• She Freak (AGFA/Something Weird Video) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: AGFA/Something Weird Video
    Released on: August 31st, 2021.
    Director: Byron Mabe
    Cast: Claire Brennen, Lee Raymond, Lynn Courtney, Bill McKinney, Claude Earl Jones, Ben Moore, Vanteen, Madame Lee, Marsha Drake, Felix Silla
    Year: 1967
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    She Freak – Movie Review:

    Directed by Byron Mabe for producer David F. Friedman in 1967, She Freak is, at its core, a low-budget remake of Tod Browning’s seminal Freaks, albeit it on tailored for the sixties drive-in market. The story revolves around Jade Cochran (Claire Brennen), a foxy blonde who barely makes ends meet by waitressing at a crummy diner somewhere in the south of America.

    When a travelling carnival comes into town, Jade decides that enough is enough and she splits her work at the diner and leaves her scummy boss in the dust to join up with them. Soon enough, Jade is flirting with the carnival’s hunk, Blackie (Lee Raymond), and with the midways’ manager, well-to-do Steve St. John (Bill McKinney). Jane’s ambitious and not above using her feminine wiles to get what she wants, and figures marrying Steve is her ticket to the good life. With that ring on her finger, she’s basically running things and doing a damn fine job of it. However, when Blackie shows up in her trailer one night, she can’t say no. When Steve busts his beautiful blonde bride in bed with the help, the two men engage in mortal combat, Steve eventually falling, a victim to Blackie’s deadly switchblade.

    With Steve having shuffled off this mortal coil, Jane essentially inherits the carnival and starts embezzling funds that should be going to some of the performers. When some of those same performers realize that Jane is using their money to buy fancy dresses, they decide to exact their revenge…

    Featuring truly ridiculous special effects work by Harry Thomas (the same man who handled the effects work in Plan 9 From Outer Space), She Freak is an enjoyable southern friend schlockfest, so long as you dig vintage carnival footage (there’s a lot of that here and it’s mostly padding, but it’s also super rad to see). You’ll have no trouble figuring out where the story is going, but getting there is a pretty fun ride thanks less to Mabe’s fairly standard direction and more to Claire Brennen’s salacious turn in the lead. She’s pretty enthusiastic here, vamping it up in a big way and, if never quite chewing the scenery, at least giving it a good taste. She’s got very expressive eyes with a pretty wild look in them and her performance is eminently watchable, even captivating at times. She steals the show.

    That said, there are other reasons to catch this show. Felix Silla is cast here, predictably, as ‘Shorty’ and Friedman himself has a fun cameo early in the film as the barker. The cinematography is pretty decent even if the makeup effects are not (but hey, they have their own goofy charm), William Allen Castleman’s original score for the film is genuinely cool and while this doesn’t load up the sex or the violence the way some might expect given Friedman’s track record, it does build nicely to a seriously bizarre (and weirdly effective) conclusion.

    She Freak – Blu-ray Review:

    AGFA/Something Weird Video bring She Freak to region tree Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm original camera negative and taking up 23.4GBs of space on the 50GB disc, picture quality is really quite impressive! There are a few shots that look a little ruddy but overall this is a very clean, clear and colorful image that retains the expected amount of natural film grain throughout. There are no problems with any noticeable noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression issues and detail, depth and clarity are much stronger than the past DVD edition. Nothing to complain about here at all, the picture quality is great.

    The 16-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track, in the film’s native English, comes with optional English subtitles. The audio is pretty solid, properly balanced and clean sounding. No problems with any real hiss or distortion to note.

    Extras start off with a commentary track featuring Archival commentary with producer David F. Friedman and Something Weird founder Mike Vraney, carried over from the older Something Weird Video DVD release. For those who haven’t heard this track before, it’s quite an interesting and engaging talk as Friedman goes over his background in the carnival circuit and talks about what went into updating Tod Browning’s original movie into the form we see here. Along the way, in typical Friedman style, we’re treated to some fun stories about the cast and crew, thoughts on certain scenes and memories from the production that are all a whole lot of fun to listen to.

    The Asylum Of The Insane segment includes a selection of She Freak inserts preserved in 2K. The nine minute segment starts off as 3-D short with a narrator talking about dreams featuring a kid on a swing, a kid throwing a football and a guy with a yo-yo. When the subject changes to nightmares we're subjected to the horrible sight of a curvy brunette doing a go-go dance only to then be murdered by a guy with an ice pick!

    The eight minute Vintage Shorts From The Carnival Midway section is eight-minutes of vintage freak show carnival footage showing off sword swallowers, a person who is half male and half female, a pinhead, a belly dancer and a few more. This cuts to some footage of one half of a pair of conjoined twins complaining about not being able to get a marriage license before then showing off a few other conjoined twins.

    Also included on the disc, and worth the price of admission alone, is The Laughing, Leering Lampooning Lures Of David F. Friedman, which is a ninety-seven minute collection of trailers form the Something Weird Video vaults all scanned in 2k and presented in 1080p high definition. This trailer reel includes spots for The Defilers, The Notorious Daughter Of Fanny Hill, A Smell Of Honey A Swallow Of Brine, She Freak, The Acid Eaters, The Lustful Turk, The Head Mistress, Brand Of Shame, A Sweet Sickness, The Pick-Up, Thar She Blows, The Ramroder, Starlet, Love Camp 7, The Master Piece, Trader Hornee, The Long Swift Sword Of Siegfried, The Suckers, The Adult Version Of Jekyll And Hyde and last but most certainly not least, The Erotic Adventures Of Zorro.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a promotional photo gallery, menus and chapter selection options.

    As well as menus and chapter selection options, this disc also comes with some nice reversible cover sleeve artwork. Tucked away inside the clear keepcase is a full color insert booklet containing an essay on the film penned by Something Weird Video’s own Lisa Petrucci titled Squaring The Beef: The Making Of She Freak that ties in Friedman’s background as a carnie to the making of the movie before then going on to eloquently extoll its virtues. Interesting stuff. The book also includes some ‘Freaky Fun Facts’ about the movie and some great archival artwork.

    She Freak – The Final Word:

    She Freak is a fun slice of sixties schlock highlighted by Claire Brennen’s striking performance. AGFA and Something Weird Video have teamed up to give this one a proper special edition release loaded with extras. The presentation is excellent and the insert booklet the icing on the cake!

    Click on the images below for full sized She-Freak Blu-ray screen caps!