What’s Your Favorite Wild, Weird, Random Silent Film?

One of the most under-discussed aspects of silent films by non-nerds is how wonderfully, on-purpose weird they were. I personally can’t get enough of the eccentric plotting, visuals and humor of some silent era films and I have a feeling some of you feel the same way.

So, tell me, which silent film just hits all the “weird” buttons for you in the best way possible?

For me, it’s Princess Nicotine; or, The Smoke Fairy, a 1909 Vitagraph comedy about a tiny, teenage fairy who smokes and tries to set the house on fire when crossed. Gladys Hulette is delightfully demented in the lead and the special effects remain quite impressive.

Now it’s your turn! Please share the most wonderfully weird silent film you have run across. (Weird is relative, of course, so this is very much a matter of personal taste and opinion and there are no wrong answers.)

If you haven’t experienced anything strange in the silents yet, I highly recommend Wild & Weird, a collection of oddball films released by Flicker Alley and scored by the Alloy Orchestra.

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

  1. Stan and Ollie could certainly bring the weird in their silent shorts. Habeas Corpus come immediately to mind. The Boys will do anything for a bit of money in this one, or for a slice of buttered toast 😉

  2. Nazimova’s SALOME is my main pick. I was so fascinated by it’s weirdness that I became an instant fan of hers.

    Some others:

    1921’s “Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend: The Pet” is pretty crazy. Perhaps the first (or at least one of) instance of a giant monster on film. It’s a fun animated piece and I highly recommend it. Some of those shorts relating to rarebit are bizarre in their own right.

    1908’s “Legend of a Ghost” has some bizarre and fascinating scenes. There’s a version up on youtube that has a haunting soundtrack to it that really elevates the creepiness of the film.

    1911’s L’Inferno is another weird film. It’s one of those movies that when you watch it, it feels like it’s 3am in the morning and you’re sort of in a dream like state and seeing all this weird stuff going on and it’s sort of making sense but not, lol.

  3. Watching The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (while having NO idea what the movie was about beforehand) was quite an experience😅. Also I never thought dead bugs could be something cute until I watched The Cameraman’s Revenge.

  4. We’re spoilt for choice; but I guess I’ll go with Benjamin Christensen’s ‘Håxan’
    Certainly room for Charley Bowers too.

  5. Lots of great films already listed above. I’ll add The Love of Zero, Robert Florey and William Cameron Menzies’ mad, surreal and exquisitely beautiful love story.

  6. Himmelskibet aka A Trip To Mars. The vegetarian angle that plays a pivotal part in the latter half of the story makes it truly bizarre on top of the eccentric Jules Verne influenced aesthetics of the film such as the ship and its ascent into space.

  7. I have a special love of the eerie or uncanny, which isn’t always the same as the weird, tho’ STRANGENESS is something they might all share. Great as “Leaping Fish” and “Cameraman’s Revenge” are, they lie for me more in the zany weird neighborhood.

    But “Haxan” has a weirdness for every taste, so I guess I’ll go with that. Still, I have to mention my top candidate for the weird or uncanny: “Vampyr.” This wonderful movie, a silent in spirit, makes silence WORK for the weird, & what garbled, muffled talking there is merely enhances the mystification. “Vampyr” is a dream or nightmare put on screen, fit company with “Orphee” & “Vertigo.”

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