(director: Byron Mabe; screenwriter: David F. Friedman; cinematographer: William G. Troiano; editor: Byron Mabe; music: Billy Allen; cast: Claire Brennen (Jade Cochran), Lee Raymond (Blackie Fleming), Lynn Courtney (Pat “Moon” Mullins), Bill McKinney (Steve St. John), Claude Smith (Greasy), Felix Silla (Shorty), Ben Moore (Ben Thomas), Vanteen (Al Babcock), Bill Bagdad (Pretty-Boy); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: David F. Friedman; Image Entertainment; 1967)
“It takes the viewer on a dark ride into the world of carneys and does it in a goofy crowd-pleasing diverting way.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
B-film filmmaker Byron Mabe (“The Acid Eaters”/”The Big Snatch”/”Love Thy Neighbor and His Wife“) directs this loose remake of Tod Browning’s classic Freaks (1932). It’s not really a remake, but a movie like Freaks except that it steers clear of social commentary and goes instead for straight sleaze. This is certainly no classic, but gets over as a cheap indie with wooden acting, a stilted revenge story and plenty of filler shots of carnival life. The exploitation pic is written and produced by David F. Friedman. It takes the viewer on a dark ride into the world of carneys and does it in a goofy crowd-pleasing diverting way. Its assets are that it provides a realistic chippy carnival atmosphere, beautiful color photography and great makeup for the freaks.
Miserable Texas country-girl diner waitress Jade Cochran (Claire Brennen) refuses the sexual advances of her gross married boss (Claude Smith) and talks a diner patron (Ben Moore), working as an advanced publicity man for the carnival, into recommending her to his carnival boss (Vanteen) for a waitress gig at the traveling carnival that just arrived in a nearby town. The ambitious Jade looks to better herself, and feels much better that she lands the job. The calculating hussy figures since she’s a good-looker without any talent, therefore her best bet is to hook a guy with some dough to support her. Her carny roommate Moon Mullins ( Lynn Courtney), the hoochie-coochie show dancer, tells her the most eligible guy at the job site is the recent widow Steve St. John (Bill McKinney), a decent well-off guy who runs the successful Freak Show. Moon tells the crass Jade to avoid Blackie (Lee Raymond), the womanizing hunk who is the Ferris wheel ride-man, because he’s a good for nothing. Jade has it both ways, as she seduces St. John to marry her, despite despising the freaks he loves, and fucks Blackie whenever he has an itch for her. One of St. John’s loyal freaks, Shorty (Felix Silla), follows Jade on his own, and reports her affair to St. John. In a tussle between St. John and the low-life Blackie, the good guy gets knifed to death and the widow smiles because she now takes over running the Freak Show. But the freaks know that the cold-hearted bitch hates them with a fierceness and they get their chilling revenge, giving the viewer a cheap thrill to see what a ghastly thing the freaks did to their sworn enemy.
REVIEWED ON 10/10/2011 GRADE: B-
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