Royal Books

Seller of rare books and paper in Baltimore, specializing in cinema, music, literature, and the arts.

Freaks | Tod Browning | 1931

Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer [MGM], 1931.Original story typescript and three early typescript drafts, all with typeover and holograph corrections, for the 1932 film “Freaks.” Based on the short story “Spurs” by Tod Robbins, first published in “Munsey’s Magazine” in February of 1923. A substantive and rare a film archive for this film as one is likely ever to encounter, including scenes cut from the final release.

A legendary cult pre-Code film, cast largely from real sideshow acts, almost universally reviled at the time of its release, and for many years only viewable in a truncated format. An almost pedestrian melodrama, whose genius lies in its context, where a midget in a sideshow falls for a trapeze artist who agrees to marry him in order to poison him, take his money, and run away with the strong man. 

The archive offers a fascinating look at the speed with which a script was developed at the beginning of the 1930s, with three substantively different drafts completed in the space of 5 days, and with the final draft being over twice as long the first two.

One important and rather legendary deleted sequence that is present here is one from the end of the film in which Hercules is singing soprano in Mother Tetrallini’s new sideshow, as he has been castrated by the freaks. The unexpurgated version with this scene was shown for only one brief run that began on January 28, 1932, at the Fox Theatre in San Diego. By the end of the run, word had spread that the film would be butchered, and the theatre prophetically advertised, “Your last opportunity to see ‘Freaks’ in its uncensored form!” The final sequence did not play at any other venue, and is today considered lost.

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