Freaks (1932 Tod Browning movie) at Archive.org

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Freaks, a 1932 movie starring real life human marvels, is available for download at Archive.org. It stars the handsome and talented, 18-inch tall Johnny Eck (shown here in black jacket and bow-tie). I first saw Freaks when I was about 15, and when Eck came running across the screen using his hands and arms, I was dumbfounded.

From Julie Ng's review at 11th Hour:

What always amazes me every time I watch it is its darkness, its audacity and well, the very fact that it even got released at all. Especially in the Production Code era of cinema. Despite the fact that some places did ban it and that MGM foolishly hacked out parts of it that are now lost forever, Freaks still got away with a lot, for its time. I'm not only talking about the casting of real so-called freaks, or of the implied violence, but of the racy dialogue and double entendres littered throughout the film. I once read a guy's review that compared his experience of watching Freaks with a watching a good porno movie. I won't go that far, because I think it's much smarter than any kind of smut, but its exploitative qualities are sort of similar. You are repulsed by what you are seeing, yet fascinatingly allured at the same time.

You may love this movie for its compassion towards the imperfections of nature, or you may believe it to be a sadistic and excessive piece of trash. And that, dear readers, is the real beauty and staying power of Freaks.

The Ramones' trademark phrase "Gabba gabba hey!" came from Freaks.
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  1. I took a friend with me for a midnite showing of “Freaks” many years ago at the Valley Art Theater in Tempe, AZ – he told me when we were leaving that he’d never, under any circumstances, ever go with me to the movies again. He as really shook up. The chase scene is absolutely riveting for me – surreal and frightening.

  2. CELYNNEN@1: Fixed. I had it right on the headline, but put 1993 in the body of the post.Thanks.

  3. Dr Blockhead: You see, I’ve seen the future, and the future looks just like him
    [Mulder in a classic GQ pose]
    Dr Blockhead: Imagine, going through your whole life looking like that. That’s why it’s left up to the self-made freaks like me and The Conundrum to remind people…
    Scully: Remind them of what?
    Dr Blockhead: Nature abhors normality. It can’t go very long without a mutant. Do you know why?
    Scully: No. Why?
    Dr Blockhead: I don’t either. It’s a mystery. Maybe some mysteries are never meant to be solved.

    p.s. I love Freaks; I hope the cut 30 minutes can someday be restored as well.

  4. 1) 1932, not 1933.

    2) It won’t be up there long, because it’s definitely not in the public domain.

  5. I will always have a soft in my heart for this movie. And, this pic makes me think about the book Geek Love.

  6. They Hays Code wasn’t enforced well to ’34. This is a great movie, but it’s one that pushed “reformers” towards greater enforcement of the Hays Code.

  7. I first saw this film in Antarctica….Werner Herzog hosted a screening while he was there under the artists and writers program. Presented in that context the film was absolutely magnificent.

    Interesting about the gabba gabba hey thing…didn’t realize that. Cool!

  8. Anyone know where I could find a higher quality version of this film? I don’t know how much we’re losing in the digital conversion, but at under 200MB I’m sure it leaves a bit to be desired, no?

  9. Anyone know where I could find a higher quality version of this film? I don’t know how much we’re losing in the digital conversion, but at under 200MB I’m sure it leaves a bit to be desired, no?

    It’s only about an hour long, and it depends on the efficiency of the compression (where storage space is traded off for processor cycles). But here’s one 700MB torrent, if you’re into that.

  10. Now Halloween Jack is a real cool cat, and I’m surprised he hasn’t posted a comment yet.

  11. i work at archive.org and today i scanned 5346 pages of pre 1929 books. a personal record.

  12. Easily one of the creepiest movies of all time. i caught this late one night in high school and have probably seen it a dozen or more times since. i don’t know why i haven’t just gotten the DVD. I was always a fan of Browning’s DRACULA starring Bela Lugosi, and this one really knocked me for a loop.

    good rule for general living: NEVER piss off carnies.

  13. “one of us one of us!” – i sampled the infamous chant for a piece of music several years ago.

    Here’s a music video on YouTube featuring metamorphising flies and piglets – you can hear the chanting in the second half:

    ‘replication’ – by ‘return to netley, things have changed’

  14. I own the dvd. if I recall correctly there’s an interesting commentary track on it as well. I heartily recommend it.

  15. Circa 1976 a woman in Oakland, CA owned the only remaining complete print of the movie and all copies were struck from her print. She made good money on her investment until she lost control when one of the prints was used to produce more.

  16. Circa 1976 a woman in Oakland, CA owned the only remaining complete print of the movie and all copies were struck from her print. She made good money on her investment until she lost control when one of the prints was used to produce more.

    So is this uncut version available on DVD (or online) now as a result of this preservation through redundancy?

    Also, here’s the video clip of Jim Rose in the Humbug episode I quoted earlier.

  17. I can’t help but compare this movie to the work of Diane Arbus. This isn’t just because of the fact that I took “disability” related classes in college. I can’t help but think of exploitative it is.

  18. I honestly hope that Geek Love is never filmed, because the only proper way to do it would be to film it in the same style and, as a result, using the often-questionable ethics of this film. I do find this movie beautiful, but I can understand people who can’t get over what they perceive as a grotesque buffet of shocking imagery.

    Seeing Prince Randian move around with the knife in his mouth is an image that is burned into my mind for all eternity.

    Back to Geek Love: all this movie could possibly offer us is a CGI-festival which would effectively neuter the novel.

  19. @#12 McSey – I agree, this is a film that helped define the “Pre-Code” era. It was this sort of edgy material that gave ammunition to the censors and led to enforcement of the Hays Code in 1934.

    I would counter Ng’s amazement over this film being made in 1933 with the comment that this was precisely the period that a film like “Freaks” would come from.

    Long live the Pre-Codes!

  20. freaks is actually a pretty good film, i was expecting an explotative trashy b movie, but what i saw was an intelligent, well written, suspenseful horror drama. with the creepiest chase sequence i’ve ever seen

  21. @#7: The “Human Marvels” article linked to in Comment #18 disputes your second assertion (that the movie is not in the public domain).

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