Freaks is sumptuously produced, admirably directed, and no cost was spared. But Metro failed to realize that even with a different sort of offering the story still is important. Here it is not sufficiently strong to get and hold the interest, partly because interest cannot easily be gained for a too fantastic romance.
The plot outline is the love of a midget in a circus for a robust gymnast, her marriage with the idea of getting his fortune and putting him out of the way through poisoning and effecting a union with the strongman of the show.
The story [from Spurs by Tod Robbins] is laid in a European touring circus. It is only a one-ring affair, but it carries three times as many high-class freaks as the Ringling show ever trouped in one season, and the dressing tent is larger than the main top.
No effort is made to show the ring performance, most of the action occurring in the dressing tent and much of it while the show is closed. The midget leads are Harry and Daisy Earles. Earles builds on his fine performance in The Unholy Three (1930) but he fails in the stronger scenes, when he seeks to gain sympathy through his despair.
Daisy Earles is less successful as the midget rival to Olga Baclanova. She is a doll-like little woman who reads her lines with extreme care, but seldom succeeds in acting. Baclanova as the rather rowdy gymnast has several fine opportunities but at other times is handicapped by action too obvious and her cheerful effort to poison her tiny spouse carries no suggestion of menace. Harry Victor, as the strongman, is conventional and Wallace Ford and Leila Hyams, heading the cast, have little more than walk-through parts. The one sincere human note is Rose Dione in an unfortunately brief bit.