What’s Your Favorite Weird, Random Silent Film?

There are many, many things to love about silent films but one thing that doesn’t get discussed a whole lot is how WEIRD so many of them are. Well, I think it’s time that we discuss it, don’t you?

My favorite weirdo silent (besides the famously weird cabinet of a certain Caligari) is The Burning Crucible, in which Ivan Mosjoukine… well, he does this:

He plays a detective who is assigned to find and return a wife’s affections to her husband. I think we can all see the problem here.

What are your favorite oddball silents? And remember, like many things, weirdness is in the eye of the beholder and one reader’s weird may be another’s normal. I’m looking forward to strange things.


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39 Replies to “What’s Your Favorite Weird, Random Silent Film?”

  1. I saw “The Monster” with a live audience last October up at Indiana University (Dennis James did the score). First time viewing the movie and I loved it!

    Favorite weirdest movie for me is Salome (1923) with Alla Nazimova. I picked up the movie as a blind buy (among other silent movies) and was in awe of how different the movie was from others I’ve seen. It’s one of those movies that stuck with me long after seeing it. I quite enjoy the odd and bizarre movies and I think it may possibly be among my favorite silent films.

  2. Marcel L’Herbier’s ‘L’inhumaine’ is pretty weird. But I like the art direction, especially the ‘mad scientist laboratory’ set. Bonus for James Joyce aficionados: he is among the angry crowd at the theatre, as an extra, along with most of bohemian Paris of the time–but nobody has positively spotted him yet.

  3. I think I’d have to go with The Cameraman’s Revenge, which I discovered through your blog. Weirdness-wise, it’s hard to top a movie about adulterous stop-motion bugs.

  4. The cut down from “Intolerance” flick “The Fall of Babylon” with the sort of stuck-on happy ending. I had the Blackhawk Films 8mm version transferred to video in the 90’s.

  5. Went down the rabbit hole of German Expressionism and found the 1920 “vampire'” film Genuine. It’s an odd one for sure but I found it oddly mesmerizing. The star is is Fern Andre, a former trapeze artist and another American girl who found work on the German silent screen.

  6. “Weird” is one of my favourite categories! I like Haxan – you expect a horror film and it turns into a defence of women accused of witchcraft; the Cameraman’s Revenge, which I also discovered thanks to your review; The Love of Zero and The Life and Death of 9413, two surreal masterpieces made by Robert Florey in 1928; The Adventures of Mr West in the Land of the Bolsheviks – hilarious and also surreal, though possibly not intentionally so; and a whole lot of Melies and Felix the Cat.

  7. I’m probably the only one who thinks that Cecil B. DeMille’s The Godless Girl is strangely a masterpiece, even if it’s totally ridiculous both in symbolism and plot. But hey, I like films that are so ridiculously sincere as long as there’s an artistry to them- there’s a reason why I happily some otherwise questionably masterpieces, such as Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970) and Multiple Maniacs (1970). The Godless Girl is one mad melodrama that goes off the rails before coming back and throughly destroying said rails with the most epic prison fire/riot in cinematic history, but you do sense some genuine emotions in there. It’s a shame that Cecil B. DeMille was a conservative who supported blacklisting/naming names as his films, especially his silent films, should be drawing fiercely loyal cult audiences instead of blank stares or critical derision.

  8. “The Untamable” a 1923 potboiler staring Gladys Walton about split personality. Gladys plays a sweet nice girl who is under the hypnotic spell of her evil physician becomes her alter ego, a leopard skin clad dominatrix who smokes (Opium?), drinks and whips her Asian maid for fun. A handsome young man crashes his car on her estate and the plot thickens. I bought the Blackhawk print when I was young an found it on DVD on Amazon.

  9. Hi Fritzi. “A Trip Down Market Street” by the Miles Brothers is a phantom ride with a camera mounted on the front of a Market Street cable car headed towards the Ferry Building. There is all sorts of weird random activity going on, especially with the early automobiles, some of which appear to be putting in multiple appearances. And it was shot just before the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. The movie ticks off several boxes for me as a cable car historian, a fan of silent movies and a fan of San Francisco history.

  10. If you’ve ever had the good fortune to see any of the short comedies of Charley Bowers, then you know that cars are hatched from eggs. Bowers mix of live-action with puppet animation was a wonder. His work has been aptly described as unique and bizarre and, of course, weird. His stuff is well worth a look.

      1. Where they called him ‘Bricolo.’
        1 Trifle, thing of no importance
        2 Setback
        3 Odds and ends

        Perhaps #2: example of use: ‘Si ça continue, il va lui arriver des bricoles’ (If he keeps this up, he’s going to come a cropper)

        1 (pejorative) Jack-of-all trades (but master of none)

        Source Dictionary of Modern Colloquial French.

  11. A tie between ‘A Trip to the Moon’ and ‘Salome.’ I’m particularly interested in costuming, and can’t get over the plump sailor-styled chorines in ‘Voyage’ and Nazimova’s pearl-studded hairdo.

  12. I’ll go with one that fits into the weirdness category with scant room to spare: Un Chien Andalou. Freaked me out viewing it the first time at university, freaks me out now. And must agree with Stephen Robertson upthread that silent Felix the Cat and his ‘toon pals inhabit a strange world that brings the weirdness on for me, as does much of Out of the Inkwell and the Inkwell Imps.

  13. Had to think a while to come up with one that hadn’t been mentioned already! How about “Daisy Doodad’s Dial?” Apart from using obscure slang in the title (“dial”=face), the premise is that a married couple competes in a face-making competition!

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