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Being Different (1981) - Blu-ray Review

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Being Different (1981) - Blu-ray Review

3 beersIf there’s one thing striking about Being Different, it’s the sheer amount of compassion that it presents viewers with concerning its primary subjects.  The documentary might be about bearded women, legless men, and long distance runners with no feet, but there’s no cruelty presented throughout its running time at all.  From Canada to America and back again, Being Different celebrates the success of the human spirit no matter what shape or size it comes housed in.   

Directed by Harry Rasky (of Homage to Chagall: The Colours of Love fame) and narrated by Christopher Plummer, the documentary can be described as a more considerate look at the same type of “odd” circus sideshow performers who made up much of 1932’s Freaks.  There’s no horror in this at all.  This is real life.  There’s conjoined twins, the fattest man in the world (which, by today’s standards isn’t that fat at all), the woman with hirsutism, a man with elephantiasis, and Hollywood celebrity Billy Barty in a segment about dwarfism and gigantism.   

As we already know, Tod Browning’s pre-code horror film certainly created a lot of flurry concerning its bizarre-looking cast, but this documentary removes most of the sensationalism from the subjects and presents these people with deformities and other oddities – such as dwarfism, gigantism, conjoined to another, armless, and so on – as they truly are: humans living in the real world.  

And nothing stands in their way of overcoming their physical disabilities. 

Featuring candid interviews with Ronnie and Donnie Galyon, Paul Fishe, Jo-Ann Cantilla, Dolly Reagan, Johann Petursson, and Sandy Allen, the movie is limited only by some of the syrupy sweet songs (with awful lyrics by Rasky himself).  The tunes are dated and then some, but the lyrical content – seemingly written FOR the individuals interviewed for the movie – are obnoxiously cheesy in form and function.

With the inclusion of participants Bob Melvin, Bill Cole and Louise Capps, the movie covers a lot of territory.  Regionally, we are all over the continent.  This film celebrates all types of deformities and kicks off with a look at Gibsonton, Florida, the official place of retirement for sideshow performers and then takes us back to Canada for a stay at "The Midget Palace", where small-sized furniture is made.  We don’t stay in an area for too long.

Being Different does have its shock factor.  Thanks to its some of its “extreme” subjects, here are some exploitative elements to it.  One armless woman longs to be a playboy model and, inexplicably, a number of random disco scenes are also inserted, but the movie course corrects swiftly enough to not give off “the funk of 40 thousand years” feel while watching.  It’s considered a mondo documentary after all.  And, yes, some of the featured profiles are, in fact, pretty freaky, but none of that negates that this project is, at the very least, a compassionate look at those who are physically less fortunate when it comes to looks and functioning limbs.

Code Red, knowing that there are a number of people wanting to see the movie again (or even for the first time), has issued the documentary on blu-ray with a new interview from producer Robert D. Kline.  The film remains a good snapshot from the other side of life.  

Being Different celebrates all that its title suggests.

Being Different (1981) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
100 mins
: Harry Rasky
Harry Rasky
Billy Barty, Sandra Elaine Allen, Jo-Ann Cantilla
: Documentary
The true story of a modern-day Elephant Man ... and other human oddities.
Memorable Movie Quote: "We're different. We know that."
Theatrical Distributor:
Astral Films
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 27, 2017
Synopsis: They’re more like us than you think! A tribute to the spirit and humanity of people who are physically different from the average: very tall and very large men and women, a bearded woman and her long-time husband, Siamese twins joined at the midsection, and several little people including actor Billy Barty (Foul Play, Willow, Legend, Under the Rainbow). Jay Scott of Toronto Globe and Mail called Being Different, Harry Rasky’s finest film and that assessment includes Homage to Chagall, for which he received an Oscar® nomination.

Being Different (1981) - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- June 27, 2017
Screen Formats:
: None
DTS Master audio
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Code Red presents Being Different on 1080p with a MPEG-4 AVC single disc release.  The film was shot on 16mm and it shows.  There’s only so much the new HD master can do.  Using the original vault elements, the film looks as good as to be expected.  Black levels are okay – maybe a little downplayed – and colors, while they certainly never pop, are pleasant enough.  There is detail in some of the flesh (and deformities) when the camera goes for a close-up, but there are often areas that the sun – in this naturally shot documentary – bleaches out.  The sound is presented in a  DTS-MA track.



  • None

Special Features:

Kline talks briefly about his charmed career in Hollywood and his involvement with the film.  Trailers for other Code Red titles are also included.

  • Interview with Producer Robert D. Kline

Being Different (1981) - Blu-ray Review

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