Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Double Feature Challange

Okay, so Cole over at Vitagraph, American recently threw out the challenge on his blog, to create a double feature. Something which as it turns out was deceptively more difficult than it first seemed, not only because of needing a shared theme, but also the challenge of narrowing it down to just two titles. So after numerous scratched out lists, I finally managed to find my two films.

So now as you settle down in your seats and the house lights slowly begin to dim, the screen flickers to life, with the images projected upon the screen, as the audience awaits the first film of the evening.

I first saw Tod Browning’s “Freaks” (1932), back when I was in college, were it seemed like a taboo curiosity, mainly due the fact that here was a film was once banned here in the UK, aswell as the fact it was shot with real sideshow performers playing the roles of the titular freaks, so I’d be lying if back then it wasn’t with a strange voyeuristic glee that I had hunted it down, expecting it to be just a weird and fun movie, only to find myself truly blown away by not only the images I was watching, but also how Browning managed to portray the so called normal people as the real freaks, while truly saving the real power of the story for it’s shocking final reel in which the Freaks finally extract their revenge on Cleopatra and her Strong Man lover Hercules, who'd planned to steal the vast inheritance of the Dwarf ringmaster Hans.

Browning doesn’t just restrict himself to the main meat of the story, taking the time to give us glimpses into the day to day life of the sideshow performers, providing several of the more memorable and certainly the majority of my own favourite moments of the film, including the Human caterpillar not only rolling a cigarette, but lighting and smoking it as well, with only his mouth and tongue to aid him, yet this isn’t treated like a cheap laugh, but instead merely part of the scene with the performers all being treated in a similar way, as he maintains their humanity rather than treating them like the monsters, as many people might view them as on first appearance, with Browning a former travelling circus employee, recruiting numerous celebrity sideshow performers including Johnny Eck.
Despite being regarded as a classic today, it sadly killed Browning’s career, receiving a largely negative reaction from audiences, with the film suffering numerous cuts, all of which are now considered to be lost, with the film being added to the banned film list from the best part of thirty years, only to be rediscovered and recognised for the classic it is.

“Tattoo” (2002) might seem like an unusual choice of film to follow up with, but it’s setting in the world of body modification, in particular Tattoos is what ties it to our first film, for the majority of sideshow performers, are now self made freaks and it from this world of body modification obsessive’s, that this “Seven” esq story comes from, as the grizzled Chief Inspector Minks teams up with rookie cop Schrader to investigate a killer who is collecting the tattoos of an elderly master tattooist, by removing the designs from their still very alive owners.

It’s easy to draw comparisons to David Fincher’s “Seven” (1995) seeing how similar the dark world these films exist within are, yet “Tattoo” manages to still maintain its own sense of individuality, as it only gets darker the further into this secretive world they delve much like “8mm” (1999) which had it’s hauntingly creepy scenes of porn bazaars, “Tattoo” too manages to bring it’s own level of shock as the detectives encounter tattoo collectors who preserve the flayed flesh containing the designs of their favourite artists, while displaying them like prized art, with the sight of a full body suit proving especially memorable.
Sadly the ending isn’t the greatest but it doesn’t stop it from still being a fun ride and a must see for fans of “Seven” still wanting another taste of that same intoxicatingly dark world.

So there you have it, my Halloween double feature and while I could have gone with something a little more recognisable, they will both stick with you like every good double feature should long after the end credits have run.


  1. Excellent post, as we have double features all the time. FREAKS is one of my favorites and given our recent fair outing, we've been delving further into sideshow culture recently than before. It's re-ignited our obsession.

    However, I stray away from movies dealing with the tattoo subculture, mostly in part because I am heavily tattooed (as is Sam, and more so than me, with throat, hands and face done) and movies and documentaries dealing with such things because they are just plain embarrassing and don't represent the majority of people who can actually call themselves tattooed individuals.

    Case in point, Dee Snyder's STRANGELAND. It gives 'freaks' a bad rap is just terrible! Not everyone covered who is covered in tattoos and subscribes to an 'alternative' lifestyle is a deviant. I find this is the theme too often in horror films dealing with this subject matter.

    Okay, I'll stop. I've had some wine as usual :)

    Again, awesome post. I need to get started on my own double feature tonight. We've been on a Kaiju kick lately, so maybe something with Godzilla.

    Cheers, as you guys say across the pond :)

  2. Great Pick. I too was lucky enough to catch Freaks on the big screen. And that mofo plays to an audience like no one's business.

  3. "Freaks" is definatly one of my all time favourites and will be looked at in more detail, in a future "Elwoods Essentials" post.

    @Jenn: I Get were your coming from, as it seems like far to many people, seem to think they can speak for everyone else. Still it is amusing watching shows like "Miami Ink" and listening to the usually fake ass and supposedly deep reasons for getting the tattoo they want...serious can't you just like the pretty picture!?!?
    Loving the Kaiju double feature idea, especially as got a whole stack myself to get through. For myself I always find "Destroy all monsters" worth watching when in a Kaiju mood, just for the sheer amount of classic Toho monsters which are in it.

    @Bryce: It's always good to see the reaction of someone who has never seen or even heard of this film, so can imagine how the audience experience would work :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...