Code Blue

Freaksis a campy feature film about love and deception set within a community of carnival sideshow stars. It was released in 1932 with appropriately hysterical taglines: “The Strangest ... The Most Startling Human Story Ever Screened ... Are You Afraid to Believe What Your Eyes See? The Love Story of a Siren, a Giant, and a Dwarf!” Shot in black and white for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the story was created by Tod Browning, who had produced and directed Draculathe year before for Universal. It’s a cavalcade of wrongness that might have kickstarted any subsequent film that exploited dwarfism for horror kicks, but it’s also a film in which the contemporary viewer may enjoy such logic-defying feats as a half-man, half-caterpillar rolling and lighting his own marijuana cigarette. It screens today with Island of Lost Souls, part of a seven-day run of similarly spirited films that embrace illicit sex, drugs, and general depravity with a wink and a smile — “Hollywood Before the Code: Nasty-Ass Films for a Nasty-Ass World.” It rekindles a long-held fascination with the salacious films of what’s often dubbed Pre-Code Hollywood, the period from the late 1920s to the early 1930s before censorship was imposed on the silver screen.
March 2-8, 2012

 
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