If this is the first movie of the month, made in 1932, and I'm already feeling uneasy, I have a lot ahead of me. Freaks tells the story of a group of circus performers, including the sideshow people, and their interactions as a group. Within the overall look, we're given the story of Hans (Harry Earles), a midget in love with a normal-sized trapeze artist, Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova). But Hans is already engaged to another midget, Frieda (Daisy Earles). Frieda picks up on the fact that Cleopatra doesn't really have feelings for Hans, but that she's just teasing him. However, she lets slip Hans has come into some money, and Cleopatra formulates a plan with Hercules (Henry Victor) on how to get it. But also onto their trail is a clown named Phroso (Wallace Ford) and a woman named Venus (Leila Hyams).
The craziest thing about this movie was that all of the so-called "freaks" were real. They weren't people in costumes. They actually went out and found circus performers and used them in the movie. That completely made everything that much more fascinating yet disturbing. And there's a nice little prologue that you have the option of reading before the movie starts (on the DVD), which I'd recommend doing. It's a fun and interesting history lesson that made my anticipation for the movie increase even more.
Thankfully the movie is only an hour (and 2 minutes) long, though. There was only so much of it I could take. For instance, the acting is terrible--most likely due to the fact the majority of the cast aren't film actors. And it doesn't help that almost all of the cast has a thick accent (usually either French or German). I actually had to put on subtitles to understand some of them, particularly Hans and Frieda. It's also a long hour. The story is a slow build, and the movie spends the majority of its first act just getting you acquainted with all of the characters and performers... and there are a lot. I'd say the best (and/or my favorite) of the movie in all regards would be Phroso the clown. The actor was good, the character was interesting (and would have been even better had the film given him time to be fleshed out), and he was just overall likeable.
I know the movie was made in the early 30's, but I was still let down by the ending. I watched a behind-the-scenes bit where they discuss what the original ending was supposed to be, which sounds awesome. Alas, they went for something more subdued. Just when the freaks move on for the attack, it fades away and you don't see anything happen. Granted, everything up to that point was totally creepy and unnerving.
There's no way this movie could be done today the way it was done in the 30's. Everything is too politically correct, and they'd definitely go for people in costumes mixed with a bit of CGI. And that's a shame, really. This method was completely successful in what it was attempting. It's not a perfect movie, as I've said, and there's a lot I would have liked to have seen done differently. But for what it was, it was effective.
(P.S. This officially puts me halfway through the List!)