This 1967 ultra low-budget movie directed by Byron Mabe is an exercise in how not to build tension and how best to ride the open road of silliness. Claire Brenen stars as Jane Cochran, a small-town waitress looking for some adventure. When the carnival comes to town, Jane seizes the opportunity to leave her dreary small-town life and signs on as a waitress at the carnival’s food stand.
Eventually Jane becomes the mistress, and then wife, of the carnival owner. Though he’s a handsome guy, Jane’s real object of affection, or, more properly, lust, is Blackie (Lee Raymond), the guy who runs the Ferris wheel. Late one night, Blackie attempts to seduce her in his trailer. Jane tries to resist, but then Blackie takes off his shirt. Game over. Unable to resist Blackie’s half-flabby bare chest, Jane succumbs to her desires. Torn between a man she lusts after and a man with a bankroll, Jane is forced to choose between money and passion.
We know from the beginning that Jane is going to end up as the She Freak. A carnival barker introduces her as the climax of the freakshow act. Only those with strong constitutions should look into her cage. But how did Jane become the She Freak? What terrible misfortune befell her? These important questions are answered as the movie progresses.
Why “She Freak” is a weird movie
“She Freak” is mostly weird because of the sheer normalcy of it. There are more than a few scenes where Jane walks around the carnival lot doing not much of anything. There’s a bunch of shots of people riding rides or workers putting the rides together. There’s a musical montage that’s used to show Jane and the carnival owner getting to know each other. They go on the most boring and sexless dates and do a little more walking around the lot. It takes more than thirty minutes before the thin plot kicks in.
The producers, working on a tight budget, most likely used a real working carnival to save some money. They probably figured that getting a glimpse of the rides, freakshows and burlesque at a functioning carnival would be spectacle enough for the average viewer. In a way, it actually is.
Then we have what I’ll call the Rhinestone Dwarf. He’s a smartly dressed little guy in a cowboy hat whose only purpose seems to be to hang out and let the camera focus on him standing around, doing nothing, every now and then. But be careful, Jane, he might be a spy!
“She Freak” is full of unintentionally funny moments. For instance, there’s the scene where Jane and the carnival owner get married. They walk out of what is clearly an empty chapel and get into their car. As they drive away, they smile big and wave at people who clearly aren’t there.
If you want to see just how good bad filmmaking can be, give “She Freak” a look. Monotony, bad music, terrible acting and a surprising lack of actual freaks makes this movie a wonderful example of just how you shouldn’t make a movie!