It wasn’t the story of careless love and an evil woman who gets a transformative comeuppance that terrified audiences. It was the use of actual human oddities: the Siamese twins, the “pinhead,” the armless, legless man and a whole sideshow of nature’s misfits. And they’re the heroes! Tod Browning had directed many films in the grotesque genre (including the Lugosi Dracula and 10 films with Lon Chaney), but this is the one that still raises shudders — not because its horrors are artful, but because they are real.
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