For anyone who thinks "Freaks" is merely exploitation, guess what? You're right. Cinema is all exploitation. To exploit means "to make the most of" or "achieve highest expression," and that is exactly what director Tod Browning does with his 1932 masterpiece, "Freaks." He takes a rather simple story: greedy trapeze artist foiling a love-struck midget into a marriage of convenience, and makes it special. First, he populates it with real-life "freaks," (a term that in today's p.c. world makes one shudder) allowing them to speak their own voices. Sure, their acting is not exactly Oscar-caliber, but neither is that of the ensemble cast of Visconti's neorealistic, "La Terra Trema," and yet, the latter film ranks amongst the world's all-time greats. Browning's film is not a horror film by any means. It may be frightening or disturbing, but its effectiveness stems from a deeper realm of cinematic mastery. Browning seems to use more artistic freedom here than he had been allowed in his earlier Universal classic, "Dracula," and the result is pure magic. While "perfect" is not an adjective that one would readily apply to "Freaks," (and by the way, even "Citizen Kane" contains some interesting technical and/or creative flaws), let it be said that like other chilling classics, such as Herk Harvey's "Carnival of Souls" (1960), and Hitchcock's "Psycho" (1960), "Freaks" may well be one of the most inspirational movies for aspiring filmmakers and avid film buffs ever made. It is complex in its simplicity; it is tragic in its purity; and ultimately, it is the stuff that celluloid dreams are made of... just ask David Lynch if "Freaks" entered his mind while he was making "The Elephant Man."