Tod Browning

Tod Browning

Editor’s Note: It’s with great honor that we welcome James F. Broderick, author of “Now a Terrifying Motion Picture!: Twenty-Five Classic Works of Horror Adapted From Book to Film,” and his essay excerpt from the book which details the strange history of Freaks. Can a movie be considered a “classic” horror film when it was panned by critics, reviled by audiences, and banned for decades from even being shown? When even the studio that produced it didn’t stand behind it, and the director’s career was ruined after the film’s release? When the stars of the film are not actors at all but rather members of a group of real-life circus freaks, including armless and legless people, as well as a bearded woman and “the pin-headed lady”? And when many critics and fans of the horror genre don’t even consider the film to be part of that category, classifying it instead as a sort of docu-drama? Okay, add to that the film was based on an obscure story by a long-forgotten writer and has been unavailable on tape or DVD for much of the past century, and you hardly have the makings of, well, a “classic.” And yet, that’s exactly what Freaks is – a masterpiece of horror, an unsettling and brutally candid story about the treachery and torment that can be a part of the human conditions – for some humans, anyway. The story of the film goes far beyond the actual “plot” of the movie, and involves a movie studio eager to cash in on the horror film “craze,” a celebrated director looking to make […]

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Culture Warrior

Part of the appeal of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films is that the basic conceit informing their aesthetic seems so natural. Batman is one of few major superheroes that isn’t actually a super-hero. Batman mythology, then, lends itself to a degree of plausibility more than, say, Superman or Spider-Man, so why not manifest a vision of Batman that embraces this particular aspect that distinguishes this character from most superhero mythologies? But realism has not been a characteristic that unifies Batman’s many representations in the moving image. Through the eyes of Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, the Batman of tentpole studio filmmaking has occupied either a world of gothic architecture and shadowy noir, or one of schizophrenic camp. From 1989 to 1997, Batman was interpreted by visionary directors with potent aesthetic approaches, but approaches that did not necessarily aim to root the character within a landscape of exhaustive Nolanesque plausibility.

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A year before Freaks, Tod Browning experiments with a struggling boxer, his manipulative wife, and her secret lover.

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Tod Browning

Old Ass Movies wants to give you 70-year old nightmares. Just in time for Christmas!

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