Freaks: This brief 1932 film is about the backstage lives of a group of sideshow performers. The story mostly revolves around the romance between the “normal” Cleopatra and Hans the little person, which reveals the somewhat scary prejudices and alliances among the various performers. It’s definitely a film you won’t soon forget. The acting, however, isn’t all that great and the dialogue is often downright horrible. I think what makes this movie so memorable (and so controversial) is that all the “freaks” are 100% bonafide sideshow performers. There are pinheads and human worms and bird girls and lots more besides. No make-up or special effects here. Perhaps more telling than the movie itself is the hour-long documentary included on the DVD, which talks about the performers’ real lives and careers both before and after this movie was made. Most of all, this DVD raises an uncomfortable question: how exploitative is it really when these people have consciously made the choice to make money by being stared at?

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