30 May 2024
She Freak (1967)
83 min.
Directed by Byron Mabe.
With Claire Brennen, Lee Raymond, Lynn Courtney, Bill McKinney, Claude Earl Jones, Ben Moore, Vanteen, Madame Lee, Marsha Drake, Felix Silla, William Bagdad, Sandra Holcomb.
There are only two kinds of freaks, ladies and gentlemen.
Those created by God, and those made by man.

This 1967 semi-remake of Tod Browning's Freaks (1932) is quaint, if unremarkable.

Working at a greasy spoon, waitress Jade (Brennen) tires of her dead-end job -- not to mention her ass of a boss. And so she burns her apron and hits the road for new opportunities. It's not long before she encounters a travelling carnival and joins up with them as their new concession stand hostess.

Flirtatious, busty, blonde and curvy, Jade isn't one to let dust settle on her 38D cups. When she's not batting her eyelashes at Blackie (Raymond), the hunky muscleman who runs the amusement rides, she's chatting it up with the successful, rolling-in-dough Steve St. John (McKinney), manager of the midway's affairs. A head for business and a bod for sin, Jade wants her cake and she wants to eat it too.

Ultimately though, Jade gets smart and decides to settle down. She marries Steve, and becomes not only his wife but effectively the 'Queen of the Circus.'

That is until a shirtless Blackie comes a-callin' one fateful night. Unable to resist temptation, Jade succumbs to Blackie's sweaty charms. Steve catches them in flagrante delicto, and the two men duke it out for the hand of their beloved. Blackie pulls a switchblade and stabs Steve, who dies before their very eyes.

Now Jade owns the entire circus and can finally be the true diva she was born to be! She can wear fancy tailored business suits, belittle the sideshow midgets, and shave 20% off the profits just for her own keeping.

Or can she? When the denizens of the carnival begin to realize they've been taken for a ride, they band together to seek revenge against their comely oppressor. And Hell hath no fury like a freak scorned!

Shot in Bakersfield, California, this low-budget effort (also known as Asylum of the Insane) is well-intentioned, but woefully padded and badly paced. There's lots and lots of actual footage of circus crews putting up the Big Tent, assembling the sideshow, putting up the midway, then taking down the tents, and disassembling the midway. With precious little action in between, all the viewer is left to enjoy is the clandestine fistfight between Blackie and Steve. By then it's far too little too late.

The one shining exception to the humdrum of She Freak is Brennen's leering, frisky performance as Jade. With her almond-shaped eyes, and armed with a lascivious smile that always hints of mischief, Brennen alone interjects some energy into the proceedings. (It's no surprise she would be able to drum up consistent work on TV throughout the '70s before her untimely death in 1977.)

And of course then there's that ending. If there was any doubt about She Freak having been based in any way, shape or form on Tod Robbins' original short story "Spurs" (which itself spawned Tod Browning's 1932 classic Freaks), one need only wait until the infamous "freaks on display" conclusion. Here, it might be poorly conceived and clumsily executed, but strangely it still packs a mini-wallop.

Step right up, folks.

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