October 31, 2009 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Kobelkoff: "This rare documentary puts us in a troubling situation of voyeurism by having us attend the exhibition of trunk man Nikolaï Kobelkoff, born in Siberia, without limbs. Kobelkoff uses his unique stump with incredible dexterity: he drinks, eats, shoots with a rifle, paints, winds his watch and lifts a dumbbell! In 1932, this extraordinary character was film director Tod Browning's inspiration for the famous film Freaks." (1900, b&w, silent, 1:23 min) brief history
posted by vronsky (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This extraordinary character was film director Tod Browning's inspiration for the famous film Freaks.

What's Johnny Eck, chopped liver?
posted by Xurando at 3:19 PM on October 31, 2009

The two pages linked under 'brief history' take interestingly differing tones when it comes to Kobelkoff's home life:

exhibit A : "He was abusive toward Anna, hitting her with his arm stump and shouting obsecenities at her. He was also rumored to have a drinking problem."

exhibit B : "Married and father of eleven children, Kobelkoff was as authoritarian with his family as he was shrewd in business."
posted by mannequito at 3:34 PM on October 31, 2009

What's Johnny Eck, chopped liver?

A better comparison would be Eck's co-star, Prince Randian.
posted by Rangeboy at 3:41 PM on October 31, 2009

If Prince Randian had four kids, it does seem odd that his real name is lost to the mists of time. What did his wife call him?
posted by Leon at 4:39 PM on October 31, 2009

What did his wife call him?
posted by Floydd at 6:51 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

The video was cool, but the music weirded me out. I wish people would be content to post silent films to YouTube, you know, silently.
posted by donnagirl at 7:26 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know I've never seen Freaks, except a few clips here and there. Is it any good? Horror and grotesqueries aren't really my thing. Night of the Living Dead was on tv tonight and I had to turn the channel when they stared eating people. I kinda want to know how it turned out though.
posted by vronsky at 7:51 PM on October 31, 2009

TLC's latest prime time troubling situation of voyeurism hit: Kobelkoff Plus Naught. Catch it Sundays after My Monkey Baby.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 8:18 PM on October 31, 2009

meanwhile, I still struggle at 40 with long division
posted by Fupped Duck at 1:14 AM on November 1, 2009

"Is it any good? Horror and grotesqueries aren't really my thing."

ehhh.. It is regarded by many as a classic, and I think there are good reasons for judging it so, but it's not a masterpiece in terms of acting or production. The actors are mostly meh, because they're untrained, and even the professional leads are a bit wooden, but remember the era. The soundtrack, the couple of times I saw it, was horrible, muddy and indistinct at times, but it's from 1932, so... I don't know what the DVD release is like.

The storm sequence at the end, however, when the 'freaks' all come out for revenge is one of the single most brilliant and memorable scenes in the history of horror movies, imho. Nightmare stuff for kids, for sure.

It's not really grotesque, as such, if you get past the physical deformities of its stars. If looking at them disturbs you, then I suppose it is grotesque. I am rather desensitized from years of watching modern movies with people's heads bursting and aliens coming out of chests, so it is hard to say..

The performers are actually kind of sweet. What you come away with is that the 'freaks' are not the deformed people - the 'normal' ones are. It is a sympathetic depiction of the 'freaks'.

It is a psychological horror movie. The ending scenes could be deemed rather disturbing. ;)

Very tame by today's standards. It is mainly unique due to its use of real 'freaks', which is either laudable (cos these guys were poor and couldn't find a lot of work), or exploitative, depending on your POV. I don't believe Browning was exploiting the performers, as their depiction is rather sensitive.

Bottom line: depends on which cut you see. There are different versions, IIRC. I'm not sure if you can actually get the original version at all, I think you can only get variants of the cut-down version the studio released, which I recall as being quite short.

There is no gruesome gore such as in Night of the Living Dead, IIRC. Though there is violence, everything is more or less suggested rather than shown.

It has a pretty good twist at the end, for the era in which it was made. In fact, a pretty good twist if it were made today. Heh heh heh.

Been a few years since I've seen it, so take what I say in that vein. Browning directed Dracula (with Lugosi) so that's your guide for the quality. The acting is poor, and the story itself is obviously pretty implausible at best, but relative to its era it's ok.

Definitely should be in any cinemaphile's collection, imho, but it probably won't get many viewings.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 6:14 AM on November 1, 2009

Tod Browning's Freaks (1932), previously on Metafilter. Unfortunately the main (high-quality) youtube version of Freaks (linked to in that Mefi post) has been taken down but the Google video version is still there as are some of the excerpts on Youtube.
posted by flug at 7:23 AM on November 1, 2009

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