Monday, October 10, 2011

She-Freak

Turner Classic Movies is my favourite television channel, but every once in a while they'll air a real dud. When I saw something called She-Freak on the schedule for TCM Underground, I eagerly set my PVR to record it, anticipating some weird, gonzo horror. Unfortunately, She-Freak turns out to be one of those rare duds.  

She-Freak (1967) opens with several minutes of stock footage of a carnival, complete with canned screams of delight repeated on an endless loop. Psychedelic rock attempts to make the setting seem creepy and dangerous, but the ham-handed editing, leaden acting and pedestrian direction sap all the life from what turns out to be, sadly, a dreary ninety minutes of boredom capped off with one of the most egregious rip-offs in cinema history: the last minutes echo Tod Browning's superior Freaks (1932) so blatantly that I exclaimed my disgust verbally, shouting at the television set.If you're familiar with Freaks, you'll know the scene I'm talking about; She-Freak not only steals it, but the makeup effects, acting and direction are so bad it's embarrassing.

There are a few moments of interest. Director Byron Mabe manages (perhaps accidentally) to frame a couple of genuinely goofy close-ups, and there are so many uninterrupted takes of mid-60s carnival life that the film manages to serve as a time capsule of a disappearing cultural phenomenon. If you want to know what take-out cups of Coke and Pepsi looked like in the 1960s, this is your film. Otherwise, don't waste the hour and a half.

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