Sunday, December 15, 2013

#1,217. She Freak (1967)

Directed By: Byron Mabe

Starring: Claire Brennen, Lee Raymond, Lynn Courtney

Tag line: "Behind the Tents and Tinsel of a Monster Midway Something Barbaric Occurs on the ALLEY OF NIGHTMARES"

Trivia: At one point, this film was recut and re-released under the title Asylum of the Insane

Shot against the backdrop of an actual traveling carnival, 1967’s She Freak was billed as a remake of Freaks, Tod Browning’s classic ‘30s horror film.

So much for truth in advertising!

While working as a waitress at a greasy diner, Jade Cochran (Claire Brennen) learns that a carnival is coming to town. Hoping to find a rich guy who’ll take care of her, Jade figures the carnival is as good a place as any to start looking for a man, and soon lands a job there. Before long, she’s embroiled in a heated affair with Blackie (Lee Raymond), a known womanizer who operates the Ferris wheel, while at the same time dating the wealthy Steve St. John (Bill McKinney), owner of the carnival’s freak show. Despite the fact she can’t stand the so-called “freaks” he calls his friends, Jade eventually agrees to marry Steve, yet continues to see Blackie on the side. Has Jade finally found the secret to happiness, or will her deceitful ways lead her down the path of ruin?

She Freak, which clocks in at just under an hour and a half, drags terribly, slogging along at a snail’s pace through much of the movie (an early scene in which Jade is working at the diner seems to go on forever). The real problem I had with the film, though, was its total lack of freaks! Whereas Browning’s movie was chock full of the odd and unusual, the most She Freak can muster up is a sword swallower, a snake charmer, and Shorty (Felix Silla), a little person who works as Steve’s assistant. The grand finale, which features the film’s sole ghastly freak, does pack a wallop, but by that point it’s too little too late.

These issues aside, She Freak does provide an interesting glimpse into the behind-the-scenes workings of a traveling carnival (numerous montages show employees setting up and dismantling the various attractions), and is a fine example of ‘60s low-budget filmmaking (its producer, David S. Friedman, had previously teamed with director Herschell Gordon Lewis on such groundbreaking horror films as Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs). So, as a curiosity, She Freak has something to offer. On any other level, the movie fails to deliver.

1 comment:

Tommy Ross said...

So you finally broke your "She-Freak" cherry huh? Ha, a must-watch at least one time in a movie lover's life. Nice review. Agreed, the behind-the-scenes look at carnival life, especially the setting up and tearing down of rides and exhibits is more interesting than the story. If you're into trivia, the lead actress Claire Brennan died just ten years after making this at the age of 43 from cancer and it was discovered that she had a nine-year relationship with the guy that plays Shorty, they had a kid together but kept the relationship a secret from the public until her passing.