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FREAKS and the Sleaze Circuit

Tod Browning will always be most celebrated for his work with Lon Chaney and his serving as the director for 1931’s DRACULA, but among the true Horror aficionados he must also be lauded for his pre-code (i.e. uncensored by the government or any ratings board) masterpiece FREAKS, which came out one year later. Even before its release to theaters the film came under attack from the blue-haired puckered anuses. Almost half an hour of material was cut before the movie was released due to negative reactions from test audiences, audiences that were, by and large, composed of those aforementioned blue-haired puckered anuses. Then when it did finally see theatrical release it not too surprisingly bombed. It was pulled from release before completing its theatrical run. The movie was way ahead of its time.

FREAKS, however, would endure. MGM sold the distribution rights to Dwain Esper, who understood the untapped financial potential inherent in the very things the mainstream was objecting to. FREAKS began to play on the sleaze circuit, in midnight movies, and projected onto the canvas walls of circus tents where Esper also hired freak show performers to appear—which seems fitting somehow, don’t you think? FREAKS belongs in such august company.

TheCheezman • February 17, 2020


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