“THE FREAKMAKER”— Mad Genius

“THE FREAKMAKER”

Mad Genius

Amos Lassen

The opening of “The Freakmaker (“Mutations”) is the work of mad genius.  The time-lapse photography of plants growing, giving way to shots of carnivorous plants eating insects, accompanied by the creepy narration by Donald Pleasence makes it feel like we are in for quite a film. “The Freakmaker” puts a smile on any horror lover’s face.

Directed by cinematographer Jack Cardiff, it is filled with surprises. Pleasence stars as Professor Nolter, a college professor who spends most of his time in his botanical lab trying to create half-man half-plant mutants.  Whenever he fails, he just sends the botched experiments to the local freakshow.   Lynch (Tom Baker) is his deformed assistant who abducts  college coeds for Nolter’s experiments.  When he turns one of his students into a freak, it prompts her friends to coming looking for her.

“The Freakmaker” blatantly rips off whole scenes from other movies making us wonder how it has never been sued. It often feels two movies spliced together.  The mad scientist plot works with lurid fun.  It is a mix of two stories sewn together.  One story involves a scientist looking to evolve humanity to the next level by making us all cyborgs.  The other story involves a deformed man running a freak show who captures people.  The two join forces to help each other. The film features a crazy creature, as well as some real life freaks. 

Nolter speaks about how plants evolve and adapt to their environment (we see stock footage of just that.) He wants man to evolve like plants do in order to survive.
He’s clearly the perfect genetic specimen, so he has all of the rights to judge us. The other main character is a deformed man who kidnaps people out in the open to experiment on them.
Nolter tries to work and show his crazy evolution machine (which can turn a rock into an orange!) to a colleague but that doesn’t get him far enough so he captures a new victim with Baker. Lynch hides out in a freak show that he runs and the ‘freaks’ celebrate and declare him one of them and this gets him angry.  An experiment earlier worked, giving birth to a new plant-man and he and Lynch target a female lead who ends up as Topless Woman.

Lynch’s plot wraps up before the finale as the ‘freaks’ turn on him and kill him. Nolter’s plant-man shows up and kills him and rescues the victim.  While this is a grotesque oddity, itis kind of fun and crazy at times even with its flaws.  Michael Dunn, who died after his scenes were shot brings a certain grace to the freak show.  Baker plays his role as mostly-menace, but some nice character moments sneak in.  His big one involves him asking a prostitute to say that she ‘loves’ him and offering her more money to do it.  Pleasance is insane here and critics have called his performance wooden. 

The freaks are a bit of a distraction, but they are real people and bring a certain charm. I really hoped that this could be a better film was better than it is. It has a lot of good things that work in its favor but ultimately falls a bit short.

Nolter is a professor at a London university specializing in genetic science. When he isn’t teaching, he uses human guinea pigs to experiment with intent to crossbreed plants with humans. What purposes this serves I’m not really sure and we never find out. Lynch becomes known as the “ugliest person in the world” because of his hideous face deformity. Because of the issues with his face, Lynch has part of a traveling circus freak show. He doesn’t see himself as a freak. He help Nolter with hopes that Nolter will be able to fix his face but we do not really get the sense from Nolter that he even intends to help Lynch. He seems to have his own motives. Again, what those motives are we never really know.

There’s little to no story. You watch some freaks at a circus and that’s about it. There are some mildly entertaining effects along the way, the best being when Nolter turns some poor man into some half plant-half man thing. They’re not great effects, but they are fun and practical.

BONUS FEATURES

  • Blu-Ray All Region
  • New Scan from an archival 35mm print framed at 1:66:1 
  • Featurette 
  • Commentary with Producer/Writer Robert D Weinbach and actor Brad Harris. 
  • Audio Interview with Jack Cardiff
  • Trailer and TV Spot
  • Still Gallery with Isolated Score
  • English SDH Subtitles  
  • Running Time Approx 92m 
  • The initial, limited release includes 2 double sided postcards featuring new and vintage poster art for the film plus a Slipcover with a reproduction of the original, hand painted Art by Mike Tommyrot (Instagram: @miketommyrot) inspired by the European VHS cover DR OF EVIL and the art of Basil Gogos!

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