Friday, April 4, 2008

She-Freak (1967)

(1967 Mayflower Productions) Director: Byron Mabe Starring: Claire Brennen, Lee Raymond, Lynn Courtney, Bill McKinney, Claude Smith, and Felix Silla

There's a reason why I don't partake in the merriment of mechanical carnival and fairground amusement rides......

...when I was a kid in high school, an amusements vendor that used to service several of the county fairs in my hometown area would stroll into town and take up residence at the local fairground about three days before the county fair, and my friends and I knew it was time to make some quick climbing the fence and offering our "services" to the ride foreman, helping to assist in the set-up of the rides.....and trust me....the usual gang of idiots that I hung with were not construction engineers by no stretch of the imagination......myself included.

This usually involved myself (and said friends) just hanging out with various carny types, getting stoned and/or liquored up in the back of trailers and chasing "carny-tail" (don't ask). When we did wasn't pretty. Let's just say that at one point in my life, while hanging in a harness upside down from a strut at the top of a ferris wheel , ninety-plus feet in the air with a tool belt...and in one hand some extra nuts and bolts that probably shoulda went somewhere, I began to realize that these things may not be too safe to be on, seeing as how the majority of them are set up in this fashion. Young, stupid kids just looking for beer money with a drop-wrench in their hand don't usually give much thought to safety procedures.

Ride at yer own risk, folks.......

The Plot: Opening with a Texas Chainsaw Massacre style title card sequence (sans the narration, though) which gives thanks to many carnival vendors and disavows that anything of the like of the following picture has ever happened, we are then treated to over five minutes of stock footage of a late 1960s carnival attraction in action while the title sequence is laid out. The dizzying scenes of fairground rides whirling about bring back childhood memories of county fairs past, but goes on way too long. If I wanted to see grubby carnies lazing about pulling brake handles with bright lights and buzzing noises, I'd just put in a day at my workplace and probably get the same effect. Cut to a greasy spoon style southern diner...ran by a guy named "Greasey"! Who'da thunk, eh? Greasy has in his employ one Jade (Claire Brennen), a mouthy trailer trash gal who buses tables in his joint, who dreams of leaving her podunk burg and making something of her life. Don't we all, honey...don't we all. But most of us aren't as bitchy about it.

A carny promoter stops by the joint just as Greasey is trying to put the moves on Jade....he's a slick one. "My wife's outta town. I'm a dirty smelly hick who owns a grease-pit...wanna do it?" Jade, spurning Greasey's Casanova-like charm, begs the promoter for info about obtaining a job with his traveling show, thus getting her fired. No big loss to the food service industry. She joins the carnival, at first working as a waitress (way to reach for the stars, Jade-baby!), where she meets with "Moon", a stripper with the girlie show (meow! The actress in this role is actually a decent looker) and Blackie, the ride foreman. Blackie's yer typical Rus Meyer-type tough guy, whom is a womanizer that Moon warns Jade about. She doesn't listen and has a fling with him. Then Jade falls for the Freak Show owner, a nice guy...whose money is the only thing Jade is interested in. Much to her later regret.

Jade visits the freak show...and is disgusted (FORESHADOWING!!!!!), all the while the owner falls for her, and they have a really quick marriage. So quick that Larry King would be envious. Jade continues to fool around with Blackie, until she's caught by Shorty, the freak show owner's cowboy hat wearin' midget assistant. Jade's hubby catches them in the act, and Blackie stabs him to death, leaving Jade to inherit the show. She mistreats the freaks, firing Shorty, pissing off her friend Moon and acts much like something that rhymes with.....oh...."BITCH" most of the time counting money. But the freaks take their revenge on her for the death of their friend, the sideshow owner....and she ends up an attraction herself! Never in a million years wouldya ever seen that one comin', would ya? Huh? Actually, the ending is pretty well telegraphed from the first ten minutes of the movie....The End.

Produced by David Friedman, a frequent collaborator with H.G. Lewis (2000 Maniacs, Blood Feast), it's easy to mistake this rip-off of Tod Browning's classic FREAKS as one of Lewis' works, because of similar editing techniques and camera set-ups, but was instead directed by Byron Mabe, the man behind the camera on The Acid-Eaters, a 1960s cult drug flick. A decent enough time-waster, worth a few chuckles.....

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