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Freaks

alt. titleaka Forbidden Love
date 1932
by Tod Browning, director; Dwain Esper, distributor (reissue)
medium Poster

It is difficult to believe that Tod Browning's Freaks was released through a major Hollywood studio. Nevertheless, MGM produced this odd combination romance-horror film in 1932. The film tells the story of a sideshow midget who falls in love with a beautiful female trapeze performer. The woman, however, hopes to marry the diminutive man and poison him for his money. After her ill intentions are discovered, the other sideshow "freaks" hunt her down and transform her into one of the sideshow aberrations that she attempted to exploit.

Given the film's content, it seems almost inevitable that this mainstream picture would eventually make its way to the exploitation circuit. Dwain Esper bought the rights to distribute Freaks later in the decade (often under the title Forbidden Love), thus keeping the movie in circulation for many years. The poster for Esper's Freaks exploits the images of its unusual sideshow stars. Esper, however, increased the focus on sex and added his own incendiary interrogatives, such as "Do Siamese Twins Make Love?" and "Can a Full Grown Woman Truly Love a Midget?", and "What Sex is the Half Man Half Woman?"