Cult classics once banned now at NIU

By Vittorio Carli

Cine club is featuring a very unique double bill in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium tonight at 8:45. They will be showing “Freaks”(1932) and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”(1920), a pair of cult classics. Both films contain horrific elements yet neither one can be considered a traditional horror film.

“Freaks” is an eerie film that was directed by Tod Browning (“Dracula” and “Devil Doll”). The film inverts usual audience expectations by depicting the ugly people as heroes while the “true monsters” are normal in appearance.

Moreover, the film was widely banned for almost three decades. Part of the reason for this may of been that the film used real circus performers in the roles of the freaks. “Freaks” features a wide variety of deformed characters including a bearded lady, Siamese twins, a worm-like male with no hands or legs, midgets, and a group of pin headed females.

When the film was revived in the late 70s, it became a favorite of the New York punk movement. The punks also saw themselves as outsiders and they had no trouble identifying with the freaks’ attack on straight soceity.

The freaks are depicted in a very sympathetic light. They have their own subculture that exists outside “normal soceity.” The freaks display a tremendous sense of commitment to each other.

The film also features two evil normal looking characters; a trapezee artist named Cleopatra (Ulsa Baclanova) and a strong man named Hercules.

“Freaks” will be shown with “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” an expressionistic silent film. The wierd camera angles serve to make the viewer feel off balanced and the twisted sets parallel the twisted minds of the film’s characters.

The plot concerns a hypnotist named Dr. Caligari. Caligari works in a circus with a somnumulist (sleepwalker) named Cesare who sleeps in a box.

Both films are historically significant and extremely influential. They have withstood the test of time and they still have the power to challenge modern audiences.