“I’m not a freak. Shinigami cannot be judged by human standards of attractiveness. Still, Minion thought this photo of me was very dark and freakish looking, and a perfect start to the next movie. I don’t really care. I’ve already lost the map to my new box of chocolates and have no idea which ones hide the coconut. It turns out I really hate coconut and without the map, I have to bite each and every piece…”
I don’t think She Freak (1967) should be considered a remake of Freaks (1932) although there are some similarities. Both movies involve women working at carnivals looking to marry rich men, for example, but the focus in each one is completely different and any attempts to make She reflect the original work makes She look like a reflection in a fun mirror – warped in all kinds of places. More about that at the end.
The opening credits of this one are all about the carnival and a brief look at the side show for a teaser then we scoot into the interior of a junky diner where Waitress Jade is craving a new life. Why she thinks joining a carnival will help that makes little sense, but whatever. The diner boss tells her that she’s going down, way down, all the way down to hell if she takes a job with them. Her response to his idiocy: “From here, it’s all the way up.” At least she’s thinking positive.
Too much of the show is spent on set-up, take down, scenery, and crowds. Historically interesting, but proof the story isn’t strong enough to stand on its own. I’ll admit I’d consider throwing $50 worth of softballs to get this rabbit.
(Side note – My cousin had that dog. I won a small prize version of that some years later which was a yellowish colour a lot kinder on the eyes than Torture Orange.)
Jade gets hired as a waitress (probably her only skill), befriends a stripper and catches the eye of Blackie, the Ride Foreman. She’s not flirtatious by any stretch (yet); she just chats and smiles and guys watch her (ass) walk away.
Jade stops in to see the sideshow one afternoon but finds she can’t handle it. Little is actually shown of that place beyond a sword swallower and snake handler and no real reason is given at the time, but it appears their deformities horrify her. Her friend reminds her that “God made them that way” and they’re better off in a freak show than other places. Sad but true back then, I suspect. “Why do they have to be anywhere?” sneers Jade. Oh, my my my.
Later, Stripper and Jade are in their shared room at a nearby “motor hotel” and Jade asks her about the men she knows. Who’s worth a look? Stripper tells her flat out to skip Blackie. He’s all good looks but no substance. She decides Jade should meet the guy who runs the freak show, St. John, who has a car, house, no wife or kids, and is pretty well off. Of course Jade’s interested.
Other guys are interested in her but Blackie still looks strangely good and she doesn’t hesitate when invited into his trailer. She doesn’t even flip out when he slaps her across the face. That would be the point where I’d say, fuck you, asshole, and march my ass out of his rat trap. What does Jade do instead? She turns to find that he’s ripped the blanket off the bed and whipped his tight black shirt off. She breathes heavy, slides her hand down her breast and goes over to him. And then..
The fuck?!? The assumed sex scene is not included so we can only guess that watching whirly rides go around represents the wild ride of love she’s experiencing. Then she leaves the trailer, catches a glimpse of one of the short side show fellows (named Shorty in the credits) and runs away. There aren’t enough scenes with Shorty to justify her feelings about him, sadly. Is it a phobia, or a hatred of anyone “different”?
She does wind up engaged and married to St. John the side show owner and married life suits her – or at least her husband’s cash does. We see her spending a fortune on new clothes but money can’t buy a new attitude; seems she’s just as put off by Shorty as she ever was.
Blackie doesn’t seem thrilled to see her married, but no matter. I don’t think she married for love. While her husband is busy playing poker, she wanders past Blackie’s trailer again and he’s outside without a shirt on. A brief attempt to remain faithful to her new husband is made, but hey, it’s Blackie and he has no shirt on. And Shorty (played by Felix Silla who played Cousin It, among other roles) sees the pair of them together, finds Jade’s comb in the grass outside the trailer and brings it to St. John the next day. Unfortunately, Jade wanders up at just that moment and Shorty misses his chance to tattle on her.
Jade tells St. John that Shorty doesn’t like her. St. John finds that hard to believe and reminds her that Shorty and all the other side show people are friends of his and “just like you and me.” Jade sneers at that. She’s not like them. Obviously not. They probably aren’t filled with that much hatred. “I’m no freak!” she shrieks at him. I guess this is the first time St. John realizes he married a two-faced bitch who can play nice in public, but rips heads off in private. She’d rather he ran an insane asylum than spend time with what must be sins against nature, in her eyes.
Later in bed together, St. John is trying to inject some compassion into her tramped up bitchy heart, telling her about the lives his friends had outside the show, and how being in the side show at least gives them a feeling of equality because they can earn money, make friends and be an integral part of their carnival community regardless of their physical or mental deformities. She continues to comb her hair and roll her eyes at intervals, finally stating that they’re all disgusting, friends of St. John or no.
Some time later, Shorty gets another chance to tell St. John about his wife but the news doesn’t go over well. Still, St. John suspects that Shorty wouldn’t lie to him about this, even if Jade doesn’t like him and vice verse. Meanwhile, Jade’s at the motel and hears someone knock on the door so she puts her robe on to go see who it is.
Blackie follows her to the bed and a quick cut later we see him quietly leaving, but not before St. John catches him outside their room. Blackie’s prepared for St. John’s lack of duel skill and guts him like a fish with a dagger he pulls out of his boot. He runs off when Jade comes out of the motel room. St. John’s bleeding out of a belly wound and Jade just looks down at him and smiles before slowly walking away. She is the trashiest whore ever. Slutbag.
Blackie doesn’t get away with it and although Stripper suggests Jade take some time off, do some grieving, Jade refuses. “Who’s gonna run my show?” she asks. Yeah, I guess she got the side show business in the will, too, poor freaks. Shorty’s there when she comes to “work” but she promptly fires him. But, since he worked for the carnival for 12 years and has no where else to go, it’s no surprise to find him lurking near her car when she’s ready to leave for the night. Shorty is easy to avoid but he wasn’t the only freak in the show and we finally get a look at everyone else who’d have a reason to hate the widow. She’s not screaming at all, which is a nice relief. She’s just being chased and cornered by all of St. John’s friends, which is where the movie does become something of a mock homage of Freaks, but with a twist. The diner boss turns up later and sees what she’s become and smiles pretty much the way she’d smiled at her soon-to-be-dead husband.
And it ends with this sweet darling of a Christian tag line:
Vengeance is mine:
I will repay.
Saith the Lord
Paul (hopefully) meant that God would sort it all out in the end, that people didn’t have to decide for Him who deserved it. Jade certainly deserved it, though. Fucked up cow. I don’t think they needed to do what they did to her, but whatever. It fit with how Freaks ended, so maybe they felt compelled to honour it.
I think the ending of Freaks is its only flaw. If you can find a copy, watch that one. It’s told from the side show performers’ point of view, backstage when they aren’t working. It’s mostly about a little person who’s fallen in love with a regular sized woman who leads him on because she knows he’s rich and willing to do anything for her. She’s so charming, yet so despicable and you really cheer for the schadenfruede by the end. What really makes that show better than She Freak was their serious attempt to maintain dignity and respect when filming the performers, and nearly all of them had side show acts at one time or another.
Final note – soundtrack. I drooled through the whole of it. I’m a big fan of lounge lizard jazz. Check out anything in the Ultra Lounge collection and see if you can claim the same. I can see some iTunes shopping in my future. Also in my future, a look at the next movie, Shark. Any guesses what that might be about?