All of H.P. Lovecraft’s Classic Horror Stories Free Online: Download Audio Books, eBooks & More

We cannot properly speak of horror fiction without mentioning the name H.P. Lovecraft, any more than we could do so without speaking of Edgar Allan Poe, whose complete works we featured in a post yesterday. Even now, as some of Lovecraft’s really vicious attitudes have come in for much critical reappraisal, the Lovecraftian is still a dominant form. Winners of the World Fantasy Award receive a bust of the author, and dark modern masters like Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates admit that Lovecraft was “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale” and “an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction.” His work, writes Salon, has influenced “everyone from the Argentinian metafictionist Jorge Luis Borges to the film director Guillermo del Toro, as well as untold number of rock bands and game designers.”

The early twentieth century author spent almost his entire life in the New England of his birth, drawing on its many oddities in obscure stories published in pulp magazines—notably the influential Weird Tales. Hypochondriac, hyper-sensitive, and reclusive in later life, Lovecraft survived on a dwindling inheritance and never achieved much recognition. But in death, he has spawned a formidable cult who immerse themselves in a universe created from references to the occult, demonology, and various mythological archetypes. However overwrought his prose, Lovecraft’s work can be situated in a long literary tradition of influence, and a Lovecraft circle continued to expand his vision of scientific and supernatural horror after his death.

Central to the Lovecraft cosmos are “The Old Ones,” a collection of powerful primordial beings, and their cult worshipers, first introduced in “The Call of Cthulhu” in 1926. At the top of the post, you can hear a dramatic reading of the story by Garrick Hagon. Just above hear a radio dramatization of “The Colour Out of Space,” which was collected in The Best American Short Stories in 1928, one of the few of Lovecraft’s works to receive such an honor in his lifetime. You’ll find much more Lovecraft read aloud on YouTube, including classic stories like “The Dunwich Horror,” “At The Mountains of Madness,” and “The Horror at Red Hook.”

Listening to Lovecraft is an excellent, as well as convenient, way to experience his work. His florid, often archaic, and melodramatic descriptions lend themselves perfectly to aural interpretations. Luckily for us, we have not one, but two audio book collections of nearly everything Lovecraft ever wrote. Just above, stream his complete public domain works, and see the Internet Archive for another audiobook set of his collected works. One of the reasons audio of Lovecraft is so plentiful is that most of his work is in the commons. SFF Audio has yet another huge collection of Lovecraft stories read aloud, downloadable as MP3s. Finally, if you somehow can’t find what you’re looking for at any of those links, you’re bound to at The World’s Largest H.P. Lovecraft Audio Links Gateway.

Should listening to Lovecraft whet your appetite for more, you may just be ready to start reading. Although Lovecraft’s fiction features what may be some of modern literature’s most dreadful monsters, the horror in his work is mostly existential, as characters confront a vast, malevolent and thoroughly alien universe that has no regard for human life whatsoever. But the persistent bleakness and doom of his vision is countered by an inexhaustibly rich imagination. In one of the opening sentences of “The Call of Cthulu,” Lovecraft writes, “the most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents,” perhaps the truest description of his own fictional cosmos. Lovecraft scholars and fans spend lifetimes sifting through his massive storehouse of weirdness. Whether you’re inclined to join them in the deep end, or just dip in a toe, you can find all of Lovecraft’s published work in various forms at the locations below.

Given these resources, you should have no trouble becoming a Lovecraft expert by Halloween. Or, at the very least, picking out a few of his scariest stories to listen to and read aloud around a flickering jack o’ lantern or your collection of Cthulhu figurines.

Lovecraft’s works permanently reside in our twin collections: 550 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free and 600 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Morgan Spurlock, Werner Herzog & Other Stars Explain Economic Theory in 20 Short Films

Morgan Spurlock is a filmmaker who has long found catchy ways of getting his point across. For his breakout movie, Super Size Me (available on Hulu), he sought to illustrate just how truly awful fast food is for you by subsisting solely on McDonald’s for a month. His diet literally almost killed him. Not long after the movie came out, McDonald’s started adding more healthy options to its menu. In POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Spurlock looked to make a documentary about product placement in movies by financing the doc entirely through product placement. (That movie gets pretty meta fast.) And most recently, Spurlock has launched We The Economy: 20 Short Films You Can’t Afford To Miss. As you might surmise, the series tries to explain economics to the masses by releasing 20 short films made by a host of different stars and filmmakers, including Amy Poehler, Tony Hale, Sarah Silverman and Maya. The whole project will be released in theaters and on VOD but the shorts have also been released in advance on Youtube. You can watch Spurlock’s segment, called “Cave-o-nomics,” above. Seeking to answer the question “What is an economy?” Spurlock dresses up as a caveman struggling to increase his material wealth by swapping spears for meat.

The clear stand out of the bunch, however, is Ramin Bahrani’s “Lemonade War.” Bahami tackles the potentially dreary issue of business regulation by telling a tale of two rival lemonade stands. One is run by a corrupt slob – played by Patton Oswalt — and the other is run by a whip smart ten-year-old girl. Though the girl doesn’t have the money or connections that her rival has, she more than makes up for it with moxie and business acumen. This, sadly, proves to be not enough. When she calls the government regulator about some of her rival’s truly unhygienic practices, she discovers the regulator is in her competition’s pocket and soon she’s driven out of business. Things look hopeless for her until a neighborhood hero, played by none other than Werner Herzog (!), comes to her rescue. With the little girl in tow, he confronts the slob and regulator with his trademark malevolent Teutonic lilt. “If Mr. Smith could go to Washington today,” he declares, “he would filibuster you back into your big bang wormhole you have slithered out of.” The two simply cower in the face of Herzog’s Old Testament wrath. If only Herzog could deliver similar fusillades against the board of Goldman Sachs.

You can watch more segments of We The Economy here — or find them in our collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle & Other British Authors Sign Manifesto Backing England’s Role in WWI


Thinkers have said a great deal about the relative might of the pen and the sword—often one well-known phrase in particular—but still, the subject of intellect versus might remains a matter of active inquiry. But what if might harnesses intellect? What if those who live by the pen pick up their writing tool of choice to endorse the national use of weaponry infinitely more powerful than all the swords ever forged? This very thing happened in the Britain of 1914: “FAMOUS AUTHORS DEFEND ENGLAND’S WAR,” read the headlines, and University of Ottawa English professor Nick Milne has more historical analysis of the event in the first post of “Pen and Sword,” a series focusing on British Propaganda at the open educational resource World War I Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings.

“In September of 1914,” writes Milne in a version of the post up at Slate, “as the armies of Europe were engaged in the Race to the Sea and the stalemate of the trenches loomed, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and other British authors collaborated on a remarkable piece of war propaganda. Fifty-three of the leading authors in Britain — a number that included Thomas Hardy and H.G. Wells — appended their names to the ‘Authors’ Declaration.’ This manifesto declared that the German invasion of Belgium had been a brutal crime, and that Britain ‘could not without dishonour have refused to take part in the present war.'” Other men of letters the War Propaganda Bureau could convince to sign on, in addition to Kipling, a fellow rarely called insufficiently patriotic, included “defender of unorthodox thought by unorthodox methods” G.K. Chesterton.

You can take a close-up look at the complete list of signatories with their brief bios, as well as the signatures themselves, by clicking at the image of the New York Times page up above. (Then click again to zoom in.) England may not, in the event, have lost the First World War, but the buoyancy its writers provided its fighting spirit had little to do with it. Germany “responded to the declaration by bringing together an even larger assortment of artists, authors, and scientists to sign the Manifesto of the Ninety-Three, an astounding document which denied any German wrongdoing in Belgium and bewilderingly accused the Allies of ‘inciting Mongolians and negroes against the white race.'”

Several of the British writers involved, most notably H.G. Wells, eventually developed a public cynicism toward the war. “The unity of vision and purpose the declaration so strongly implied,” as Milne mildly puts it, “did not endure.”

via Slate

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey Gets a Brand New Trailer to Celebrate Its Digital Re-Release

If you’re in the UK, get ready for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. 46 years after its original release, it’s returning to theatres near you in a digitally-restored format, starting on November 18. (Find dates and locations here.) To celebrate the re-release of this “philosophically ambitious, technically innovative and visually stunning cinematic milestone,” the British Film Institute has created a new trailer (above). Down below, we have the original 1968 trailer (which I prefer) and some good background items on the film itself.

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Download The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Macabre Stories as Free eBooks & Audio Books

With Halloween fast approaching, let us remind you that few American writers can get you into the existentially chilling spirit of this climatically chilling season than Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). And given that he lived and wrote entirely in the first half of the 19th century, few American writers can do it at so little financial cost to you, the reader. Today we’ve collected Poe’s freely available, public domain works of pure psychological unsettlement into five volumes of eBooks:

And five volumes of audiobooks as well (all the better to work their way into your subconscious):

And if, beyond perhaps reading here and there about pits, pendulums, ravens, and casks in Italy, you’ve never plunged into the canon produced by this troubled master of letters — American Romantic, acknowledged adept of the macabre, inventor of detective fiction, and contributor to the eventual emergence of science fiction — your chance has come. If you feel the understandable need for a lighter preliminary introduction to Poe’s work, hear Christopher Walken (speaking of American icons) deliver a surprisingly non-excessively Walkenified interpretation of “The Raven” at the top of the post. Below, we have a 1953 animation of “The Tell-Tale Heart” narrated by James Mason:

After watching these videos, you’ll surely want to spend Halloween time catching up on everything else Poe wrote, after which you’ll understand that true scariness arises not from slasher movies, malevolent pumpkins, or tales of hooks embedded in car doors, but from the sort of thing the closed-eyed narrator of “The Pit and the Pendulum” means when he says, “It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I grew aghast lest there should be nothing to see.”

The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe permanently reside in our twin collections: 550 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free and 600 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Rick Rubin Revisits the Origins of Def Jam Records & the NYU Dorm Room Where It All Began

There may have been no more influential a label in the late 1980s than Def Jam Records. Founded by Rick Rubin, Def Jam launched the careers of The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, and dozens more hip-hop pioneers. But its beginnings were humble. The earliest Def Jam releases list the mailing address as “5 University Pl. #712.” Current and former NYU students out there may recognize this address—it’s a dorm room in the university’s Weinstein Residence Hall, where in 1984, Rubin set up shop and began trying to reproduce the sound, as Rolling Stone writes, of “the raw performances he heard in clubs and the wild parties he threw.”

In the short Rolling Stone documentary above, “Rick Was Here,” see the pioneering producer revisit his origins, returning to his old dorm for the first time in 30 years. He talks about the “very specific feeling” of early hip-hop, and his desire to shift the focus of hip-hop records from R&B backing tracks to the DJ, who was all-important in live performances. Def Jam’s first release, T La Rock and Jazzy Jay’s “It’s Yours,” remains a classic of the genre. At the time, says Rubin, “it didn’t sound like anything else,” and through that record, Rubin met Russell Simmons, already “a big fish in the small pond of hip hop.” Simmons brought along a host of artists and gave Rubin more credibility in the community. Now the two are superproducers and moguls, but their origin story is one of scrappy determination that sparked a musical revolution.

The short film also features interviews with Simmons, LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys’ Adam Horowitz, and some of Rubin’s former dorm-mates and accomplices. For more on Def Jam’s early years, MetaFilter points us toward the history Def Jam Recordings: The First 35 Years of the Last Great Record Label and Russell Simmons’ autobiography Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, + God.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Groundbreaking Art of Alex Steinweiss, Father of Record Cover Design

Steinweiss Grieg

Given the visual perfection and ubiquity of album covers by designers like Storm Thorgerson and Peter Saville—given the popularity of blogs featuring monumentally bad album covers—it’s hard to feature a time when records came wrapped in plain brown paper like cheap booze or covered in nondescript bindings like business ledgers. But this was the case, before another widely admired designer, Alex Steinweiss, more or less invented the album cover in 1939 at the age of 22.

Steinweiss Boogie

There had been cover art before, during the age of the 78 rpm record, but only for the rare special release. Most music came stamped with its contents and little else. Initially contracted by Columbia Records to produce better jackets for the unwieldy 78, Steinweiss soon became the label’s art director and convinced them to try out several full color designs inspired by French and German modernist poster art. When Columbia released the first vinyl LP in 1948, Steinweiss not only designed the cover, but he invented the paperboard jacket that still surrounds records today.

Steinweiss Gershwin

You can see a few of Steinweiss’ covers for classical and jazz albums here. At the top of the post, see that first LP cover, for a recording of Grieg’s Violin Concerto in E Minor. The design may seem pretty restrained, but Steinweiss quickly broadened his palette. Just below the Grieg cover is a classic design for the jazz compilation Boogie Woogie, and just above, we have a colorful block design for a Gershwin album. Steinweiss also drew inspiration from abstract expressionist painters like Wassily Kandinsky, as you can see in the Bartok cover below.

bartok cover

Steinweiss’ designs were extremely popular and sent record sales soaring. In one instance, Newsweek reported that sales of a recording of Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony “increased 895% with its new Steinweiss cover.” A savvy, fearless artist, Steinweiss left the field with the same ease and grace with which he’d entered it. After designing album covers, movie posters, and graphics for “countless other products” for 33 years, writes Jeff Newelt for the Art Directors Club, Steinweiss retired to become a painter, “noting the rise of Swiss Modernism and minimalism, and the increasing preference for photography in the field” of graphic design. While Steinweiss wasn’t afraid to incorporate photos into his designs on occasion—as you can see in a 1940 Bessie Smith cover below—it was the rare occasion. Mostly what interested him were bold colors and geometrical shapes.

Steinweiss Bessie Smith

Though it’s certain that someone would have come along and created record covers eventually, it’s hard to underestimate the tremendous influence Steinweiss had on the form—the way his work has guided our experience of staring in awe at a mysterious album cover, even in the MP3 age, and trying to imagine the kind of music it describes. For much, much more on Steinweiss, you could purchase this enormous, and enormously expensive, Taschen book. Or save a few bucks and browse through some extensive online collections of his work, like this Steinweiss tribute site, this six part biography, and the Birka Jazz Archive from Columbia, which also features iconic covers by such artists as Jim Flora, Neil Fujita, and Saul Bass. Steven Heller, who teaches at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, presents a talk on Steinweiss’ art here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch The Simpsons’ Halloween Parody of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining

For the past 25 years, the highlight of every season of The Simpsons has been its Treehouse of Horror Halloween special – an omnibus episode filled with morbid, and frequently hilarious, horror spoofs. It’s the one time of the year when the creators of the long running series feel comfortable with disemboweling Homer, flaying Marge, and letting Maggie wield an axe. Arguably the best one of these segments was its 1994 parody of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining – called “The Shinning”. This year, The Simpsons return to riffing on Kubrick in a segment called “A Clockwork Yellow.” You can watch a section of it above.

The episode centers on cankerous bartender Moe Szyslak as the bowler-bedecked Alex who, along with Lenny, Carl and Homer (playing Dim, of course), spouts nonsense Nadsat and terrorizes London. When they decide to break into a house, Moe and the gang end up crashing an Eyes Wide Shut-style orgy hosted by Mr. Burns. From there, the Kubrick references start flying thick and fast, with nods to Full Metal Jacket, 2001: A Space Odyssey and even Barry Lyndon (“Even I forget what this is in reference to”). And then a scene cuts to a Simpsonfied version of Kubrick, watching the segment from an editing bay. “Let’s burn this,” he bellows at an assistant. “Let’s rewrite everything. And let’s start all over.”

The full episode is available on Hulu Plus, if you have a subscription. If not, you can watch it for free after October 27th. And you can watch a portion of “The Shinning” below.

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

Are You a Psychopath? Take the Test (And, If You Fail, It’s Not All Bad News)

We’ve all heard the old philosophical scenario known as the trolley problem: as the runaway vehicle of the name careens out of control toward the edge of a cliff, you must choose whether to pull the lever to switch it to another track. The catch: while the trolley would then no longer plunge off that cliff, bringing about the certain deaths of the five people aboard, it would instead kill someone standing on the other track, who will survive if you don’t pull the lever. In a more fraught version of the problem, you must choose not whether to pull a lever, but whether to shove a person of considerable bulk onto the (single) track, stopping the trolley but killing the bulky individual.

In the Big Think video above, Oxford psychologist Kevin Dutton, author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, uses the trolley problem to illuminate the condition of psychopathy. While non-psychopaths may dither about the first version of the scenario, they eventually come to the conclusion that they prefer one death to five. They have much more of a struggle with the second version, which requires them to actually push the lone stranger to head off those five deaths. Psychopaths, by contrast, experience no such difficulty: the trolley problem, for them, hardly amounts to a problem at all, and Dutton explains, neuroscientifically, why: “Imagine that I were to hook you up to a brain scanner and present you with those two dilemmas. I would see the emotion center of your brain, your amygdala and related brain circuits, the medial orbital frontal cortex for example, light up like a pinball machine.”

And if he’d scanned a psychopath? “Precisely nothing.” All this assumes, of course, that you do not yourself suffer from psychopathy. If you don’t know whether you do, Dutton offers a handy multiple-choice “psychopath challenge” on his site that can give you an idea of the direction your brain may lean. If you’ve got a touch of the old psychopathy, don’t lock yourself away; as Dutton explains in this Time interview, “you don’t need to be violent,” and you can even attain greater success in certain fields than non-psychopathics — especially if you consider vigilantly and unhesitatingly minimizing the death tolls at diverted cliffside trolley tracks a field.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Different From the Others (1919): The First Gay Rights Movie Ever … Later Destroyed by the Nazis

From Albert Kinsey, to Sigmund Freud, to Magnus Hirschfeld, prominent social scientists have offered dissenting opinions to prevailing mainstream ideas about homosexuality as a consequence of parental or societal influences. This doesn’t mean those researchers have agreed with each other, or with current ideas, but their conclusions were controversial and startling to a consensus often complicit in the criminalization and political repression of gays and lesbians. If you haven’t heard the last name on that list above, there’s probably a good reason: Hirschfeld—a gay, Jewish physician, sexologist, and advocate in Weimar Germany—had much of his work burned by the Nazis in their 1933 rise to power.

One of Hirschfeld’s works destroyed in Nazi fires was a film he co-wrote and co-starred in called Different From the Others, the first gay rights movie in history. Released in 1919, and banned in 1920, the film explored a doomed relationship between a violinist, played by silent star Conrad Veidt, and his student. Extensive flashback scenes show both characters’ early sexual experiences, their failed attempts to change their sexual orientation (including treatment with bogus “ex-gay” therapies), and their eventual self-acceptance. In their present day, the couple is openly affectionate, until the violinist is blackmailed and dragged into court by an extortionist, then abandoned by his friends and family. He commits suicide, and his lover vows to fight the law that criminalized homosexuality in Germany, known as Paragraph 175.

Different From the Others would be lost to history were it not for Hirschfeld’s preservation of 40 minutes of footage in a separate documentary. You can view the surviving film above, with English title cards. The film was part of a didactic series on themes of sexuality that Hirschfeld made with director Richard Oswald. In each one, Hirschfeld appears as a doctor who intervenes on behalf of persecuted individuals. In Different from the Others, he does so with the violinist’s parents, telling them, “You must not condemn your son because he is a homosexual, he is not to blame for his orientation. It is not wrong, nor should it be a crime. Indeed, it is not even an illness, merely a variation, and one that is common to all of nature.”

In many other such scenes, most of them now lost, Hirschfeld explicitly states his argument that, as The New York Times writes, “homophobia, not homosexuality, was a scourge of society.” The then-radical point of view found little contemporary support—screenings were restricted solely to medical practitioners and lawyers until the film’s destruction—but it makes this artifact of tremendous interest to film historians and activists today. In addition to Hirschfeld’s pioneering activism, the film is notable for starring Viedt, who went on to fame for his role in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Despite its many lacunae and entire missing scenes, and characters, Different From the Others is currently being restored and turned into an expanded, “watchable feature,” using the surviving remnants, along with found photos and film stills, by the Outfest-UCLA Legacy Project (see their fully-funded Kickstarter here). Many scenes—such as a lengthy theoretical lecture by Hirschfeld—will be reconstructed from a synopsis, “a few reviews, and little else.” “You’re not seeing the original,” admits UCLA Film & Television Archive director Jan-Christopher Horek of the coming reconstruction, “because we don’t know what the original looks like.” Nevertheless, in whatever form, Different From the Others represents a perspective at least “50 years ahead of its time,” says Horak, with an “enlightened theory that you wouldn’t see in this country probably until the ‘70s or ‘80s.”

Different from the Others will be added to our list of Great Silent Films, part of our larger collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness