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Tod Browning's sideshow shockers. Disc one, Freaks

Call Number



Blu-ray special edition.


Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Roscoe Ates.

Publication Information

[New York, NY] : Criterion Collection, [2023]

Physical Description

1 videodisc (62 minutes) : sound, black and white ; 4 3/4 in. + 1 booklet (36 pages : color illustrations ; 17 cm)


Not rated.


"The world is a carnival of criminality, corruption, and psychosexual strangeness in the twisted pre-Code shockers of Tod Browning. Early Hollywood's edgiest auteur, Browning drew on his experiences as a circus performer to create subversive pulp entertainments set amid the world of traveling sideshows, which, with their air of the exotic and the disreputable, provided a pungent backdrop for his sordid tales of outcasts, cons, villains, and vagabonds. Bringing together two of his defining works (The Unknown and Freaks) and a long-unavailable rarity (The Mystic), this cabinet of pre-Code curiosities reveals a master of the morbid whose ability to unsettle is matched only by his daring compassion for society's most downtrodden."--Container.

"The most transgressive film produced by a major American studio in the 1930s, Tod Browning's crowning achievement has haunted the margins of cinema for nearly one hundred years. An unforgettable cast of real-life sideshow performers portray the entertainers in a traveling circus who, shunned by mainstream society, live according to their own code--one of radical acceptance for the fellow oppressed and, as the show's beautiful but cruel trapeze artist learns, of terrifying retribution for those who cross them. Received with revulsion by viewers upon its initial release, Freaks permanently damaged Browning's career but can now be seen for what it is: an audacious cry for understanding and a singular experience of nightmarish, almost avante-garde power."--Container booklet page 5.


English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Suggested by Tod Robbins' story "Spurs."

Originally produced as a motion picture in 1932.

Disc released as part of the two-disc set Tod Browning's sideshow shockers.

Special features: New 2K digital restoration of Freaks, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack ; audio commentary by film scholar David J. Skal ; archival documentary on Freaks ; episode from 2019 of critic Kristen Lopez's podcast Ticklish business about disability representation in Freaks ; reading by Skal of "Spurs," the short story by Tod Robbins on which Freaks is based ; prologue to Freaks, which was added to the film in 1947 ; program on the alternate endings to Freaks ; video gallery of portraits from Freaks.

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