at or criticizes the “freaks.” And with the “normals” being so hateful and ugly, who wouldn’t want to be one of them? Gooble gobble. Freaks gets bonus points as a horror film that is impossible for Hollywood to remake. It’s wondrous that it was ever made at all.