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Cinema of the Bizarre

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© Lorrimer Publishing Limited 1976
First published in 1976 by Lorrimer
Publishing Limited 47 Dean Street
London W1 in association with Futura
Publications Limited 110B & C Warner
Road London SE5

ISBN 0-85647-105-4

Origination in Great Britain by


Jack Pia Limited London

Designer: Dave Allen


Cover design by: Art Direction

This book is sold subject to the condition


that it shall not, by way of trade or
otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or
otherwise circulated without the publisher’s
prior consent in any form of binding or
cover other than that in which it is published
and without a similar condition including
this condition being imposed on the
subsequent purchaser.

Frontispiece from Even Dwarfs Started Small (Werner Herzog, 1970).


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The cinema grew out of the fairground and its
sideshows. Throughout history, freaks were
commonly put on show in travelling fairs - giants
and dwarfs, thin men and fat ladies, Siamese twins
and people with two heads, man-beasts and
fish-women. When Melies first developed the cinema
of magic with outsize heads that exploded, monsters
at the North Pole, and gigantic Devils, the early
cinema seemed just another novelty, a superior
sideshow. Many of the early cinema distributors
in America were fairground people, looking out for
the extraordinary to pull in the crowds. Out of this
tradition grew the Cinema of the Bizarre. For by
cutting and close-up, distorted lens and optical
tricks, the cinema could make far more grotesque
freaks than men ever could. From The Phantom of
the Opera to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, from
The Man Who Laughs to that masterpiece of the
Cinema of the Bizarre - Tod Browning’s little-seen
Freaks, movies were made that used the human
obsession to see the deformed and the unusual. It
was this tradition that became a staple of the cinema
in the monster movie, that could so easily make a
Cyclops on the screen or a Living Doll. The atomic
age, of course, made man-monsters the product of
radio-active mutation, but they were really still the
old sideshow attractions, that have thrilled every
adventurous child - and his father too.
Other titles in the series

CELLULOID ROCK
The history of celluloid rock - the story of rock music as interpreted by the movie-makers of
the past twenty years - takes us from the inclusion of Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock’
on the soundtrack of Blackboard Jungle to the twenty-years-on nostalgia of That’ll Be The
Day, Let The Good Times Roll and American Graffiti. It’s a story which goes by way of Rock
’n’ Roll, twist and the beach party, to the Beatles on film, the Elvis Presley superstar vehicles,
and the documentary skill of the festival film-makers and Pennebaker.

SWASTIKA: CINEMA OF OPPRESSION


When the jackboot stamped across Europe, the cinema was one of its most important means
of propaganda. Mussolini called it ‘his best weapon’. This book is the first to examine the
horrors as well as the successes of the totalitarian cinema. It ranges from the movies made
under Hitler and Mussolini and Franco and Stalin and the Emperor of Japan to the brief
McCarthy period in Hollywood. An absorbing book with riveting and rare illustrations of
how oppressive governments tried and failed to blindfold the eye of the camera.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

1'he publishers wish to express their grateful thanks to Bizarre magazine for its pioneering
work on prodigies and freaks. They also acknowledge their debt to the following
organisations and people for their help in preparing this book: the British Film Institute,
Fox-Rank, MGM, EMI, Columbia-Warner, United Artists, Allied Artists, Paramount,
Universal MCA, Cinema International, Hammer, the Cinema Bookshop, AIP, Contemporary
Films, British I.ion, Hemdale, Intercontinental Films, the stills and information departments
of the National Film Archives, Titan International, Don Getz, A1 Reuter, Brian Mcllmail,
and Martin Jones.
from frali-fthom to film
Man has always distorted his world. In the human folly and divine incest. Particularly,
skies and the sea and far places, he has he has invented men-beasts to haunt himself
always imagined monsters and demons, — centaurs and mermen, sirens and snake-
mythological beasts and misshapen men. women. He has made half-real the terrors of
In his religions, he has conceived a weird his nightmares. (See Colour Section)
descent of man from god and demigod, from In classical times, Greek legends and

This 17th century Dutch woodcut shows a man trying to destroy a fishman.
10

In this engraving by Gioseffo Petrucci, A serpent-woman makes love to a snake


horse-headed men dispute in their in this fantasy of Africa.
Roman togas.

Sirens try to tempt Odysseus and his


sailors to an underwater love.

shade them from the sun when they were


Andromeda is rescued from the dragon not hopping upon it. There was even the
by Perseus mounted on a winged griffin. fabulous unicorn that could only be en¬
trapped by letting it rest its phallic horn
travellers’ tales peopled the earth with fan¬ on the lap of a virgin. The dreams of men
tastic creatures. Heroes rode to the rescue of created a phantasmagoric zoo of weird
fair maidens on winged horses, killing beings on earth, and until rationalism came
dragons on the way. Voyagers were tempted along in the eighteenth century to begin
by the deathly love and chanting of sirens. the modern classification of the species,
There were whole races of freakish men, there was no scientific method to distinguish
some with a single foot so large that it could between the fable and the fact.
Gustave Moreau makes a fantasy out of the virgin and the unicorn.

Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire tried to define medieval kings, dwarfs and giants had been
what a freak really was. ‘One can reduce,’ very popular; but more deformed creatures
he wrote, ‘all possible monsters into three had been relegated to the cages of travel¬
classes; the first is that of monsters who are ling showmen. Now research into the
excessive, the second is monsters who lack anatomy of men provoked a mass interest
something, the third those who have parts in the bizarre manifestations of humanity,
of themselves reversed or in the wrong when something went wrong in the womb.
place.’ This scientific curiosity about the This cult of deformity culminated in the
monsters of men and nature put freaks and great Barnum and Bailey freak show in
freak-shows very much in vogue. Since the Paris in 1901, in which there were Japanese
courts of the Roman Emperors and the dwarf jugglers and a Hercules with an
12

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the crippled


French painter. A film was made. Lust
for Life, in which Mel Ferrer played
the painter in harnesses that doubled
back his legs and made him walk on his
knees.

Right: General Tom Thumb dressed up


as Napoleon.
13

These sketches of contemporary beggars are by Hieronymus Bosch and they


influenced his nightmare paintings of Hell.

expanding chest, Jo-Jo the dog-man and a children like ancient Sparta, we would have
girl whose skin was that of a leopard, Miss deprived ourselves of a host of our bene¬
Clifford the sabre-swallower and the African factors - Aesop and Cervantes, Scarron and
Alfonso with an ostrich stomach, Charles Toulouse-Lautrec, Steinmetz and even
Tripp the legless wonder and the double- General Tom Thumb. It is nobody’s fault
jointed albino Rob Roy, a tattooed man to be born with fault; we do not choose
and a living skeleton, a magnetic girl and a our parents. And these prodigies, which
human pin-cushion, a fat man and a man were exhibited to satisfy our taste for the
with an unbreakable head, a rubber man bizarre, are only ourselves in another form —
and a telescopic man and a bearded woman if we did not make them ourselves for our
— in fact, most of the human prodigies of own secret gratifications.
the world. For there are freaks which men have
‘Prodigy’ is a better word than ‘freak’. carved as well as nature. Beggars have
For if we had exposed our deformed always displayed their infirmities in order
14

to pluck charity from our pockets. Travel¬


ling showmen long had a tradition of de¬
forming babies to exhibit them later. In his
famous novel, The Man Who Laughs, Vic¬
tor Hugo’s hero is a lost noble child,
Gwynplaine, who wears an everlasting
smile because a monster-maker has slashed
the corners of his mouth upward. Hugo
talks of the monster-factories, where freaks
were produced to royal order, dwarfs and
giants and amputees, as if on some foul
Bed of Procrustes, which could shrink and
extend and lop its victims to size.
The magic cinema of Georges Melies deve¬
loped in the 1890s at the time when the
passion for beasts in the theatre and for
freaks was at its height. At the Theatre de la
Gaite of the time, the crowds could see the
naked Bob Walter dance behind a mass of
snarling beasts, and also see the most
famous Siamese twins in all the world,
Rosa-Josepha. Rosa, indeed, had a child by
a lusty wood- cutter, while Josepha turned
her back and pretended to know nothing
Conrad Veidt plays Gwynplaine, restored about it. It brought in the crowds,if nothing
to his noble heritage and Mary Philbin. else.

Rosa-Josepha from a contemporary French poster.


15

Imp. VERGERi BARET.83.R.Lafayeti<


16

Georges Melies plays the magician him¬ Melies himself was a magician in the
self, creating his own gigantic head. music-halls and the fairgrounds. When he
began to make films in 1895, the distortion
of the human body was naturally one of the
tricks which he used. In a famous sequence,
his own head was blown up to a giant size —
and exploded. His films of illusion, ranging
from A Trip to the Moon to the apparent
documentary of the Coronation of Edward
VII, were chiefly exhibited by his friends,
FICTL the fairground showmen. While his com¬
petitors, the Lumiere Brothers and Edison
and Pathe and Eclair, used theatrical out¬
lets, Melies trusted to the oldest method
of exhibition of them all - the booth in a
circus or fair.
The tradition of using a sideshow to
exhibit freaks is both literally and figura¬
tively as old as the cinema. Not only were
the first films shown in the fairs, but the
first classic of illusion, The Cabinet of Dr

A fairground cinema in England, about


1900.
17

Dr Caligari introduces his somnambulist killer in a fairground.


18

WiQFESSOR,•JAI>fpMlS

Professor Lampini also introduces his torture-chamber in House of Frankenstein


(1945).

TW HEADED CHILD'

Above: The stand of the two-headed


baby is set up in She-Freak (1967).
Right: The stand-owner displays the
freak-baby . . . before being made into a
freak herself.
19

The dwarf pulls the heroine’s hair in


Murders in the Rue Morgue (1972).

Caligari, began with the fairground show¬


man luring the girl inside his booth to show
her the corpse-like Conrad Veidt standing
immobile in his coffin. The tradition of the
showman as an introduction to a horror
film has continued ever since through the
Tod Browning pictures of the 1920s and
1930s up to such modern versions as the
House of Frankenstein, which is opened by
Professor Lampini’s ‘Chamber of Horrors’,
and She-Freak, which also begins with
a fairground freak show. Grand guignol has
also been used extensively as an introduc¬
tion to a horror film, particularly in the-
most recent version of The Murders in the
Rue Morgue and in the underrated
Christopher Lee vehicle, Theatre of Death.
In the Bergman film, The Seventh Seal, the
little show of the travelling clown and his
family is actually a denial of the Death
which is going to claim all the other
players in this film of the Middle Ages. Yet
normally, the theatre or the fairground is
20

The corpse under the merry-go-round in Lepke (1974).

The sideshow with its corpses encased Lionel Atwill caressing his clay sculp-
in wax burns down at the finale of The ture before losing his hands in The
Mystery of the Wax Museum. Mystery of the Wax Museum.
21

Vincent Price laying out his corpse stolen


from the morgue in House of Wax.

the place for murder or violence in cinema


in order ter counterpoint false gaiety and
bright music with real horror — this was the
Hitchcock technique in Strangers on a Train,
imitated by Reisz in Saturday Night and
Sunday Morning, where Finney is pursued
across the fair, and in Lepke, where a corpse
is found under the hooves of the wooden
horses.
Most unearthly of the fairground freak
shows are the wax museums with their still
reproductions of the living and the dead.
The famous German Expressionist Wax-
works of 1924, where the waxworks come
alive to relive their roles in history, has Vincent Price embalming his victim
been used as a horror idea many times over, before encasing her in wax for his Side¬
most notably in 1933 by Michael Curtiz show.
under the title of The Mystery of the Wax
Museum, and with Vincent Price as House of damaged so that he now has to work with
Wax (1953). Although neither of the two the naked corpses as models and coat them
later versions approach the atmosphere of in wax rather than clay, and also Vincent
deformity of the original one, both Lionel Price, achieve a macabre and nightmarish
Atwill, as the sculptor whose hands are quality at this sideshow of horror.
22

The monster-freak kidnaps a victim in The Mutations (1972).

Yet in all the more recent uses of the horrific monster, who brings in his victims,
freak-show, none has been more terrifying is no beautiful Conrad Veidt, but a creature
than The Mutations. In this, Donald of diseased countenance that might have
Pleasence plays the traditional role of the risen from a plague-pit. As the fairground
mad experimenter on human forms. A fair¬ barker in She-Freak declared: ‘There are
ground, indeed, does introduce the freaks, only two sorts of monster, Ladies and
called ‘The Royal Family of Strange People’. Gentlemen, those whom God made and
(See Colour Section) Yet Pleasence is a man those who were put together by me. I think
who obsessionally makes new mutations - there are both sorts in what you are looking
the individual worker at what the modern at in there ...’
fall-out at Hiroshima did en masse. His
23

Donald Pleasence, helped by his monster assistant, experiments on a victim in The


Mutations.
24

Real EffoW
What nature had born unfortunate, the their story was undramatic compared with
cinema made hideous. Nearly all the freaks the case of Lucio-Simplicio, two other
known to medical science and showmen Siamese twins, who married two twin sisters
had their development in horror movies. and danced the tango on skates. One of them
Even Siamese twins had their film story, became drunk and knocked over a child
taken from some of the more bizarre true while driving. A legal problem arose. How
episodes in the history of prodigies. The could the guilty party be sent to jail when
joined twins Eng and Chang, who gave the he was joined to an innocent man? The
name Siamese to like brothers and sisters, judge sentenced the guilty one to a huge
had to flee show business in the United fine. Then the innocent twin refused to go
States," because they were pursued by a on exhibition, saying that he had enough
nymphomaniac, who insisted on trying to money and it was not his fine to pay. So the
marry them both simultaneously. They then guilty one had to threaten suicide, thus
married two women who loathed each other, killing them both, if the innocent one did
so that they had to set up two homes and not go on with the show ... A story, indeed,
spend alternate nights with either wife. Yet strong enough for the cinema, and in 1950,

An engraving of early Siamese twins, taken from De Monstris by Fortunius Licetus.


25

Eng and Chang on show at the height


of their fame.
Two pairs of Siamese twins, taken
from Pierre Bouistuau, Histoires
Prodigieuses, of 1560.

Daisy and Violet Hilton, the stars of


Chained for Life (1950).

a film was made called Chained for Life,


starring two genuine Siamese twins, Daisy
and Violet Hilton. The plot followed the
history of Lucio-Simplicio, with one sister
judged guilty of murder, while the other
remained innocent and inseparable. Such
26

Aquanetta, the ape woman, before her was not the case with Radica and Doodica,
operation . . . and afterwards. who were separated by a Doctor Doyen in
front of the cameras. Both died of the
operation.
Almost as celebrated was Julia Pastrana,
the Gorilla Woman, who fell in love with
her manager in 1860. He did not wish to
lose such an attraction, married her and
had a monstrous child by her. Both mother
and child soon died, so the ex-husband
exhibited their stuffed remains all over
Europe and made a small fortune. Poor
Julia Pastrana! As she was dying in child¬
birth in front of a paying group of
sensation-mongers, she whispered to one of
them, ‘I die happy, because I know that I
am loved for myself alone’.
From such a prodigy, a whole sub-genre
of cinema grew. Although most of the
human apes of the cinema were gorilla-men,
used for purposes of terror, there were two
sad ape-girls, who had the pathos of the
original Julia Pastrana. One was Aquanetta,
who grew slowly and horribly into an ape.
The other was Tropazia, whose nearly
27

human form caused a scandal similar to the


Lucio-Simplicio case, when her discoverer
caused the death of one of her tribe to pro¬
voke the issue in court — when is a beast
human and when is killing an animal the
same as murder?
Less ape-like, but more hairy, are those
sad sufferers from hypertrichosis, which
makes hair sprout all over the skin. In
ancient times, it was probably freaks of this
nature which seemed to prove the legend of Krao reclining in the woods.
werewolves. There were three famous suf¬
ferers from this disease, who were widely
seen across Europe. The first was Tognina,
who came from a family that all suffered
from this hereditary malady. The second
was Krao, here seen in a sylvan setting, as
if to offset her bestial looks. And the third
and most famous was Lionel, known as the
Dog-Man, who travelled the world on
show and hid his feelings behind his mask
of hair. (See Colour Section)

Pat Suzuki plays Tropazia in Skull-


duggery (1970), based on Vercors’ novel
Les Animaux Denatures.

Above: Tognina, dressed as the spirit of


Spring. Below: Lionel, the Dog-Man.
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LS-.
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i ifn a Ail; |

Werner Oland in Werewolf of London


(1935).

The make-up of the werewolves of the


screen closely followed the actual pictures
of those who had hypertrichosis. From the
special effects invented for Warner Oland’s
portrayal of Werewolf of London through I
was a Teen-age Werewolf to Paul Naschy’s
The Fury of the Wolfman, the cinema has
relied on exaggerating human deformity
to turn men into animals. The classic case
of this bestial metamorphosis is, of course,
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, where we actually
see the transformation of Frederick March
into the man-ape or dog-man. Lionel,
though, had no fangs. This was the addition
of the cinema of blood.
Other beast-headed freaks also seemed to
spring from legend to fact to farce. There
was a famous pig-headed woman, who came
from Ireland and was exhibited in London
at the time of Waterloo. In fact, ‘pig¬
headed’ was taken literally in some comic

The monster in I was a Teenage Were¬


wolf (1957).
29

Above: Frederick March changes to the


ravening Mr Hyde, right: The pig-faced
lady from Ireland, born in 1794.
30

A comic French postcard. Another comic French postcard.

A man with a horn . . . Francois Trouillu. A cartoon of a unicorn-man.


Francesco Lentini, the famous three-
A comic French postcard of a cuckold. legged man.

plays. There was, of course, Bottom in to have an unfaithful wife and led to certain
Midsummer Night’s Dream, who grew the fantasies and dialogues in that perennial
head of an ass like King Midas, and who theme of the cinema - adultery.
thought himself all the more beautiful for Other circus freaks were less evident on
it. And there was the old legend of the the screen. Bearded ladies and human skele¬
unicorn, which literally grew on the fore¬ tons, three-legged men and indiarubber
heads of some prodigies - or grew twice on women were no longer popular attractions.
the brow of a cuckold. To grow horns meant There were certain stranger sights that

An unknown bearded lady. An unknown lady contortionist.


34

Hit Agti ei th« Human fir#all

Max Schreck presented the first screen vampire as a skeletal freak out of a side¬
show in Nosferatu (1922).
35

The first two classic horror films both had


freakish monsters as their heroes. Perhaps
it was no surprise that both came out of
Germany, traditionally the home of the
grotesque in art. Max Schreck’s portrayal of
Nosferatu, the original Dracula on film,
and Paul Wegener’s portrayal of The Golem,
both presented distorted visions of humanity.
Schreck was as cadaverous as a skeleton,
with bald head, jug-ears, protruding teeth,
and hooked fingernails more than a foot
long, in the style of a mandarin from China.
Wegener was an enormous, expressionless
clay zombie of a monster. The characterisa¬
tion of both roles was taken from known
human abnormalities. So was Lon Chaney’s
performance in The Phantom of the Opera
and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which
made films about deformed people popular
also in America. Chaney’s Phantom wore a
mask of death that was almost as horrific as
his deformed face beneath, while Chaney’s
Hunchback was almost obscenely ugly -

Claude Seurat, a skeleton-man who


exhibited himself in Paris in 1820.

Wegener as the Golem beside his master’s daughter (1920).


Lon Chaney is unnaturally deformed in
The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

ridiculous sometimes, rather than horrific.


Yet somehow Chaney always conveyed an
essential humanity in his most contorted
roles - something that Charles Laughton
captured even better in the second version
of The Hunchback of Notre Dame of 1939.
In that film, Laughton suggested unwilling
evil and a rage against the unfairness of
birth that was truly moving.
The great period of the cinema of the
bizarre dated from 1925 to 1932, when the
popular cult for the abnormal collapsed
with the failure of the most outrageous film,
Freaks, made by the leading director of the
grotesque, Tod Browning. The mass cult
had grown up through one remarkable actor,
the contortionist and perfectionist, Lon
Chaney. Chaney’s career in the monster
cinema began with A Blind Bargain of 1922,

Lon Chaney makes his entrance at the Opera Ball dressed as Poe’s Red Death.
37

Chaney rages against the mob at Notre Dame.


Chaney plays both mad doctor and
monkey-man in The Blind Bargain
(1922)—the gorilla-man is played by
Wallace Beery.

in which he played both the mad surgeon and


the dumb hunchbacked anthropoid - the
result of the experiments. Chaney’s parents
had actually been deaf-mutes and Chaney
had learned his miming in childhood to
explain himself to his mother on her sick¬
bed; when his marriage to his alcoholic
wife went wrong, Chaney found his solace
(rather like Houdini) in inventing more and
more agonising contortions and disguises
to flee from the man he was. In both the
player of monsters with a thousand faces
and in the professional escapologist, there

Chaney distorted his body freakishly to


play the monkey-man.
Chaney’s deformed, but melancholy hunchback.

seems to have been a consuming masochism not to play his more outrageous monster
and professionalism that drove them to risk roles until he met the true heir of the freak-
their lives and wrack their bodies to the show, Tod Browning, who had actually run
limits of pain. away from his home in Kentucky to tour
As the Hunchback of Notre Dame, with a carnival as half of an act, called ‘The
Chaney had worn seventy pounds of Lizard and the Crow’.
breastplate and rubber hump, a false hairy Thus the world of beast-men and freaks
body-skin, putty on his face and fangs on was merely the school of his adolescence to
his gums. Yet even so, he managed to act Tod Browning. His Hollywood career had
with his eyes and gestures a melancholy begun with serving as D. W. Griffith’s assis¬
role behind the make-up. He often stated tant on Intolerance, along with Erich von
that he merely wanted to show the twisted Stroheim. He then graduated into directing
ways of a man’s heart on his face, but ‘the himself. His first films were undistinguished
make-up is merely the beginning’. So it was thrillers and comedies with titles such as
with his Phantom, with his wired and The Legion of Death, Unpainted Woman and
distended nose, his fixed and toothed mouth, Brazen Beauty. His first box-office success
and his lank and balding skull. Yet he was came with The Virgin of Stamboul in 1920,
.1 - *
1 S’
11
rjj
.

Tod Browning among his friends, the


sideshow artists of the carnival.

while his use of Chaney as an actor began


with The Wicked Darling of 1919 and with
Outside the Law in 1921, which Browning
himself remade as a talking picture in 1930
with Edward G. Robinson in the Chaney
role. This Chinatown thriller was also a
success as well as being one of the first of
the gangster films, almost as influential in
its way as Von Sternberg’s first film
Underworld. But it was the third of the
Browning-Chaney films made in 1925, which
set the pair on the road to the most intrigu¬
ing partnership in the Cinema of the Bizarre
- The Unholy Three.
The plot of The Unholy Three is truly

In The Unholy Three, Chaney plays the


ventriloquist.
In the English Dead of Night (1943), there is an episode about a dummy that speaks
back to its master.

macabre. Chaney plays Echo, a ventriloquist, that Chaney remade it as a talking picture
who becomes bored with the proceeds of in 1930 just before he died of cancer. In that
pick-pocketing carnival customers and version, he was also the man of five voices
dresses up as a little old lady, who sells - the ventriloquist’s, the old woman’s, the
talking parrots in a pet-shop. When the dummy’s, the parrot’s, and the girl’s.
parrots are bought, the buyers rapidly dis¬ The first version of The Unholy Three
cover that the birds do not talk — Echo has earned enough money for Browning to make
been throwing his voice into their beaks. other films in that vein. Altogether, he was
When a complaint comes in, the little old to shoot seven films with Chaney. The next
lady comes to call, pushing along her baby two of them, The Blackbird and The Road to
called Tweedledee - actually midget Harry Mandalay, were more romantic than shock¬
Earles, who waits to be left alone in order ing. Even so, Lon Chaney was allowed to
to climb out of his pram and stuff spare show his talent for disguise, playing both the
jewels into his diapers. The third member role of an old crippled preacher and of a
of the gang is a strongman, who does any Whitechapel thug in The Blackbird - a
rough stuff that may be necessary, while repeat of his instant trick cure in The
the picture ends by the escape of a giant Miracle Man of 1919, when he changed
gorilla, which strangles the unholy mur¬ from the deformed ‘Frog’ to a healthy
derers. All the fun of the fair in one youth at the drop of an amen. But in The
movie! In fact, the movie was so successful Unknown of 1927, Browning gave Chaney
Left and above: In The Unholy Three, Chaney plays the ventriloquist disguised as
an old lady, while Harry Earles plays the midget ‘baby’—he was to star in Brown¬
ing’s Freaks—and Victor MacLaglen played Hercules before his role in The
Informer. Below: The gorilla comes out as the final killer in The Unholy Three.
notice that he is automatically using his
toes to hold the cigarette rather than his
hands, although they are free. When he does
notice this, he grows obsessed with the idea
that, if he really has no arms, the girl will
marry him, for nobody will ever know that
he is her father’s murderer. He has his arms
amputated and destroys his thumbprints
for ever, then he returns to the circus to
find out that the girl has given her love to
the local strongman, Hercules. Insane with
jealousy, Chaney plots his revenge. The
strongman has a trick, by which he appears
to keep two wild horses from pulling him
apart merely by his strength. In fact, the
Chaney pouring himself a cup of tea wild horses are galloping on revolving drums,
with his feet in his role as the armless so that the strongman only seems to be
knife-thrower in The Unknown (1927). restraining them. Chaney jams the mechan¬
ism of the drums with his toes. The strong¬
his most freakish role yet. As he himself man’s arms are really being torn off by the
said of the film, ‘when I work on a story for wild horses. Stage-hands manage to control
Chaney, I never think of the plot. That the horses, but one of them breaks free and
writes itself when I know the characters. tramples Chaney to his death . . . This plot
The Unknown comes simply from the fact was the result of Browning’s speculations.
that I had an idea about an armless man. That a film so bizarre could ever get its
So I asked myself what were the most sur¬ money back, let alone be quite successful,
prising situations and acts which a man was a tribute to the sympathy which Chaney
as mutilated as that could be involved in. A could provoke in his audience — and a
circus artist who used his feet as well as witness to the habit of seeing freaks in fair¬
his hands, who lost the woman he loved and grounds and carnivals. Chaney followed up
tried to commit a terrible murder with his this outrageous movie with a double role
toes, that was the result of my speculations.’ in Browning’s London After Midnight, the
It was just so. The Unknown begins with a first authentic American vampire movie,
circus girl, whose act is to spin on a revolv¬ with the twin puncture marks in the throat
ing wheel, while a knife-thrower hurls his and the obligatory stake through the heart.
knives around her. The knives are thrown Chaney plays both the part of the vampire
by Chaney with his feet, for he seems to be with make-up and ghastly grin, only a little
armless. We soon discover that the girl’s less weird than his Phantom of the Opera,
father has been murdered by a man with and also the role of the Police Inspector,
two thumbs on one hand, and, in a moment who has set up the whole vampire business
of horror, we see that when Chaney has merely to extort a confession from a mur¬
his straight) acket removed from his costume, derer at the end of the film.
he has arms and hands - but one of his As Browning explained, London After
hands has two thumbs. The plot thickens Midnight was an example of how to get
and quickens. Chaney mistakes his girl people to accept ghosts and the super¬
assistant’s sympathy for love; but what natural by letting them turn out to be the
can he do? If he marries her, she will dis¬ machinations of a detective. The audience
cover that he is the two-thumbed murderer was not asked to believe ‘the horrible
of her father. One evening, after his act is impossible, but the horrible possible, and
over, he is sitting relaxed in a chair and he plausibility increased, rather than lessened,
begins to smoke a cigarette. He does not the thrills and chills’.
Above: Chaney plays the vampire in London After Midnight (1927), almost as
grotesque as the Phantom of the Opera. Below: Chaney reveals his true face as the
Police Inspector and hypnotist at the window of the haunted castle with Henry B.
Walthall (right) in London After Midnight.
Bela Lugosi and Carol Borland as the vampires look at the blood-sucked corpse in
March of the Vampires (1935).

Lugosi, in his famous role of Dracula in Browning’s film of 1932, approaches his
victim.
Lugosi as Dracula shrinks from the Cross on Von Sloan’s words, ‘More effective
than wolfbane, Count’.

As with Outside the Law, Browning made Browning’s other films with Chaney were
a remake of London After Midnight as a talk¬ not extraordinary. In lVest of Zanzibar,
ing picture, under the title of Mark of the Chaney played a magician, who set up a
Vampire in 1935. In the second film, Bela ghastly death for his enemy’s daughter, only
Lugosi plays the vampire as though sleep¬ to discover that she was his own child so
walking from his recent role in Browning’s that he had to save her life by giving his
Dracula, while Lionel Barrymore plays the own. Chaney’s roles in Browning’s The Big
other half of the Chaney role, the Police City of 1928 and Where East is East of 1929
Inspector. Yet Lugosi’s vampire in 1935 were equally undistinguished. In fact,
was hardly more freakish than his famous Browning demonstrated his love of the
portrayal of Dracula in Browning’s huge .carnival far more in the film The Show of
success of 1932. In fact, his exposure as a 1927, which had as its centrepiece a Palace
ham actor in the ending of the 1935 vampire of Illusions as real as that of a Barnum and
film seems an apt commentary on his whole Bailey circus. In the Browning version, John
career as an actor, despite his one huge suc¬ Gilbert plays a John the Baptist who has
cess with Dracula. his head cut off nightly after Salome’s dance,
interpreted by Renee Adoree. Of course, a
jealous rival tries actually to cut off Gil¬
bert’s head, while the amputated hand of
Cleopatra appears to take the entrance
money of the patrons of the Palace of
Illusions. This marvellous film showed the
close connection between the cinema of the
bizarre and the sideshow, as did two other
Browning movies on the tricks and illusions
of mediums and fortune-tellers, The Mystic
of 1925 and The Thirteenth Chair of 1929,
.SHF

in which Lugosi played his first minor role


for Browning.
Yet it was Lugosi, limited actor though
he was, and not the extraordinary genius of
the dead Chaney, who gave Browning his
greatest success — the Dracula of 1932.
The woodenness of Lugosi, which could be
interpreted as aristocratic reserve, and the
Tod Browning appears to be a giant as courtesy of his sub-Valentino looks and
he sits in the foreground, with Renee manners, added romanticism to the gothic
Adoree looking at John Gilbert’s head extravagances of the vampire tale. Browning
on a platter in The Show (1927). unfortunately never understood that the
.EBEND

DIP [MIG ECHTE LOWEHMEHSCH DID [DDE

Kilo
schwa
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Top: Lionel, the Dog-Man, is compared with lions in this German poster.
Bottom: A human trunk dressed up in military fashion for the Kaiser’s Germany.
JppSst

BANGI
AVAGES
Tkeatre 0C_^L£

Imp. VERGER* BARET. 83.R .Lafayeti'


OUT OF THE DARK, FANTASTIC MADNESS OF HIS SCIENCE...
HE CREATED THEM!...
Pig-Men.. .Wolf-Women...
Thoughtful Human Apes
—And His Masterpiece...
The Panther Woman . . .

CHARLE5 LAUGHTON
BELA LU0O51
RICHARD ARLEN
LEILA HYAMf
and the

H. C. Wells’ Surging Panther


Rhapsody of Romance,
Adventure and Terror!
Woman
Re-released by Universal Pictures

The lady becomes a beast in Island of Lost Souls (19.12).


CIItttl F. D HIVERI ROILGVARI) l»KS nUE!HM-C.M.VA«K '"TSSSaP^l

LES AMERICAINS 1
Les Papillons

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| TinDCSRUE fraHeruJA.nitmult.- baMa.IR.-Tninwi.50c. - IcDinnb Latin mmcrtua la j«in b 11 ham ti nlii i 0 tarn it air.

You won’t dare


open your mouth...but
YOU’LL BE SCREAMING
FORHERTOEmIAPE!

COLUMBIA PICTURES p:

WILLIAK
WYLER'S

TERENCE STAMP SAMANTHA EGGAR


STANLEY MANN and JOHN KOHN • Based on the best
JOHN FOWLES• Music by MAURICE JARRE- Produced b\
and JOHN KOHN ■ Directed by WILLIAM WYLER • TE

These two butterfly-human posters show the direct connection between the circus
sideshow and the cinema.
Lugosi does his bat-act with his cloak
as if he had flown down the stairs in
Dracula.

mammoth triumph of Dracula was secured


because of the ordinary appeal of its villain,
who concealed his monstrosity under his
cloak rather than showing it on his distorted
face and body as Chaney did. Deformity
should be within; it disturbed the audience
less; this was the sour lesson of the bojf-
office. But Browning wanted to go further
into the world of the grotesque and the
misshapen, to prove that the form of human
beings did not matter, only their behaviour
and their souls. The success of Dracula
gave him the chance to indulge his most
bizarre fantasies in the film, and thus to
blight his career.

The gothic atmosphere of Dracula’s castle was more credible to its audience than
the true deformities in Freaks.
50

‘We didn’t lie to you, folks,’ the fairground played by Olga Baclanova, a poor man’s
hustler says inside the sideshow at the Jean Harlow, blonde and stealthy and pre¬
opening of Freaks. ‘We told you we had datory. Watching her from below is Hans,
living, breathing monstrosities! But for an played by the ‘baby’ from The Unholy Three,
accident of birth, you might be as they are.’ Harry Earles. He is the epitome of the all-
The audience shifts uneasily. ‘They did not American hero, only he happens to be three
ask to be brought into the world.’ Now the feet tall. Yet his mannered playing and
hustler moves the people forwards. ‘Offend instinctive courtesy make him sure of win¬
one - and you offend them all.’ He takes the ning the sympathy of the audience. When
people to the edge of an open pit, where she has descended, Cleopatra drops her
something squats at the bottom. There is a cloak in front of him, but he is too short
scream, but we do not see what is at the to replace it on her shoulders - it is a
bottom'of the pit. ‘She was once a beautiful moment of social embarrassment as great as
woman,’ the hustler says. ‘She was once the Stroheim sequence when the society
known as the Peacock of the Air ...’ lady drops her glove and a cloaked man does
Now there is a dissolve to an artist on the not pick it up, being later revealed as arm¬
trapeze, the beautiful Cleopatra. She is less.

Olga Baclanova and Harry Earles with carnival stagehands.


51

Cleopatra laughs at Hans, then patronises


him, by kissing his cheek, while he feels the
same as ‘big people’. This assertion leads us
into Browning’s real world of freaks, when
he takes us to a sunny wood by a lake, where
the ‘mother’ of the side-show artists is taking
her flock for a walk. There we see the Hilton
sisters, the pretty Siamese twins, who bicker
about the man one of them is going to marry.
There are three pinheads called Schlitzie
and the Snow Twins, who are very shy; a
bearded lady who is about to give birth to a
bearded baby; a skeleton man who is the
proud father; a merry half-man called
Johnny who moves about like a bird on his
two hands; a Hindu Living Torso called
Randian who only has a trunk and a face;
and a Man-Woman called Josephine-Joseph,
whose female side has fallen in love with
Hercules, the normal Strong Man. The
‘mother’ of all these prodigies is played
movingly by an actress from the Sarah
Bernhardt troupe, Rose Dionne, who
defends her charges passionately against the

The Bearded Lady gives birth, congratulated by Bozo and her friends.
52

Bozo and his friends, the Snow Twins.

verbal assaults of a game-keeper. They are


like children, she declares, and they all have
their place in God’s world. At the end of her
speech, the audience has begun to feel more
than pity for the freaks. They are so unself¬
conscious about themselves, that we feel
friendly towards them.
Their other normal friend is now intro¬
duced, Bozo the Clown, who asks the pin¬
heads about their pretty dresses and
generally makes us feel that these are
special and proud people, scared only of the
normal world because of its hostility. The
freaks are, indeed, worried by Hans becom¬
ing more and more in love with Cleopatra.
The midget is lending her money and buying
her expensive gifts. ‘Cleopatra isn’t one of
Hans woos Cleopatra in her caravan.
53

Cleopatra makes love to the strongman


Hercules.

us,’ some dwarfs say. ‘We’re just filthy


things to her.’ Still, Cleopatra goes on
taking presents from Hans and deceiving
him with her regular lover, the strongman
Hercules. Hercules is shrewd enough to see
that one of Hans’s gifts is a platinum neck¬
lace, worth thousands of dollars. He must be
rich. He is worth exploiting.
Now another midget joins Cleopatra,
Freida, the tiny bareback rider. She is in
love with Hans and pleads with Cleopatra
to forget him. Cleopatra only wants the for¬
tune, which Hans has inherited. But Cleo¬
patra mocks Freida for being so dwarfish
and drives her out. Then she settles down

Cleopatra mocks the midget Freida.


54

Hans declares his love for Cleopatra.


55

_
Cleopatra plans to marry Hans—and poison him.

with Hercules to plot how to get the thing into his champagne, which makes him
midget’s fortune. She will have to marry sick and comatose.
Hans and get rid of him. Midgets are not Meanwhile, the freaks are drinking them¬
strong. selves into a state of mania. They begin
Now we cut to a wedding feast even more chanting an extraordinary thumping chant:
bizarre than Bunuel’s beggars’ orgy in ‘We accept her, one of us,
Viridiana. A table has been set up in the One of us, one of us.
middle of the circus tent, and there the We accept her, one of us ...’
freaks are assembled to celebrate the mar¬ The chant becomes louder and louder as a
riage of Cleopatra and Hans. First they crippled midget pours a magnum of cham¬
perform, swallowing swords and eating fire. pagne into a huge loving-cup, gets on the
Cleopatra is sitting at the head of the table, table, and takes it round from freak to
getting drunk on glasses of champagne. chanting freak.
She has sat Hercules on her right and Hans ‘Gooble, gabble, one of us
on her left, and she openly kisses the strong One of us, one of us,
man in front of her midget husband. While One of us, ONE OF US!’
Hans is not looking, Cleopatra slips some¬ The thought of joining herself to this mis-
56

shapen and abnormal lot disgusts Cleopatra. spy on all she does. When she is with her
As the loving-cup reachers her, she rises to lover Hercules, she knows she is being
her full height, towering over the table. observed. And, at last, Hans is warned about
She yells drunkenly, ‘Freaks! Freaks!’ Then the danger. He refuses the medicine that
she takes the cup and throws it over the Cleopatra offers him, and when she has gone
guests. She and Hercules then chase away back to her strongman, he gives the order
the crawling, deformed, drunken, limping to his friends, ‘To-night.’
little creatures, with the strongman blowing A storm breaks. The caravans and wagons
a mocking farewell on a trumpet. Hans sits of the carnival move on. Underneath the
slumped at the table, too sick to move, until wheels, the half-man Johnny runs along on
Cleopatra carries him off. his hands. When Cleopatra goes to give the
Now we are in the caravan of Hans, as he poisoned medicine to Hans, his friends
grows weaker. The doctor cannot cure him, suddenly appear, sticks and knives and
and Cleopatra insists on giving him his revolvers at the ready. She screams, and
daily medicine. She is kindness itself, his the caravan hits a tree and splinters.
nurse and his helper. But she is always being Hercules hears her scream and attacks the
watched. Whenever she leaves the caravan, little people, hurling them from side to
little people peer at her, hobble after her, side. Bozo runs up to defend them, but is
teeth, jagged things ready to maim him in
every crevice of their deformed bodies. He
slips for the last time as lightning flashes
and we see the freaks upon him. Darkness
falls on his screaming...
Now we are with the sobbing Cleopatra
as she runs through the wood. She looks
back in another flash of lightning to see the
freaks moving in on her, bent on their
revenge. She screams again as they catch her
and begin to work on her ...
Now we are back in the carnival side¬
show by the open pit with the fairground
hustler looking down and ending his pitch.
Even Randian arms himself for the The audience look down, quiet and shocked,
freaks’ revenge. as they hear his words. ‘How she got that
way will never be known. Some say a
also dashed into the mud. Cleopatra has jealous lover. Others, the code of the freaks!’
run away in terror into the storm ... Then we see what has been done to Cleo¬
As Hercules slips on the muddy ground, patra, and it is Browning’s sole mistake in
looking for Cleopatra, he sees that he is the film. He has misused an old gag invented
surrounded by the freaks, all slithering with Lon Chaney, whom he transformed
and crawling and hopping and jerking into a giant chicken, so that the final shot of
towards him through the night. They are Cleopatra is not horrendous, but comical.
armed and all about him, knives in their She looks like a half-plucked oversize fowl.
59

And the credibility of the picture, so cleverly Freaks was the effective end of Tod
sustained by Tod Browning because he has Browning’s Hollywood career, although he
made the freaks so normal, is destroyed in was to make a few more films. It was prac¬
the last shot. How, after all, could the freaks tically unseen for thirty-five years, until a
put feathers into Cleopatra? rare print was shown at the Venice Festival of
Still, that was Browning’s one mistake in 1967. There it got the international acclaim
this masterpiece of . the cinema of the that it deserved - yet far too late for Tod
bizarre. Theatre managers and audiences Browning.
simply could not bear its message, that the As Penelope Gilliatt wrote of Freaks:
deformed were more ‘normal’ than the blond ‘The film is moving, harsh, poetic, and
Aryan Strong Man and Queen of th£ genuinely tender. It triumphs at once over
Trapeze. The critics universally panned your nausea ... as a fable, concerned like
Freaks and the crowds stayed away in droves. most fables, with pure ideas of trust and
Desperately, MGM re-issued it under a new betrayal and due revenge.’
title, Nature’s Mistakes, with such teaser
captions as - DO SIAMESE TWINS MAKE Chaney as a giant chicken.
LOVE? WHAT SEX IS THE HALF-MAN
HALF-WOMAN? An unctuous prologue was
tacked on, declaring that history and reli¬
gion, folklore and legend abounded in tales
of misshapen misfits who had altered the
course of world history. It then declared that
these deformed people were Goliath,
Caliban, Frankenstein, Gloucester, Tom
Thumb, and Kaiser Wilhelm - of these,
three were fictitious, and the Kaiser not a
freak at all! The new preface ended on the
soothing note that modern science was
rapidly eliminating such blunders from the
world.

Cleopatra as an oversize fowl—both were Browning’s idea.


60

Jtari lisente
The success of Freaks thirty years later woman, the doll-maker Madame Mandelip.
did not stop the failure of Tod Browning’s Curiously enough, Browning provided a
career in the 1930s. Although he did make happy and sentimental ending. But in the
four more films in the seven years after interval, the devil dolls were a triumph of
Freaks, only one of them, Devil Doll, had the art of miniaturisation, more hallucina¬
the quality expected from a Browning ver¬ ting than any dwarfs from a Lilliput Revue.
sion. He used the miniaturisation techniques In 1939, Tod Browning disappeared, leaving
pioneered by Laurel and Hardy to produce only a legend behind him in the cinema of
the plot of a ruined financier, who used tiny the bizarre.
shrunken murderers to do away with his The failure of Freaks was a stern warning
betrayers. to other showmen in the same style. When
As in The Unholy Three, the financier bent Cecil B. de Mille heard of it, he cut from
on revenge disguised himself as an old The Sign of the Cross a fantastic sequence, in

Maureen O’Sullivan plays the lethal lady in The Devil Doll (1936), here miniatur¬
ised by Henry B. Walthall (right).
The effects of scale in The Devil Doll are mesmerising.
62

mMWtr tote

The Dwarfs fight the Amazons in this


scene cut from Cecil B. de Mille’s The
Sign of the Cross (1932).

which dwarfs fought Amazons for the


pleasure of the Roman crowd. Another fail¬
ure of 1932 proved that cinema audiences
were turning away in droves from the
movies of monstrosities. That flop was the
Charles Laughton version of H. G. Wells’s
The Island of Dr Moreau, retitled Island of
Lost Souls. Wells fiercely denounced the film
as a travesty of his original novel and, like
Freaks, the movie was to be totally banned
in Britain for thirty years.
The plot of Wells’s novel was another ver-

This giant Amazon called Miss Marion


was a huge success in London in 1882.
The beast-men rage at Dr Moreau in
Island of Lost Souls.

sion of the theme of the mad scientist. This


time, Moreau did his genetic experiments
and vivisection on a tropical island, where
he tried to create a new race of humanoid
beasts. Laughton played Dr Moreau in a
particularly lip-smacking and revolting way,
lisping as he referred to deformed creatures
in cages as ‘my less successful experiments’.
It was a parody of the Nazi bestiality to
humans to come. The beast-people them¬
selves were horrible enough. They included
Bela Lugosi behind a faceful of hair, cringing
at Laughton cracking his whip until finally

Charles Laughton tries to whip back the


deformities, which he has created.
64

The poster emphasises the beautiful


woman and minimises the freaks.

cornered by his own mutations and put on


the vivisection table himself in his ‘House of
Pain’. His mutilation was even more horrid
than Cleopatra’s in Freaks and proved more
than the human stomach could bear. Even
a well-publicised search for a beautiful
Panther Woman could not save the film
from a slump at the box-office and tem¬
porary oblivion. (See Colour Section)
Beast-people, of course, have haunted
humans ever since prehistory. Not only did
the human race actually evolve from apes
and neanderthals, but the first cave-art of
the primitive Europeans shows an identifi¬
cation between men and animals. In Classi¬
cal Times, monsters such as the hydra and
Geryon were not feeble freaks with their
multiple heads and bodies, but the strongest
enemies alive. In the Middle Ages, beast-

This primitive drawing of a stag-man


and sorcerer comes from the neolithic
cave-paintings found at Trois-Freres.
Above: Hercules battles Geryon, in
order to steal his herd of red cattle.
Left: This 19th century cartoon mocks
people were more identified with devils and the visions seen under hypnosis.
imps than with demi-gods, and the mouth of
Hell was often seen as the jaws of a mon¬
strous hairy fish. Later, beast-people were
identified with trances and hypnosis, such
stuff as dreams are made of. Thus it was
good material for the cinema, the ancient
myth of the half-world between animals and
men.

Left: This scene of the jaws of Hell is


taken from the Livre de la Deablerie
E| (1568).
66

Above: Bela Lugosi plays the ape-man in Lock Up Your Daughters (1956), a Lugosi
compendium of footage from his films. Below: John Carradine protecting his
monstrous ape-child in Half-Human (1955).
The neanderthal in Trog (1970).

The ape-man was naturally the first freak


beast to be exploited. Balaoo, the Demon
Baboon, made by Eclair in 1913, set a pat¬
tern of a man-ape, created by science to
terrify screen maidens and cinema audiences.
This tradition worked its way through the
gigantic King Kong to the pathetic Bela
Lugosi at the end of his career, pretending
to be a simian rather than a vampire in
human form. The ape-man could range from
the idiotic (like John Carradine in his woolly
suit in Half-Human) to the abominable
(like Trog or Frankenstein, Monster from
Hell) on to the sympathetic (like the apes in
the series of Planet of the Apes). (See Colour
Section)

The ape-man menaces in Frankenstein,


Monster from Hell (1972).
THE FINAL CHAPTER
in the incredible Apes saga. The most unbelievable
showdown ever filmed as two civilizations battle
for the right to inherit what’s left of the earth!
69

Yet the threat of the beast-man remained


atavistic and sexual. The city people who
went to the cinema were far from the village
people, who thought that the wild and hairy
monstrosities of their time were fond remin¬
ders of the recent ages when they had also
lived in the forests. To the urban masses,
the hairy paw was a threat of murder or
rape. Posters of horror films about blood
beasts deliberately exploited this fear. Only
rarely was a film made — and that from an
ancient fable - in which the hair and the
form of the beast turned out to be sympa¬
thetic, as in Cocteau’s La Belle el la Bete.
There, of course, the love of the beauty for
the beast turned him back into a handsome
prince. It would take times like ours to enjoy
Walerian Borowczyk’s Immoral Tales, where
the ravished maiden turns out to be a
nymphomaniac who sexually exhausts the
poor rampaging beast.
After the ape-man, the devil-bat seems to
hold the most primitive terror. The fact Above: A Renaissance woodcut of
that there are blood-sucking bats in Nature an early sufferer from hypertrichosis.
The Beast pursues the Beauty past the
ornamental stag’s head with its symbolic
cuckold’s horns in Cocteau’s film of
1945.

has long identified the night creatures


with human vampires. The make-up of
Max Shreck in Nosferatu deliberately exag¬
gerated his bat-like qualities, so that he
seemed to fly down on his victims. Some¬
times the size of the bats themselves was
exaggerated, and they were given huge and
devilish intelligence. In The Devil Bat, Lugosi
trained an artificial bat, plugged into wires
in his laboratory, to do his diabolical
errands. Although this particular mechani¬
cal bat looked ridiculous, the devil bat
sequence in Tarzati Escapes was to prove so
frightening to its universal audience that it
had to be cut from the final version of that
escapist movie.
Recently, a film has been made called
The Bat People, who are demi-human

A close-up of the Beast at its most


terrifying.
The Beauty exhausts the raging beast in Immoral Tales (1974).

Fifty years later, Blacula uses the same


Schreck comes down like a vampire bat bat-like technique to drop on the
on his victim. jugular of his victim.
The Devil Bat (1940) charges up between takes, while Lugosi watches.

Tarzan fights back against the devil bats to save his people, stuck in a swamp ii
Tarzan Escapes.
73

The Bat People (1974) are half-human and half-bat.

John Beal plays the bestial vampire in this version, where he is turned by pills from
doctor to blood-sucker.
74

Christopher Lee always goes for the throat with class and the gentlemanly
reserve of Lugosi.
75

VELVET VAMPBRE
bloodsuckers that live in underground
caverns and emerge for their raids at night.
It is a literal rendering of the vampire
legend, where fangs and a cape are usually
sufficient substitutes for the bloodsucking
and the wings. Some vampire pictures
deform their beastly villains and some intro¬
duce grand guignol techniques, such as The
Velvet Vampire, who likes to wave bodiless
heads around. But on the whole the vampire
suggests the bat rather than becomes one —
particularly when played by the natural
heir to Lugosi, Christopher Lee.
Other conversions from beast to man have
proved highly popular. In Alligator People,
a serum distilled from the brutes made the
victims of car accidents grow claws and
scales. In The Reptiles and S-s-s-snake,
ladies turn into snake-women like Lamia
in the old legend. In The Fly and its sequels,
a fly with a man’s head and man’s body
with a fly’s head menace their ladies after
their ghastly metamorphosis. Yet in all these
changes from human to beast, the most
marvellous and haunting is that of the
spider-woman, which even Mae West por-

The victim screams at the fly’s head on


the human body in The Return of the
Fly (1959).
76

Mademoiselle Fougere plays the spider-woman in the French music-hall of the


1890s.
Mae West plays a spider-woman in
Belle of the Nineties (1934).

trayed in Belle of the Nineties in one of her


musical numbers. (See Colour Section)
Beasts live as we do, and the line between
man and beast will never be clear. If we take
their lives, should they not take ours? If we
breathe, do not they? If we change our
nature, does not nature change us? As
William Blake once asked, considering the
household fly:
For am I not
A fly like thee?
And art thou not
A man like me?

This double-bill shows freakish monster and freakish man.


78

Rabelais and Jonathan Swift invented


the literary world of giants and midgets for
the purposes of satire in Gargantua and
Gulliver’s Travels. In the sideshow as well
as in the cinema, outsized and tiny people
always pulled in the crowds. The giant is a
tragic figure in real life, for he has outgrown
his strength. But in legend and the cinema,
he is a superman like the Maciste or Hercu¬
les of the Italian cinema. And in the cinema
of the bizarre, it is the capacity of film to
trick the scale of things that makes even the
Cyclops of legend less terrifying than the
Dr Cyclops of the movie.
Other than The Devil Doll with its terri¬
fying assertion from Rafaela Ottiano, ‘We’ll
make the whole world small,’ there are two
other great films of miniaturisation. Dr
Cyclops and The Incredible Shrinking Man.
In the first, a party of explorers reach the
depths of the jungle to find a mad Doctor,
who has succeeded in shrinking a horse to
the size of a human hand by bombarding it
with radioactive radium, kept in a sealed

Below: Steve Reeves lifts a huge stone Above: The giant Charles O’Brien getting
statue in Hercules Unchained (1959). measured by his tailor.
The blinded Cyclops rages against Ulysses.
Rafaella Ottiano tries to miniaturise the world, beginning with a dog.

In Dr Cyclops (1939), Albert Dekker plays the mad doctor examining his cache
of radium.
The hero of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) tries to push back the household
cat from his doll’s house.

container in a secret mine. He then shrinks and trying to keep at bay the household cat,
the explorers down to the size of mice and now ten times the size of a tiger to him.
hunts them down with butterfly nets to kill The cat chases him into the cellar, where
them or experiment with them. The minia¬ he battles with a spider for dominion and
ture freaks fight back, blinding him by steal¬ cheese. Shrunk now to the size of an ant,
ing his thick glasses, setting up a gun as a he crawls out through the wire mesh of the
booby trap, or using scissors as battering- cellar grid into the garden and looks up
rams. Finally, pursuing the little people, through the grass, high as a jungle, at the
Dr Cyclops plunges to his death in his own stars, while a thrilling voice says that it
radium mine, and luckily the tiny humans does not matter the size of man, his will
grow back to their normal size. power can make him master of the universe.
No such luck for The Incredible Shrinking There have been other marvellous effects
Man. A radioactive cloud causes him to of giants in films, particularly in the second
shrink. He cannot stand the charity and love British version of The Thief of Bagdad of
of his normal-sized wife, and tries a hopeless 1940. In that, the giant djinn at first threat¬
affair with a midget lady. But he goes on ens to crush the little thief with his huge
shrinking, until he is living in a doll’s house foot, but, tricked back into his bottle, he
Karloff raises a giant helper in The Mummy (1932).

Gigantism is the freakish trick that


makes King Kong the most terrifying
monster of them all . . . even though he
was built on studio stilts.
85

Ray Harryhausen produced stupendous


giants in Jason and the Argonauts
(1963). Here Neptune aids the voyagers
by pushing apart the cliffs.

becomes the thief’s accomplice in stealing


the All-Seeing Eye from the Temple of the
Dawn. Sabu played the Thief with great
elan and his childish version made even the
great Douglas Fairbanks’s magic antics in
his earlier version seem almost clumsy.
The monstrous djinn was also a feature
of The Mummy of 1932, which started a
whole cycle of films dealing with Pharaohs
and sorcerers raised from the dead. Many
special effects people, particularly the great
Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen, have
concentrated on the tricks of scale and fore¬
shortening, most notably in King Kong and
in Jason and the Argonauts. One of their
successors, Bert Gordon, has made a whole
career by merely altering the scale of things
with films such as The Amazing Colossal
Man and War of the Colossal Beast. Adver-

A publicity still from Kiss Me Kate, the musical version of The Taming of the
Shrew.
86

A poster for a German fat lady.


The dwarf-jester plots his revenge in The Masque of the Red Death (1964).

tising, particularly, distorts the scale of the


spectacle in order to bring in the audience,
from films of Shakespeare to the run-of-the-
mill monster movie. It is the old side-show
trick, the overblowing of the poster to get
the people in to pay and see the fat lady.
The dwarf has a more interesting role
in films, which dates from his jester’s role in
the ancient courts, as shown in Borowczyk’s
Blanche. In the best of Roger Corman’s
series of films taken from Edgar Allan Poe,
The Masque of the Red Death, Poe’s tale of
Hop Frog is added to the first story. We see a
real dwarf humiliated by the courtiers and
taking a terrible revenge on the tormentor
by having him burned alive in an ape-suit.
The ambiguous role of the dwarf, which
conjures up a mixture of laughs and terror,
is brilliantly used by Jean Vigo in his anarch¬
istic masterpiece Zero de Conduite, where he
casts a dwarf as the headmaster of the boys’ The midget with his outsize revolver
school. Jean-Luc Godard also captures the threatens Anna Karina in Pierrot le Fou
terrorist in the midget, when he casts a tiny (1965).
The boy descends through the torture
of his piano lessons into the musical
The dwarf offers an apple to the beggar underground hell of Dr T.
woman in Nazarin . . . and below: the
dwarf watches the double-dealing of man as one of the two thugs in Pierrot le Fou.
normal people. For the sympathisers with the dwarf, we
must look to the Surrealists. Spain has long
had a tradition of dwarfs and beggars, as
seen in the paintings of Velasquez and Goya.
Her greatest film-maker Luis Bunuel could
not ignore that tradition. In Nazarin, the
dwarf is a disciple of the new Christ, a kind
and lonely figure in a deformed, upright
world. Werner Herzog took the image of
dwarf society as a reverse reflection of nor¬
mal society in his film Even Dwarfs Started
Small of 1970; but it took the most out¬
rageous of them all, Arrabal, to make a film
with a dwarf shaman hero from the Sahara,
who is devastatingly kind in a twisted,
unnatural, Parisian urban world, and ends
by eating his friend, body and brain and
all, to give him eternal life.
We see in the great and the small the
exaggerated reflections of ourselves. The
mirror distorts and our eyes can never see
the same shapes again. The cinema returns
us to that world of childhood of Jack and the
Beanstalk and Snow White, where giants
and dwarfs are perfectly natural. As is clear
in that underrated classic of freakish music
and monstrosities. The 5000 Fingers of Dr T.
(created by the doyen of writers for children.
Dr Seuss), the child’s mind can change
everything grotesque into a normal being of
the world of dream. It is only adults who are
In Herzog’s film, the dwarf leader silly enough to give the unusual the name
enjoys a joke. of the deformed.
89
90

HuUtien Freato

This picture by Fuseli is called The


In one of the more remarkable scenes Nightmare. Fuseli was Byron’s favourite
in von Stroheim’s The Wedding March, painter, and it was Byron who inspired
the Iron Man appears, laughing terribly, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein in
to carry off the maiden. 1816.

In these two scenes from The Tales of Hoffmann, a mechanical doll dances her
partners to exhaustion . . . and her lover seeks to keep her head from her maker
when her springs are broken.
Legend and battle and opera predated
Frankenstein as the inspiration for the robot
freaks, stitched together or animated by
men. Hephaestus, the smith of the ancient
Greek gods, constructed robot maidens and
bronze knights to terrify the earth. The
medieval armoured knights appeared to the
terrified peasants or savage Aztecs as
mechanical killers, stronger than flesh could
bear. When the Frankenstein legend began,
it grew from a long history of scientific
experiment and the technology of war.
There was also the tradition of opera, where
marvels and tricks and fables were often the
background of the singing.
If Frankenstein's is the most notorious of
the man-made freaks of the cinema, he
developed out of the nightmares and contra¬
dictions of the time, out of that Europe after
Napoleon which was still battling fiercely
between the old rationalism and the new

Boris Karloff suffers as Frankenstein’s


monster .
92

The modern Frankenstein is a parody in the film Munster Go Home!, taken from a
popular TV series.

romanticism. The Frankenstein monster is


deformed because, although his master
Victor Frankenstein wants to create the
most beautiful creature ever made, he has to
work with dead flesh and his quest itself
for man-made life is evil. There is corruption
at the heart of his insolent obsession; the
gods condemn those who would usurp their
function. Thus Frankenstein is made, gro¬
tesque and pathetic, distorted and innocent,
forced to be savage by the cruelty of the
men who have created him. Karloffs per¬

■ lEc&V
formance in the original Frankenstein films
directed by James Whale sets a standard for
the suffering monster that is always moving
and sometimes Christ-like. Yet the very fact
of his deformed make-up has condemned his
sensitive playing to the parody of lesser
actors ever since.
This Spanish film was originally entitled Cinema audiences have always reacted
The Mark of the Wolfman, but was better to the man-made freak rather than to
changed for its American release into the natural freak. They find the distortions
something more exploitable, Franken¬ produced by mad scientists easier to shrug
stein’s Bloody Terror, when it had off as tricks of the screen, while the actual
nothing to do with Frankenstein at all. vision of dwarf or hunchback is more haunt-
Claude Rains has to be totally masked
Charles Laughton looks at the distant and gloved to make himself visible in
mob about to attack him in The Hunch¬ The Invisible Man (1933) . . . otherwise
back of Notre Dame (1939). (below) only his outline showed.

ing - there, but for the grace of God, were


we. There is also an element of fantasy in
the freakish concoctions of science, at its
most extreme in such magic concepts as
The Invisible Man or The Man with the
X-Ray Eyes. In these films with their pseudo¬
scientific rational explanations to persuade
us of the possibility of their magic tricks,
we are freed into the true worlds of the
cinema, its ability to show us visual halluci¬
nations more satisfactorily than any dream.
This quality is also found in the best of
the ghost films, and in Dreyer’s extraordinary
Vampyr, and in the more recent Japanese
essays of this genre, particularly Kwaidan.
In Vampyr, we seem caught in a nightmare,
whose freakishness is suggested by a fogged
lens, thick gauze, overexposure, the fact that
objects have no shadows even in strong
sunlight. In Kwaidan, double exposure and
printing on negative makes our whole world
abnormal so that we lose contact with all
reality and enter the world of the insub¬
stantial. It is a far cry from such subtle

John Carradine is only suggested in


outline in The Invisible Man's Revenge
(1944).
94

In Vampyr (1932), we seem to be in a


dream of unnatural evil.

The ghost rides over the Samurai in


Kwaidan (1964).

Lou Costello looks at the head of the


stupidest man in the world (his own
head) in Abbott and Costello Meet
Frankenstein (1948), one of the cruder The ghost of the woman appears . . . and
parodies of the genre. appears . .. and appears in Kwaidan.
95

The hypnotised killer in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari who set the style for later
killers in slow motion.

special effects to the crude horror of most


American ghost movies, which concentrate
on obvious visual terror, or else crude parody.
Horror films with freakish man-monsters
can really be divided into two types - those
with minimum make-up and those with too
much make-up. The first group are the
zombie pictures, the walking dead. Based
on the somnambulist killer in Dr Caligari,
the zombies lurch stealthily through their
roles. Their stillness and slow motion is their
unnatural menace, as in Karloffs The Walk¬
ing Dead and The Raven or in Val Lewton’s
I Walked with a Zombie. Only in later and
lesser horror movies are zombies made
hideous and frightful, more the stuff of
corpses than the dead-alive. They are up¬
dated, designed to appeal to younger genera¬
tions, more used to the horrors of mass
graves and atomic fallout. They seem to
want their features of horror even more
ravaged than the worst make-up worn by
Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera. Karloff walked in a trance through his
So was born the age of the mutation role in The Raven (1935).
97

This zombie feature of 1966 makes the


zombies look as if they are decomposed.

freaks - men changed by radiation or some


other body into ravening creatures. Some¬
times these creatures were atavistic like
The Neanderthal Man, sometimes they were
futuristic like the Morlocks in George Pal’s
version of The Time Machine. Always they
were horrific, sometimes bestial. What was
certain was that they were the product of
the new technology of science or war - profitable to make pictures of cannibal
atomic or chemical freaks. Their personality freaks that made audiences nauseous rather
was split between beast and man, between than wondrous. There was no limit to dis¬
humanoid and mutant. They lived in the figurement, which would pull in the crowds.
new world of scientific deformation, not the Where Hammer Films had led off mildly
old world of mythology. They were the in The Quatermass Experiment in 1955,
schizoid man-beasts of rational cruelty. others were sure to exaggerate still more.
For cruder shockers, any explanation It was difficult to imagine more gory or
would do. Some cynical producers found it putrescent shockers than the Philippine
Rod Taylor fights for his life against
the Morlocks in The Time Machine
(1960).

In the final battle of the Apes saga, the


world is split between good manlike
apes and evil mutant humans.

Blood Devils and Creatures of Evil, the


Belgian Le Sadique aux Dents Rouges, or
the American Brain of Blood.
Yet as each limit of horror and freakish¬
ness appeared, the frontiers of terror
In The Split (1962), a man’s personality demanded more explorers. The Mutations
is literally split by a scientist so that has already been mentioned for its old-
he battles his own bestial self on the fashioned beginning in a freak-show. What
edge of a volcano. was modern was the diabolical ugliness of
100
101

A Blood-dripping
BrainTransplant
turns a Maniac
into a Monster...

the leading monster, paralleled by the island


suffering from acromegaly due to pollution
in Doomwatch. Yet even these deformities
did not approach the ghoulish idiocy of the
most extraordinary double bill ever pre¬
sented, which rejoiced in the titles of / Drink
Your Blood/1 Eat Your Skin.
So the man-beasts of mythology have
become the mutation freaks of today, and
the thalidomide children are now the
chemically-distorted heirs of the genetic
mistakes of yesterday. We show in the
cinema the nightmares of our own tinkering
with nature. As the poem says in Andrew
Sinclair’s novel about the end of the world,
The Project:
Creation all will hymn the plan
Of its creator. Superman.
We love all living things too much
To leave them separate and such.
O, imminent reincarnation,
Totalistic integration!
102

Hu Herrarfram b«yend
Although we no longer believe in flying upper air and other planets in the cinema of
dragons and winged gods, some of us now the bizarre.
believe in flying saucers and alien presences. Sometimes these alien planets are now
The cinema has very much removed the peopled by the familiar demons and beast-
freak from earth to outer space. The first people of earlier movies, which once showed
European aerial freak was of course, the them haunting the earth. In A1 Adamson’s
Devil, and so he appeared monstrously to Horror of the Blood Monster, an old-fashioned
the virgin victim in Haxan and in Murnau’s horde of grotesques attacks the explorers of
Faust in the early 1920s. But Hell and its Rynning’s world - snake-men, human vam¬
minions were thrown up into the heavens pires, bat demons and a strange mixture
with the possibility of space travel, and between crab and gigantic insect.
now the misshapen terrors of men haunt the On space trips themselves, extraordinary
103

creatures appear in the hygienic conveniences


of the spacecraft, although they do seem to
be the all-purpose creatures of horror
cinema. There is very little difference
between the monstrosity that came out of
the Black Lagoon and the one that con¬
fronted Scott Brady in Destination Inner
Space, while a revival of the monster Fly
terrifies the lady in First Men in the Moon.
We may have originally emerged out of
mud and then developed through the stage
of being monkeys, but it is a little literal to
see in First Man Into Space a decomposing
brown creature emerge (rather less well-
formed than the clay Golem), and it is odd
to find the space-traveller in the flawed
time-capsule of the rocket-ship turned into
an aged dead monkey before arrival on the
Planet of the Apes. Sometimes future travel
is too like prehistory.
Gigantic freaks were also resurrected out
of the past and projected into the future.
When it was a question of destroying cities,
104

A monster appears in Destination Inner Space.

Charlton Heston finds his fellow traveller


The monster scares the lady in First is space-aged into a simian in Planet of
Men in The Moon (1956). the Apes (1968).
105
106

[JOHN BECK]

The scientists in the Arctic station watch


with disquiet as one of them insists on In the laboratory that Frankenstein inven¬
growing other versions of The Thing ted , the apparatus is as frightening as
(1951). the monster.
107

The seedpods from space grow into


giant replicas of human beings in Inva¬ The woman appears in double vision in
sion of the Body Snatchers (1946). Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1924).

what King Kong could do, Godzilla and out of radiation or a test-tube rather than
Reptilicus could do even better. Yet none of out of the old fashioned laboratory that
these superbeasts with human or inhuman made Frankenstein was pioneered by that
intelligences are as frightening as the things important film of the atomic age, The Thing
which could be produced by alien penetration (From Another World). There the vegetable
or mutation. This method of making freaks monster was self-reproducing and if the
scientific experiments had continued, freaks
like The Thing could have covered the
whole world — or indeed have taken over the
human race from within, as in Invasion of
the Body Snatchers.
For a freak finally is what we consider to
be a freak. Odd behaviour can seem more
abnormal than deformity. Freaks are the
product of our judgements and our imagin¬
ings, and they must cover mistakes and
nature’s errors. The drunken commission-
naire in The Last Laugh could see a two-
headed lady just as clearly as he might have
seen the real Siamese twins, Rosa-Josepha.
Shadows can distort human beings as much
as deformity. Close-ups can magnify shapes
into monstrosity. Foreshortening can -make
any object threatening and horrific. Special
lenses can make a nightmare of the real
world. It is the medium of our eye and our
mind and the mechanics of the camera that
creates the abnormal and the freakish. For
the truth is, we are stimulated by the shock
of seeing the unusual and the distorted.
We want the jolt of the cinema of the bizarre.
That shock can be caused without over-
The husband becomes insanely jealous when he sees, in the distortion of the
shadows, lovers apparently approaching his wife . . . from Arthur Robison’s
Warning Shadows (1923).

In Disney’s masterpiece, Pinocchio, The foreshortened phallic sculpture


the shadow of the schoolboy who grows becomes a truly terrifying murder
a donkey’s head monstrously magni¬ weapon in Kubrick’s The Clockwork
fies his deformity. Orange (1971).
109
5%
uMl

The whale’s eye in close-up in Pinocchio makes a leviathan out of the monster.

In Frankenheimer s Seconds,the fish-eye lens shows Rock Hudson’s distorted world.


110

The cut custard-pie sequence from Dr


Strangelove (1964).

Catherine Deneuve plays the girl who


loses her leg in Tristana. Her mutilation
The truck-driver caught in the oil in makes this a powerful film in the Bunuel
The Wages of Fear (1952). canon.

doing monstrosity and mutilation. Nothing As the saying goes, we see the enemy and
could be more effective, for instance, than he is ourselves. This is also true of freaks.
the custard-pie fight in Dr Strangelove (later In the cinema of the bizarre, we see freaks
cut from most versions), which reduced the and they are ourselves. For the cinema
U.S. High Command to gibbering idiots. makes visible on the screen our inward dis¬
No special effects could create a man more tortions and grotesque imaginings. It
sadly monstrous than the truck-driver in The projects before our eyes the creatures from
Wages of Fear, covered with oil, his leg the labyrinths and weird caverns of our
crushed. And the simple loss of one limb in brains. Once we imagined dragons and drew
Bunuel’s Tristana can provide the whole them; now we construct them to terrify
plot of a film, where this amputation becomes ourselves. We want our distorted world and
the visible symbol of a relationship between we have made it.
a young woman and an old man.
The Devil Bat (1940) charges up between takes, while Lugosi watches.

Tarzan fights back against the devil bats to save his people, stuck in a swamp ii
Tarzan Escapes.
CELLULOID ROCK
The history of celluloid rock - the story of rock music as interpreted by
the movie makers of the past twenty years - takes us from the inclusion
of Bill Haley's 'Rock Around the Clock' on the soundtrack of Blackboard
Jungle to the twenty years-on nostalgia of That'll Be The Day. Let The
Good Times Roll and American Graffiti. It's a story which goes by way
of Rock 'n' Roll, twist and the beach party, to the Beatles on film, the
Elvis Presley superstar vehicles, and the documentary skill of the festival
film makers and Pennebaker.
SWASTIKA: CINEMA OF OPPRESSION
When the jackboot stamped across Europe, the cinema was one of its
most important means of propaganda. Mussolini called it his best
weapon'. This book is the first to examine the horrors as well as the
successes of the totalitarian cinema. It ranges from the movies made
under Hitler and Mussolini and Franco and Stalin and the Emperor of
Japan td^the brief MacCarthy period in Hollywood. An absorbing book
with rivepng and rare illustrations of how oppressive governments tried
and faildd to blindfold the eye of the camera.

£1.95 ISBN 0-85647-105-4