Genre: Horror Drama
Starring: Harry Earles, Olga Baclanova (The Docks Of New York) and a ton of circus freaks
Directed By: Tod Browning (London After Midnight; The Unknown)
Overview: On the road with a circus and its sideshow, a dwarf falls in love with a beautiful trapeze artist. When she finds out that he has a fortune, his romantic advances look ripe for the picking.
Acting: These actors are quite obviously the genuine article. Only circus freaks and their handlers could be so real that their acting is this bad. The trapeze girl and the Strongman are utterly terrible. I guess when you have a slug of a man who can light his own smokes, then you don't need much else. Just goes to show that some directors are more about the look than the listen.
Cinematography: The scenes are often busy, cramped little caravan shots, or stunts and tricks by the freaks in question. Without a doubt there is terrific camerawork on top of the effort made to have great sets like that ominous rainy night scene near the end. Very immersive, very fun to look at.
Script: "Gooble-Gobble! Gooble-Gobble! We accept her, we accept her! One of us, one of us!"
Usually the dialogue is just plain contrived: "I'm not really hungry, just 6 eggs for me." The worst of it is the constant failing attempt at comedy, the best is the immersive look at the clique of freaks, like the quote above when the trapeze girl marries the dwarf. Though that line had me walking down the street singing it days later, it still didn't hold up the rest of the awful writing.
Plot: Very enjoyable. Did you know that this was the first movie to have normal looking people as the antagonist, while the freakish monstrosities were the protagonists? As conniving women after a man's fortune plots go, this one adds the elements of jealously, murder, and justice. Thick with story, it's surprising that it's only 62 minutes. Really fun stuff. And what an ENDING!
Mood: You knew this was going to be the thing that got the points. Unfortunately the acting and the dialogue is so bad that it makes the mood suffer, but with pinheads, a slug, a score of little people and Siamese twins, all set in a traveling circus show, this is really original stuff. Classic.
Overall Rating: 66% (I Freakin' Loved This, Regardless Of The Score)
Aftertaste: Sometimes a review of mine, compartmentalized as it is, just can't do a film justice. Horror is one of the genres where one forgives the acting and dialogue in favour for the creepy monsters and spooky story. This is exactly the case here. Either way, this is one of those movies that you see playing in the background while out at some alternative bar. Finally I got around to seeing it for real. Highly recommended.