Anchor Bay presents
"Cool! A freak show!"- Julie (Megan Ward)
Stars: Alex Winter, Randy Quaid, Michael Stoyanov, Megan Ward
Other Stars: Alex Zuckerman, William Sadler, Mr. T, Derek McGrath, Brooke Shields, Keanu Reeves, Jaime Cardriche, Deep Roy, Patti Tippo, Bobcat Goldthwait, Lee Arenberg, Arturo Gil, Tom Stern, Calvert DeForest, Michu, Eduardo Ricard, Henry Carbo, Brian Brophy, Jeff Kahn, John Hawkes, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Gibby Haynes
Director: Tom Stern, Alex Winter
Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (language, mature humor)
Run Time: 01h:19m:41s
Release Date: 2005-07-12
DVD ReviewAdmittedly there aren't a lot of comedies set in South American sideshows, so by some magical default the 1993 release, Freaked, is probably the benchmark for the genre. Directed and written by Alex Winter (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure) and Tom Stern (with additional writing credits by American Werewolf in Paris scribe Tim Burns), the film was a byproduct of their 1991 Idiot Box sketch comedy series on MTV, and it was originally designed to be built around the band The Butthole Surfers (how's that for obscure?). It was eventually retooled into its final form as some sort of Airplane!-meets-Freaks-meets-The Island of Dr. Moreau comedy, an almost feature-length film (it runs just 75 minutes) with clever makeup effects and a completely balls out and properly immature approach to humor.
Ricky Coogin (Winter) is a smarmy former child star sent to a tiny South American country, along with his wiseass pal Ernie (Michael Stoyanov) by the evil and powerful E.E.S. Corporation to lend his name to the very dangerous and environmentally unsafe fertilizer, Zygrot-24. Coogin and Ernie somehow end up with insanely cute Zygrot protestor Julie (Megan Ward), and, after taking a long jeep journey into the jungle, pay an ill-fated visit to the mysterious Freek Land roadside freakshow, run by the maniacal Elijah C. Skuggs (Randy Quaid). Quicker than you can say "boy, Randy Quaid looks just like an evil Wild Bill Hickock," Coogin, Ernie, and Julie are turned into inhuman freaks by Skuggs and his Zygrot-24 fueled freak-making machine, and the duration of the film has the trio reluctantly joining forces with the other inhabitants of Freek Land to make their escape.
The jokes are often juvenile, but would you expect anything less in a film where Mr. T plays a bearded lady or Bobcat Goldthwait voices a man with a sock for a head? The cast of freaks, including an uncredited (and unrecognizable) Keanu Reeves as the hair-covered Ortiz The Dog Boy, also feature a giant worm, a giant nose, and a literal cowboy (part cow, part human), not to mention a pair of machine-gun-toting Rastafarian eyeballs. The makeup effects, done by a number of different production teams, have a surreal Chiodo Brothers feel to them (not surprisingly, they do some of the film's claymation), and for a project with a modest budget the visual look is remarkably inventive, as if Pee-wee's Playhouse collided with the dark side of Tim Burton and Mad magazine.
Winter and Stern hammer their comedy with a steady dose of dumb gag after dumb joke, and they don't shy away from such politically incorrect things as repeatedly heaping physical abuse on a young boy (dropping him out of planes, throwing him through glass doors, etc.) or relying on the old standby of a well-placed poop joke. There is a lot going on in Freaked, and it operates under the quantity over quality school of jokes, but to be fair most of them end up hitting their lowbrow mark.
After languishing in undeserved obscurity for quite a few years, Freaked has finally been given the kind of treatment it deserves, and it is twisted, demented and full of enough sight gags for six films.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay has done yet another fine job on the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen treatment of Freaked. Image quality is sharp and crisp (save for some grainy moments during a few of the darker sequences), with generally bright colors and natural fleshtones—at least on those characters with flesh. There are some small bits of specking in spots, but otherwise a clean print.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The primary audio track is a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, and while it doesn't offer much rear channel activity, the presentation is a clean front-heavy mix with a some modest directional movement. A slightly more aggressive approach would have been nice, but as it is effectively serviceable.
A 2.0 stereo track is also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, Modern Problems, License To Drive
2 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Alex Winter, Tom Stern
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
- Art Gallery
Disc 1 contains a fast-paced and self-effacing commentary from Alex Winter and Tom Stern, one that begins and ends with the utterance of "s**t, p**s, f**k" just, well, because they can. In between there's talk of Morgan Fairchild's "oddly luminescent skin," comparing the film's only matte shot to being Etch-A-Sketch quality and their occasional problems with a Champale-loving Mr. T. Stern mentions how Iggy Pop cut a demo of the title song, but that ended up going nowhere due to them blowing their music budget early on, and it is just a damn shame that it doesn't show up here.
Also on Disc 1 is Hijinx in Freekland (11m:50s), a series of narration-free behind-the-scenes footage, chock full of profanity, and a peek at some of the makeup effects in process. A Conversation with Writer Tim Burns (21m:17s) goes into humorous and sarcastic detail on how he got attached to the project, and the tribulations of getting it made. A pair of deleted scenes (07m:14s), including a nice Wheel of Fortune bit, are also included, as is an extensive art gallery, theatrical trailer, and DVD-ROM accessible version of the screenplay.
Disc 2 starts off with a real enjoyable oddity, a full-length rehearsal version, entitled appropriately enough (and purposely misspelled) Freaked; The Rehersal Version (01h:23m:52s). Yes, it is the entire film, performed with a couple of folding chairs in some empty warehouse by the entire cast—including Keanu Reeves—in varying levels of makeup. It's worth a look for some alternate jokes and dialogue that didn't make the final cut, but in general it's just a fun look at the rehearsal process.
The next four segments are There Are No Weirdos Here! (05m:32s), It's the Troll (03m:52s), Under Construcshen (03m:38s) and Behold...The Beast Boy! (06m:56s), which provide more behind-the-scenes footage, including young Alex Zuckerman before his makeup transformation into the big-eared Stuey Gluck and the building of the Freek Land set.
Disc 2 concludes with a pair of short films from Winter and Stern, a strange Forbidden Zone-esque bit of disturbing stortyelling called Squeal of Death (15m:50s) that is compelling in its amateurish excess of weirdness, and the very short and comparatively modest NYU Sight and Sound Project (:54s).
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsAnchor Bay has resurrected the bizarrely funny sideshow comedy, Freaked, in this nicely packaged (and budget-priced) two-disc set. Alex Winter and Tom Stern cram their film with a constant barrage of one-liners and visual gags, and even though it barely runs 75 minutes, it manages to deliver a lot of big laughs in a short amount of time.
Be warned that this is not a real mainstream comedy, and the style of humor is often way to the left of what is considered "normal," but it is a lot of dumb fun.
Rich Rosell 2005-07-11