Freaks DVD £2.97 at Amazon
One of the most famous, most shocking and, for much of its existence, most elusive of cult films, Tod Browning's Freaks remains worthy of its dubious top billing by literary critic Leslie Fiedler as the greatest of all Freak movies. At the centre of the story are two circus midgets, Hans and Frieda (already well known in the 1930s through film and advertising appearances as Harry and Daisy Earles), whose marriage plans are blasted when Hans becomes the target of the aerialist Cleopatra's plot to marry him then kill him off for his money. During what is certainly one of the most notorious scenes in cult film history, the wedding party of freaks ritually embrace Cleopatra as one of us. Through her undisguised horror at this and her gruesome punishment by the freaks, the film bluntly confronts viewers about our awkwardness about different bodies while simultaneously stirring up fear and alarm in familiar horror-movie style. Better known for the Bela Lugosi version of Dracula (1931), Brownings showmanship was equally a product of the circus (he was himself an adolescent contortionist in a travelling show). His meshing of circus and cinema--two dangerous entertainments--produces Freaks' uniquely disquieting effect.