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Sunday, March 8, 2009

She Freak (1967) Dis List review #2

This column is reserved for terrible movies with little, to no redeeming qualities that are woefully disappointing to me; movies that could, or should have had potential, but fail on nearly every level; movies that aren't good enough to be bad cheese. This is...



Claire Brennan (Jade Cochran), Lynn Courtney (Pat Mullins), Bill McKinney (Steve), Lee Raymond (Blackie Fleming), Claude Smith (Greasy)

Directed by Byrone Mabe

NOTE: This review features several gratuitous pics of Lynn Courtney because she's the best thing about this yawn inducing home movie.

Jade Cochran is a waitress working in a dive off the beaten path. One day a man enters the greasy spoon promoting a carnival and Jade, ready for something better, jumps at the chance to work for the traveling sideshow. Her real personality eventually shines through and she riles the anger and murderous tendencies of the freaks living within the carnival.

This absolutely dreadful movie from the producer of the H.G. Lewis movies has literally nothing going for it. Mabe's idea of "entertainment" is shoveling A LOT of extended documentary style footage down our throats like so much cotton candy and fried dough. These fitfully monotonous scenes consist of people putting up rides, patrons enjoying themselves on said rides, the workers taking them down, and so on and so on. Director Byrone Mabe shoots this turgid flick like a home movie. Not only are there seemingly endless scenes of carny workers doing their jobs, you get seemingly endless scenes of Jade and Steve going on dates and hanging out together. What's most annoying (or humorous depending on your point of view), is that these scenes feature no dialog whatsoever. You see the "actors" mouths moving, but nothing is heard aside from the awful Muzak that plays repeatedly over the soundtrack.

Considering this cure for insomnia is supposed to be an exploitation movie, you would expect to see some torrid sex and sleaze courtesy of the ample opportunities the story provides. Apparently, all this is lost on the minds of the director; and having seen the gruesome, yet mediocre gore movies Friedman has lent his producer credit to, I was expecting to see some of the same here. The director can't even be counted on to deliver some true to life carnival attractions to give the five people that paid to see this thing back in 1967 their moneys worth.

The characters are all terribly uninteresting. Being a remake of the controversial classic, FREAKS (1932), this late 60's edition has a lot of potential for a good amount of sleazy and salacious delights. But the director fumbles the ball at every turn and is about the only filmmaker I can recall that almost makes a strip tease a tedious affair. With nudity and gore almost nonexistent, there's really little reason to watch this pointless excuse of a movie.

The script can't make up its mind if it wants to present Jade as a sympathetic character or one that we are supposed to hate. She alternates between the two and doesn't really decide on one particular personality till the final ten minutes or so just prior to the "freaks" getting their revenge on her. What's really perplexing is that Jade wants something better out of life and to her, getting a job in a carnival and sleeping in a camper or motel room is her idea of the high life.

I must say though, that Lynn Courtney is quite a beauty, yet she never strips away her clothes completely. If she had, it would have made this cinematic torture device a bit easier to endure. About the only time the film displays anything macabre or repugnant is in the last couple minutes. But if you've seen FREAKS (1932), then you know how this will boring flick will end. There's an additional shot of poetic justice that recalls a scene from the, wait, the beginning was a straight ten minutes of people working and patronizing a carnival. Director Mabe fails to even attempt any sort of sympathy for the "freaks" in this carnival. Aside from a midget named 'Shorty', you never see any freaks outside of a sword swallower and a few poorly made up creations at the end.

The film, masquerading as a documentary on viewer tolerance levels, is 83 minutes long, and at least an hour of that is meaningless drivel accompanied by Muzak. The last couple minutes ALMOST (and I use that word very loosely) makes it somewhat worthwhile. But then, this is comparable to being constipated for 81 minutes followed by a two minute purge. Although the release is gratifying, it's not something you'd want to go through again.

This review is representative of the Something Weird DVD.


TheReverendDoom said...

Thanks for sparing me the agony of watching this one. I love Browning's FREAKS but this sounds like it is the polar opposite... I almost fell over reading that Jade wanted something better so she joined a carnival. You know logic is left out of this movie with stuff like that.

venoms5 said...

What makes it even worse is that at first, the audience is supposed to feel sympathy for her, then her character suddenly changes to a conniving, devious woman and back again. Then, during the last ten minutes, she becomes this evil bitch who gets her comeuppance at the hands of some badly made up performers masquerading as freaks.

Such potential for exploitation greatness is wasted. Lynn Courtney was great to look at, though, but you don't see enough of her if you get my drift.

TheReverendDoom said...

Yea this is exploitation without the money shots. Guess Lynn Courtney had that no-naked clause in her D-movie contract. Cuz you know no one was going to sign her to be in You Only Live Twice or Quatermass and the Pit - two other great movies from 1967...

Browning made his Freaks the right way using real "freaks". That is a great movie and still creepy as hell. The scene in the rain at night is the best.

I love seeing film makers try to remake or re-image a movie that they think they can improve on and love seeing them fail miserably.

venoms5 said...

That DVD for the original FREAKS is a must have. The doc on the making of the film was longer than the movie itself!

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed She Freak. It was like a documentary on carnival life with a soap opera front end. said...

Shefreak is a great movie! Such fun and gorgeous ladies. A beautiful time capsule of the sixties. Sorry you do not see that. Your loss

venoms5 said...

@ Unknown: Yes, the carnival atmosphere was nice, and the main attraction of the movie for me. My expectations were too high at the time, unfortunately.

@ Godzillafreeway. Yes, it's my loss as I wasted $20 on it.

Anthony Crnkovich said...

I don't agree with all the negative feedback here. SHE FREAK is an authentic time capsule of the carny scene as it was in the '60s, and made by a guy who lived it. The exploitation angle only adds to its enjoyment.

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