Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Part 3

One more part coming tonight. Hopefully I'm finally getting over whatever's been making me so ill/exhausted/migrainy these past 2+ weeks and can soon function normally in society again. Hopefully. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Part 3 I find it hard to imagine that sideshow based entertainment like Geek Love could exist without one of the most controversial and career destroying films of all time. Freaks is Tod Browning's opus. Tod Browning could have become one of the most successful directors of all time. There is no denying he was a prolific director in the early days of Hollywood: 58 films in 17 years is nothing to sneeze at. That's roughly 3 1/2 films a year on average, though he did direct less films each year. He directed 62 films in total before giving up 7 years after Freaks. His most famous work would have to be Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. I wish I could find a clip of one of the more atmospheric elements of the film, but this does the job nicely. Browning was not afraid to leave the camera on a performer. Look how long the cuts are between Van Helsing and Dracula in that clip, how much space is left for genuine reaction and character development, how effective the twitch of a lip or tilt of a face was when given enough time to sink in. It still gives me chills after so many viewings. The release of Freaks a year later in 1932 was a long time coming. Tod Browning pushed MGM Studios to purchase the rights to a short story called "Spurs" by Tod Robbins years before. The story concerns a little person falling in love with a bareback rider at the circus, only to be targeted by the rider and her real lover when they discover he has received a large inheritance. The plans fall asunder when the rider insults the little person on their wedding night, claiming she can carry him from one side of France to the other on her shoulders, humiliating her new husband. As revenge, he forces the rider to carry him on her shoulders a distance equal to the width of France. It's a disturbing concept that forms the loose basis of Browning's film. Freaks has been experiencing a sort of renaissance in film culture. What was once disregarded as pure exploitation is now appreciated in three very different lights. One, for the skill with which Browning made the film and speculation as to how much better his original cut of the film had to be. Two, as well crafted historical documentation of many famed sideshow performers. Three, as a very effective horror film. All three ideas are a validation of Browning's skill, and truly point out the loss created by his retirement in 1939. I'll leave you with the most famous scene of the film, for now: the wedding night:

Labels: dracula, freaks, geek love, katherine dunn, tod browning