“Let her try it…”

Angeleno: Let her try it. Let her try doing anything to one of us.

Wife: You’re right. She don’t know us. But she’ll find out!

This is one of the many scenes in Freaks (1932) that shows the quiet, workaday existence of its sideshow performers. Here, Angeleno (Angelo Rossitto) pours out a drink for his wife (Martha Morris) as they discuss Cleopatra’s treatment of their lovestruck compatriot Hans. I’ve always been struck by this scene’s very subtle intimations of underlying horror. What are they threatening? Do they suspect, or know, the gruesome fate that’s in store for Cleo? They seem so innocuous and cozy, going about their normal lives, but their dialogue implies that, hidden in the collective mind of the “freak” community, is something that Cleo will only “find out” when it’s already too late.

Rossitto, incidentally, is one of my favorite character actors. Less than three feet tall, he appeared in over 80 films and TV series across seven decades. Highlights of his amazing career include weird Bela Lugosi vehicles like The Corpse Vanishes (1942) and Scared to Death (1947); Samuel Fuller’s The Baron of Arizona (1950) starring Vincent Price; the bizarre, no-dialogue Daughter of Horror aka Dementia (1955); and of course Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985). He rarely got to do much acting, but was always a magnetic presence. Morris, meanwhile, had no film career outside of this scene in Freaks, and little is known of her beyond a few pictures.

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Filed under Body, Cinema

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