She Freak (1967) | Roll up! The exploitation carny classic gets its UK 4K restoration release from 101 Films
‘PLEASE DO NOT FEED OR TEASE THE CREATURE’
Waitress Jade Cochran (Claire Brennen) sees her fortunes rise when she joins a travelling carnival and freakshow and marries its owner Steve St John (Bill McKinney). When he dies at the hands of her roughneck lover Blackie (Lee Raymond), she abuses her newfound position and earns the wrath of Shorty (Felix Silla) and his fellow freaks who turn her into one of their kind.
This sleazy 1967 reworking of Tod Browning’s 1932 classic Freaks is an absolute hoot from beginning to end (which re-stages Browning’s original climax). It’s also a love letter to the carnival lifestyle of the period by exploitation producer David F Friedman (himself a long-time carny) thanks to the real-life footage of the West Coast Shows carnival shot at the Kern County Fair in Bakersfield, California, which intersperses the ‘drama’.
I first learned of She Freak from Michael Weldon’s seminal 1989 tome The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film which had a picture of Claire Brennan as Jade and the hideous ‘Snake Girl’. Yes, the make-up (by Harry Thomas who worked on Frankenstein’s Daughter and Navy vs. the Night Monsters) is hokey, but it just so works in this trashy weirdo classic.
If you are a fan of either Nightmare Alley (1947) or Horrors of the Black Museum (1959), then you will get a real kick out of this as there are a couple of nods to those classics. There’s also a blink or you’ll miss it shot of the mummified body of real-life US train and bank robber Elmer J McCurdy, which was used as a prop. Plus, there’s the legend that is Felix Silla, who got the part when the original choice, Angelo Rossitto, had to bail as he had other commitments.
I originally saw She Freak on VHS as a Something Weird Video release I picked up in New York back in the 1990s, but this new 4K restoration by the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) is simply amazing! The colours are so vivid, just like the candy floss or slushies you used to get at carnival and circus shows of the past (where the E-numbers were dialled up to 100).
But I also so enjoyed the extras included in 101 Films release, especially Friedman’s archival commentary (he passed in 2011) – which is the last word on this production – and the feature-length trailers (which were included on my original VHS but are now all spruced up).
• 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative
• Archival commentary with producer David F. Friedman and Something Weird founder
• Asylum of the Insane: She Freak inserts preserved in 2K
• The Laughing, Leering, Lampooning Lures of David F. Friedman (97:20): a compilation of trailers from the Something Weird vaults, newly preserved in 2K
• Vintage shorts from the carnival midway
• Promotional photo gallery
• Booklet with essay by Something Weird’s Lisa Petrucci
• Reversible cover artwork