_She Freak_ is certainly one of the more accessible of Friedman's post-HG Lewis movies. Obviously intended to target drive-ins, it lacks the more objectionable (and usually dull) `adult' material of his other pictures, and spends more time on the plot. Other strengths include actors that know their lines and location footage (at a carnival) that offers a bit more visual diversity than is usual in the extreme low-budget 60's field. That said, however, the film is deeply flawed and far from a classic. It is frequently billed as a `remake' of Tod Browning's _Freaks_, which is true to an extent, but not in the way one would hope. Clearly the writer took the concept of a selfish carnival girl who is punished by the freaks for her ill-treatment of one of their number and ran with it. Unfortunately, it did not inspire him to particular heights. The most notable difference between this film and its inspiration is the aspects of carny life upon which they focus. _Freaks_ focused on the title characters showing their lives and loves, how sideshow freaks were people with feelings who banded together against a world that despised them. _She Freak_, by contrast, seems mostly concerned with the people behind the scenes: the concessioners and `ride boys' and the Grips (or whatever their called in carny talk) that set up and tear down the big show. Something like 10 minutes of footage is sweaty guys working with tent poles, so if that's your thing As far as sideshow acts are concerned: there's a coochy-dancer (who goes `as far as the law allows,' evidently in a bible-belt state), a sword-swallower, a snake charmer and a fortune-teller. Even the one real `freak' of the film, the unfortunate `Shorty' the midget, gets very little screen time and never performs whatever act he is supposed to have. The other glaring flaw is the character development. The main character, Jade, starts the movie as a bitch, then is re-introduced as a sympathetic character with high hopes, then spends the rest of the movie bouncing back and forth. It got so bad that I started to regard the movie as a Jekyll-and-Hyde tale, with the `bad' Jade progressively screwing up the aspirations of the `good' Jade. But, unlike Stevenson's story, there is no explanation for Jade's dual personality, and no way to predict which side of her would emerge. A more interesting take, had the writer and director been up to the challenge, would have been to portray Jade as starting out nice, but gradually becoming `jaded' (sorry, couldn't help that pun) over the course of events and hard knocks in the carnival, until she went too far and had to be destroyed. Frankly, the `crime' for which she is punished (firing Shorty) does not fit the punishment she earns, and there are other characters in the film that have far more justifiable grievances than the freaks do. One interesting hallmark of the low-budget Friedman approach deserves note. The extended silent sequences, in which the audience is treated to musical montages of images that are supposed to suggest action. Aside from the aforementioned set-up, tear-down sequences, the entire courtship of Jade and her prospective husband is handled in this way. Up until his last two or three scenes, pretty much the only thing this actor says is `Hello.' On the whole, this is actually a good thing. Overall, it's worth it for exploitation completists, and is a watchable film, but not generally recommended.
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Claire Brennen stars as a waitress who leaves the greasy-diner business for the excitement of the carnival. She quickly discovers that she despises freaks and human oddities.
September 28, 2021