What you ultimately think of She Freak (1967) may depend upon how much patience you have waiting for a money shot that will come as no surprise, considering it appears in any piece of promotion for the film. What kept me interested was not knowing it was an unofficial remake of Freaks (1932) and thinking the monster might appear earlier than the final minutes.
On the other hand, you might be interested in the documentary-like scenes depicting the detailed set-up and tear-down of a traveling carnival that pad the movie. Writer/Producer David F. Friedman’s love for, and history with, carnivals is brought to life for others to witness; however, I imagine very few will be as enraptured with it as he was.
She Freak is not a horrible movie. However, its biggest flaws lie in the technical delivery of the story. Because it breaks so many rules of filmmaking, it’s got to be rated lower than average. For example, the story is uneven. Its first two-thirds is slow and doesn’t drop enough hints about the drama that’s going to unfold in the final one-third.
Also, critical plot points play as montages with no dialogue. We miss conversations between characters during, for example, Steve St. John’s (Bill McKinney) and Jade Cochran’s (Claire Brennan) courtship. We know she’s after him for his money and that her charms are working on him, but we learn virtually nothing else about their relationship.
Instead, we get music… what sounds to me like 1960’s beach movie music. It doesn’t really connect the time and the place. You’d think a little carnival or organ music would bring us deeper into the setting instead of separating us from it. Occasionally, there’s a stinger that sounds like it’s right out of Dark Shadows.
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many moments that deserve a stinger. As in Freaks, there’s a woman who gets on the bad side of the sideshow characters, does something horrible, and is punished for it. In She Freak, except for one mention that the sideshow celebrities make her uncomfortable, we don’t realize it’s a significant plot point.
Worst of all, we don’t even see these people until the final sequence. Instead, we see a “common” sword-swallower and snake-charmer. In the finale, it’s revealed that there are all kinds of “scary” creatures in the sideshow. They appear sporting make-up effects that, if given longer to view, might rival Jade’s appearance after her transformation…
…which is terrific. You’ve probably seen it somewhere. Right now, I’m staring at it on the cover of an old monster magazine, Silver Screen Horror from May, 1977. It's on the movie poster and the home video box art. It’s worth waiting to see it, but it may have been more effective to reduce the carnival footage, spread the story move evenly, and reduce the running time to 60 minutes, give or take.
Written by David F. Friedman
Directed by Byron Mabe
Starring Claire Brennen, Lee Raymond, Lynn Courtney, Bill McKinney, Felix Silla
RT 83 min.
Released May 3, 1967 (Minneapolis, MN)
Home Video AGFA/Something Weird (Blu-ray)