Carnival of the Dead:
Corman’s own Sideshow of Horrors.
Ruben De Somer
Roger Corman has been around for eons so it
seems. This American writer and motion-picture director is known
for numerous sensationalistic films made with a genuine
technical proficiency. He gathered critical acclaim with his
renditions of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories.
Born in 1926 he was born in a time when
carnivals and sideshows still had their oddities and a whole
bunch of non-mechanical games, the good ole days one could say.
His very first link with the sideshow scene
was “The little shop of horrors” where a small tiny plant turns
into a living flesh eating plant. The living creature draws in
crowds of people all there to gaze at the next “wonder of the
world”. Probably this was his very first exposition of oddities,
a first reliving of some of his childhood carnival memories.
However in his 2005 movie “Land of the dead”
he goes one step further and you could even say goes almost all
the way to show how the ancient sideshow connects up with the
modern “freakshow”. Land of the dead is a sequel to his renowned
zombie trilogy and features thousands of zombies yearning for
the flesh of the living that have all fled to a city on an
island where they can be save, yeah right.
In the movie one of the main characters,
Denbo visits, an entertainment centre which seems a combination
of a casino and a carnival. A clear link is made here with the
modern Las Vegas showings of “Shock” a spin off of the Jim Rose
circus sideshow featuring “Zamora” the torture king. Chihuahua,
a role of Phil Fondacaro,
runs the “entertainment” center. The name of this character is a
clear reference to his size, because he’s a “little person”.
The carnival aspect is also present because
instead of having your picture taken while you are standing
behind a wooden board painted with an odd figure painted on it,
people can have their picture taken with a zombie. The zombies
in the scene also seem to have replaced the freaks. The zombies
are also used in target games and as fighters.
Another “freak” reference is that one of the
supporting characters of the movie, one of Riley’s his buddies,
has a deformed face and is treated by most of the other
characters as a freak. However the deformity wasn’t created by a
genetic fault but by a fire. Nevertheless the people’s reactions
in the movie are the same as those of many modern people,
disgust and a feeling that people with a disability should be
kept locked up, hidden away from “the normals”. However it makes
me wonder who is the freak now?
In short we can say that Roger Corman has
looked back at the past and has hooked up with the present.
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