Black and white films were created by the film pioneers, the Lumière Brothers, making classic short films such as Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory.
Audiences quickly got hooked on seeing this new entertainment, mesmerised by the moving images, lasting on average 40 seconds. With the outstanding film technology available now, it can be easy to forget the films that started it all. But it was the stranger films that caused outrage, riots and shock. But they also created new illusions on the screen, new creative directions and more importantly creating cinematic history of the strange
10. La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast)
Directed by: Jean Cocteau.
It is the classic melodramatic love story known by the many, the main reason for this is the timeless favourite Disney adaptation.
The 1946 French version is operatic, moody and at points, downright creepy. So how can the love story be so strange? The main reason has to be Jean Marais’ costume as the Beast, it is without doubt one of the strangest costumes to be seen! I think the pinnacle reason the costume is strange is simply because of the pure dullness in the Beast’s eyes, its fun yet uncomfortable. I realise that the film is over 60 years old but still, 93 minutes of the costume is hard to watch! Yet, it is not all about what is on the screen, but how it is framed, so another reason why it is so strange? The camera angles are unusual for a love story, some of them being canted frames, representing that the film is unusual, surreal but beautiful, just like the Beast.
By the way, the film has one of the best comebacks ever: “May the Devil himself splatter you with dung”. Classic.
9. I Walked With a Zombie
Director: Jacques Tourneur
I'm fairly confident that the film title speaks for itself, so I’ll just move on to explain the film…
During a time when horror films were categorised as B – movies, many horror monsters had come and gone but in 1943, that changed, sort of. This film is strange simply because there really isn't a monster and the film has more focus on the atmosphere and building tension. It does not have music to build up a jump scare, there are eerily quiet passages with a faint noise of drums. It’s also strange because the film just ignores the basic of horror narrative. There’s no real explanation as to why this plot happens and no sub-plots, it’s just what the title says, a zombie film.
8. Plan 9 from Outer Space
Director: Ed Wood, Jr
It has been regarded as Wood’s best work but at the same time, abysmal. Maybe an explanation will help to understand this.
The best way to explain this 1959 gem is, it’s so bad, it’s good. The film has aliens, zombies and then Dracula appears out of nowhere during the end. The UFO’s are clearly toys which are attached on visible string. Watch the film and you will definitely laugh at it’s obvious low budget production, but there’s also this sense of being uncomfortable and it’s the same reason why you’ll laugh. It flopped in its release but became a cult classic during the 80s midnight showings, being regarded as ironic humour. It’s fun to watch for all the wrong reasons, sci–fi gone wrong at it’s very best.
7. Bride of Frankenstein
Director: James Whale.
The sequel to Frankenstein portrays that sequels do not have to suck, they can be strange and also have a badass female lead role.
The 1935 classic over the top monster film has all kind of strangeness but in a sort of sweet way. Witnessing the monster learning to talk, smoke and even develop romantic feelings is definitely strange to absorb but watching Frankenstein being humanised is actually pretty sweet too. One of the main visuals which makes this film both strange and classic has to be Elsa Lanchester’s hair, it is electrifying. The two streaks of wavy hair and add the dark lips all just pinpoint to how she broke the convention of what is beauty, the camera loved her. Overall, it is strange, but it is the sort of strange where it entices you in.
Director: F. W. Murnau
There can’t be a list of strange black and white films if this film isn't mentioned. It’s iconic in all it’s strangeness!
Every cinephile knows Nosferatu, and even if you don’t, everyone knows the classic scene when his long fingers and silhouette are shadowed against the wall. It was one of the early films to use the conventional horror concept of a jump scare, even though it probably won’t actually make you jump. But still it’s the reason the film is so strange, he just stands there with the same wide eyed facial expression, giant hands wearing all black, it’s just so creepy. There have been many adaptations of Dracula but Nosferatu does the story justice , probably because it pretty much stole every idea from the original book. Be warned that if the watch this you’ll probably eye up the walls around you after.
Director: Tod Browning
It was the year 1932. Horror films were becoming a success with films such as The Mummy, The Old Dark House and The Most Dangerous Game. All were scary but Freaks proved that horror could not only jump but shock.
The film represents the disabled in a very explicit manner. At one point they are referred to as “Blunders of nature." There is a plot to the film but it is completely overshadowed by the unique cast, which many think was the intention of the film. Before and during production the cast known as the ‘Freak Troupe’ were happy being selected for the film. However, when the film was released the majority of the audiences hated it, so much so it became banned. Even the cast of Freaks hated the film and eventually left the circus business. It’s a strange film, no strange scenes in particular but there’s just this uncomfortable feeling surrounding you when watching the film. It’s an interesting film in regards to its strangeness and the circus business, but be prepared to feel uncomfortable.
4. Un Chein Andalou
Director: Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali.
Who knew that film which has only a 16 minute duration could make so many people squirm as they watch?
During the 1920s, the time when Charlie Chaplin was crafting comedy with slapstick humour, surrealism was a quiet art form. Un Chein Andalou is the 1928 French film which basically put two fingers up to the popular cinema. The strangest and most iconic scene from the short movie is when a man slits a woman’s eye open but it’s framed in an extreme close up shot, meaning you see EVERYTHING and it’s pretty difficult to watch. The film has scenes including sexual assault, nudity and a personal favourite for the strangeness, tiny bugs crawling out of a hole…originating from a man’s hand. The film is definitely strange but there is no denying the creativity boldness. Although the film created riots during it's release it is now considered to be a must in a film – school curriculum. Most cinema's give a pre-warning about it’s hard visuals but it still does not stop viewers fainting, also known as the Andalou effect.
3. Des Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari
Director: Robert Wiene.
Noted as “The first horror film," The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a cult classic, simple as that.
It is a film that has dominated the study of German Expressionism. The plot itself has unexpected twists and turns with its ever changing character development. But the strangest aspect of this film has to be the character Cesare (Conrad Veidt). The now classic close up frame of his wide eyed face shows the use of dramatic black and white make – up, making Cesare one of the first memorable monsters of film history. The set design has to be one of the most strangest yet amazing to be created, the sharp edges channel a disturbed and lost mind of Cesare. While Dr. Caligari himself sets the path for future mad scientists with his over the top costume and acting. While watching the films surrealism and creativity it still makes the eyebrows raise in surprise that the film is over 90 years old. If you want strange then this is the film to watch.
Director: David Lynch
Ah, David Lynch, he himself is a mystery. A rare director who has managed to merge strangeness with feature films.
One of his early feature films is Eraserhead, a complex story with a whole lot of strange involved. Set in an industrial environment, where it appears that very and I mean VERY few people live. It follows the story of Henry (Jack Nance), a man whose reality and nightmares are on thin ice. One of the most disturbing moments comes quite early in the film during a dinner scene with his girlfriend Mary (Charlotte Stewart) and her parents. Mary shows Henry their baby and he/she is severely mutated and wrapped in bandages, but the one aspect that makes it so strange is the quiet also desperate breath heard from the baby. As a first time viewer you can’t help but just hold in your breath. There are many other dream sequences including kissing his neighbour and his head being created into pencils. But the most disturbing by far has to be when The Lady in the Radiator is standing on stage. She does not speak a single word but slowly dances in order to move from one fetus to the next to stamp on them. It does not help when with her medium close up frames she is looking directly into the camera, as a viewer you do not want to, but you cannot help but look into her eyes. If you want to leave a film questioning whether you were high or not then this is for you.
1.Haxan (Witchcraft Through the Ages)
Director: Benjamin Christensen
Witchcraft, black magic and superstition are the themes in this Swedish seven chapter film. Seriously it’s strange.
In the 1920s, films such as Nosferatu were being released, spooky new films that were too much for the viewers. One of the films that was too much has to be Haxan. Interestingly, the film has a documentary style aspect to it, depicting real life superstitions such as Deeds of the Devil and Trials of the Inquisition. A scene which is seriously strange is when a medieval torture instrument called thumbscrews are actually used on an actress and it quickly becomes obvious that she feels genuine pain. There is a lot of drinking, sex and more drinking, they even sacrifice a baby at one point. Unsurprisingly, it was banned quickly after it’s release and it was not till the 60s when it would become popular at the midnight showings. Even though it is incredibly strange and very engaging to watch at the same, would recommend a watching, if you have the stomach for it.