The boys have a virtual horror-fest, as they begin in the past with 1932’s classic “Freaks”. Does Todd Browning’s masterpiece still hold up to horror of today’s standards? They then head to the theater to check out the prequel by the same name “The Thing”. Does it compare to John Carpenter’s 1982 version or should they have just left it frozen in the ice? Finally, they review the trailer for the 4th movie in the Underworld Series: Underworld Awakening. Will Kate Beckensale’s Selene draw them back to the theater in 2012? All this and they chat about John Lassater’s defense of Cars 2 and the possibility of River Phoenix’s posthumous return to the big screen. It’s the 75th reel of COL Movies – “Holy Jumping Christmas!”
The Past: Freaks (1932)
Rotten Tomatoes: 93% Fresh, 87% Audience
Director: Tod Browning
Starring: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams and Olga Baclanova
- The electrical equipment on the set was so badly grounded that crew members were frequently shocked
- The film’s original ending showed Hercules singing soprano in Madame Tetralini’s new sideshow because he has been castrated by the freaks. After intensely negative reaction by preview audiences, this scene was cut.
- Prince Randian, the man with no arms or legs, developed a habit of lurking in dark corners and frightening passers-by with a blood-curdling yell.
- During filming, director Tod Browning was plagued with dreams in which Johnny Eck and a pinhead would keep bringing a cow in backward through a doorway in the middle of shoots.
- In the UK this film was banned for 30 years after it was first released.
- The original casting had Victor McLaglen as Hercules, Myrna Loy as Cleopatra, and Jean Harlow as Venus. All balked at the prospect of co-starring with “sideshow exhibitions”.
- The on-screen romance between Hans and Frieda was very subdued because the roles were being played by real life brother and sister Harry Earles and Daisy Earles.
- After the film had been withdrawn and shelved by MGM, the distribution rights were acquired by notorious exploitation roadshow specialist Dwain Esper. Esper traveled the country showing the film under such lurid titles as “Forbidden Love” and “Nature’s Mistakes”.
- During the 1920s and 1930s, photographer Edward J. Kelty took a succession of group photographs of members of the Barnum and Bailey freak show. What is interesting is how many cast members can be spotted in them (this film is the only movie credit for most of them). Familiar faces include Harry Earles (Hans), Daisy Earles (Frieda), Peter Robinson (human skeleton), Elvira Snow (pinhead), Jenny Lee Snow (pinhead), Elizabeth Green (bird girl) and Olga Roderick (bearded lady).
- Cast member Olga Roderick, the bearded lady, later denounced the film and regretted her involvement in it.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald was a member of the MGM writing department at the time the movie was in production. He never felt quite at home with all the movie stars and powerful moguls, and so he often dined in the commissary at the table of the sideshow attractions (freaks) during his lunch hour.
- When uncredited producer Dwain Esper traveled the country with this film, he used some of the most lurid and suggestive promotions. For some engagements, if he was satisfied that it was safe, the feature would be followed by a square-up reel. This reel was basically nudist camp footage.
- In the United States, this film was banned in a number of states and cities. Although no longer enforced, some of the laws were never officially repealed. Therefore, it is still technically illegal for this film to be shown some areas of the USA.
- Myrna Loy, originally slated for the Olga Baclanova role, turned down the part because she felt the script was offensive.
- During a publicity photo session with Olga Baclanova, midget actor Harry Earles kept making lewd remarks. Many of her surprised and disgusted visual expressions in the photos that the session yielded are authentic rather than posed.
- Several variations on the ending are still in existence. However, the footage of Hercules singing soprano was not included in any of the foreign versions and is now regarded as lost.
- Was originally banned in Australia.
- When MGM production chief Irving Thalberg gave Willis Goldbeck the assignment to write a draft of a screenplay based on Clarence Aaron ‘Tod’ Robbins’s story “Spurs”, the only direction he gave Goldbeck was that the script had to be “horrible”. The writer completed his draft quickly and turned the script over to Thalberg. A few days later, Goldbeck was summoned to Thalberg’s office, where he found the producer slumped forward on his desk with his face buried in his arms, as if overwhelmed. After a moment, Thalberg sat up straight and looked at Goldbeck. “Well,” said Thalberg, “it’s horrible.”
- Schlitze, the microcephalic member of the cast who appears to be female, was actually a male. The dress was worn for reasons of personal hygiene.
- Premiere voted this movie as one of “The 25 Most Dangerous Movies”.
- Dwarf actor Angelo Rossitto, who appeared as Angeleno, would go on to a successful career in TV and films including Little Moe in the Robert Blake TV series Baretta and as one half of the giant Master Blaster opposite Mel Gibson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
- The film was rejected for UK cinema showing in 1932 and again in 1952. It was finally passed for cinema with an uncut X rating in May 1963, making it one of the longest bans in UK film history.
- The tune that ‘Angeleno’ plays on his flute during the final confrontation between Cleopatra and the bedridden Hans is the “Mournful Tune” from Richard Wagner’s opera “Tristan and Isolde”, played in the opera while the dying Tristan waits for Isolde’s ship to appear on the horizon.
- Dwarf John George – for reasons unknown – does not appear in “Freaks”, even though a role was specifically written for him in the screenplay.
- One woman, after seeing “Freaks”, wrote a letter to Tod Browning at MGM, exclaiming that “You must have the mental equipment of a freak yourself to devise such a picture.” Another viewer complained, “To put such creatures in a picture and before the public is unthinkable.”
- Although production chief Irving Thalberg decided to re-cut the picture immediately after the disastrous test screening, he could not cancel the world premiere on January 28, 1932 at the 3,000-seat Fox Theatre in San Diego. This is the only venue at which the uncut version of “Freaks” is known to have played. Ironically, the unexpurgated “Freaks” was a major box-office success. Crowds lined up around the block to see the picture, which broke the theatre’s house record. By the end of the run, word had spread that “Freaks” was about to be butchered, and the theatre advertised, “Your last opportunity to see ‘Freaks’ in its uncensored form!”
- According to one source, director Tod Browning was introduced to the story by Cedric Gibbons, longtime head of MGM’s Art Department. He was supposedly boyhood friends with author Clarence Aaron ‘Tod’ Robbins and convinced the studio to purchase film rights for the sum of $8,000. Another source claims that the diminutive actor Harry Earles gave Browning a copy of the story during the production of The Unholy Three in hopes that he could star in the adaptation.
- Samuel Marx, head of MGM’s Story Department, recalled with peculiar pride, “And so, Harry Rapf, who was a great moral figure, got a bunch of us together and we went in and complained to Irving Irving Thalberg about ‘Freaks’. And he laughed at that. He said, ‘You know, we’re making all kinds of movies. Forget it. I’m going to make the picture. Tod Browning’s a fine director. He knows what he’s doing.’ And the picture was made.” But the lunchroom protests didn’t end. As a result, a makeshift table was constructed and the cast of “Freaks” (with the exception of Harry Earles and Daisy Earles, Violet Hilton and Daisy Hilton, and the more “normal” cast-members) were forced to eat their meals outdoors.:
- Olga Baclanova, later recalled the day when she was first introduced to the supporting cast, “Tod Browning shows me little by little and I could not look, I wanted to faint. I wanted to cry when I saw them. They have such nice faces… they are so poor, you know… Browning takes me and say, you know, ‘Be brave, and don’t faint like the first time I show you. You have to work with them.’… It was very, very difficult first time. Every night I felt that I am sick. Because I couldn’t look at them. And then I was so sorry for them. That I just couldn’t… it hurt me like a human being.”
- Johnny Eck, the half-boy, remembered his screen test was taken by MGM’s scouting unit while he was on tour in Canada, and he shared the screen with the world’s largest rat. He recalled being treated well by the crew, “The technicians, the sound men, the electricians, and the prop department, and everybody… was my friend… We got along beautifully.”
- According to the screenplay, the scene in which Madame Tetrallini introduces the wandering land-owner to the performers frolicking in the woods ran quite a bit longer. It included additional dialog that endeavored to humanize the so-called freaks. She tells him they are “always in hot, stuffy tents – strange eyes always staring at them – never allowed to forget what they are.” Duval responds sympathetically (clearly the stand-in for the viewing audience), “When I go to the circus again, Madame, I’ll remember,” to which she adds, “I know, M’sieu – you will remember seeing them playing – playing like children… Among all the thousands who come to stare – to laugh – to shudder – you will be one who understands.”
- Numerous other bits of dialog were removed that depicted the “normal” humans as disgusting creatures and the “freaks” as gentle and sympathetic (destroying the social critique of intolerance Tod Browning was attempting to construct). While the circus awaits word on Hans’s declining health, one of the Rollo Brothers coldly remarks, “You’d think the world was coming to an end – just because a mangy freak’s got a hangover.” In another scene, Madame Tetrallini responds to the Rollos’ taunts by defending the humanity of her “children,” “Augh, you cochons – you beasts… They are better than you – all of them – you two dogs!”
- Tod Browning’s only onscreen credit is on the title page: “Tod Browning’s Freaks,” which is interpreted as the director credit. He is not in studio records as a producer.
- A woman who attended a 1932 test screening for the film claimed later that she suffered a miscarriage resulting from the film’s shocking nature, and threatened to sue MGM.
- The reunion of Hans and Frieda, seen at the end of most prints, was not part of Tod Browning’s original cut. It was added during the re-editing to give the film a happier ending.
- The use of real “Freaks”
- The sensibilities of a 1932 audience vs today.
- Anyone watch the bonus material?
What We’ve Learned:
- Don’t piss off the freaks!
.There isn’t a real one out there on YouTube, but this is a very good fan-made one!
Jeff: A nice little tale of circus freaks. A little disturbing, probably more disturbing to people in the 1930s.
Ray: Feels more like a Soap Opera,but I did actually get into the movie. I like that they used real people instead of actors for this..something I can’t ever see them doing in today’s Hollywood.
Steve: Not a traditional horror movie from today’s standards necessarily, but still thought provoking. Not to mention, none of these characters were CGI – they were the real deal! Exploitive, um yeah…Was the acting amazing, no…but worth seeing if you’re a fan of horror.
The Present: The Thing
Rotten Tomatoes: 33% Rotten 60% Audience
Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jørgen Langhelle
- Dennis Storhøi was cast as Sander but pulled out of production due to personal reasons. He was replaced by Ulrich Thomsen.
- The producers convinced Universal Studios to allow them to create a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing instead of a remake, as they felt Carpenter’s film was already perfect, so making a remake would be like “painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa”. However, the prequel still has the title of the original film, because they couldn’t think of a subtitle (for example, “The Thing: Begins”) that sounded good.
- This is a prequel to a remake of an adaptation of the novella “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr., published in 1938.
- The song Kate is listening to on her headphones is “Who Can It Be Now?”, a song by Australian band Men at Work from their 1981 debut album, “Business as Usual”. The lyrics tell of a paranoid man who hears knocking at his house door and wishes to be left in solitude. This foreshadows the paranoia of the scientists later in the film.
- In order to not try to compete with Kurt Russell’s portrayal of the 1982 film’s protagonist, R.J. MacReady, the character of Kate Lloyd was designed to have traits in common with the character Ellen Ripley from the Alien film series.
- When we first meet Kate Lloyd she is studying something that looks stunningly similar to the 1982 dog monster.
- In the opening, one of the Norwegians actually says, “Stop!” in English-rather than their own tongue (as John Carpenter once called, “Schmergzdörf”).
- Whenever a flashlight or lantern was flashed toward the camera, they would have the same blue camera flares coming off of them just as in the original John Carpenter version.
- The red axe that ‘Joel Edgerton’ uses and eventually sticks into the wall can be seen still stuck in the wall when the Americans visit the Norwegian camp in the original John Carpenter version.
- What purpose did this serve?
- CGI.. good or bad?
- Did anyone watch the 1982 remake after this? The 1951 original?
What We Learned:
- Watch where you park the snowcat!
- Apparently the Cavaliers are a basketball team….barely
- Lars, he doesn’t speak English, but he will work like a bear!
- Never a good idea to shoot the guy with the flammable gas tanks strapped to him.
- It is freaking cold in Antarctica.
Jeff: Not that bad of a movie. Had it’s jumpy moments, but it was alright. Wait for DVD though.
Ray: There are some really stupid plot points (or lack of) in this movie, and if you have seen the 1982 remake… there’s really nothing to learn from this, that being said they did an excellent job tying the two movies together.
Steve: I’ll admit I didn’t realize it was a prequel…my bad. The creature effects were really, really good, although a large portion of it was predictable if you’ve seen the other versions. I enjoyed it just sitting back and watching. Was a fun ride.
The Future: Underworld Awakening
Director: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy and India Eisley
The vampire warrioress Selene escapes imprisonment to find herself in a world where humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans, and are conducting an all-out war to eradicate both immortal species.
- Filming began in March 2011 at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia.
- Underworld: Awakening is the first movie to be shot using RED EPIC digital cameras in 3D.
- Are we glad to see the 4th installment or has the series jumped the shark?
Jeff: Still interested in the series. Although only expecting another action movie featuring vampires and werewolves.
Ray: Interest in this series never made it past the first one for me, which I barely remember… I suppose I’d go see this as long as it doesn’t require watching all the others to understand it.
Steve: I’m a fan of of the character of Selene. Not to mention…vampires AND werewolves in the same movie – I’m typically SO there. The 3rd one kind of tarnished me on the series, so I hope this one will bring back back in. It’s a definite see for me.