The Incredibly Strange Film Show: Revisit 1980s Documentaries on David Lynch, John Waters, Alejandro Jodorowsky & Other Filmmakers

Every film­mak­er, no mat­ter how main­stream or under­ground, has to get the inspi­ra­tion to become a film­mak­er some­where. “I used to watch the pro­gramme Jonathan Ross did in the late 80s called The Incred­i­bly Strange Film Show and they did a whole hour on Sam Rai­mi,” remem­bers Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pil­grim vs. the World direc­tor Edgar Wright, who in those days could­n’t imag­ine what it took to enter the impos­si­bly dis­tant world known as Hol­ly­wood. “I def­i­nite­ly hadn’t seen The Evil Dead as it was banned on video at the time – but I saw the Jonathan Ross doc­u­men­tary and I was stag­gered. I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ ”

Although the show only ran 12 episodes, The Incred­i­bly Strange Film Show fea­tured doc­u­men­taries on not just Sam Rai­mi but David Lynch, John Waters, Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky, and oth­er direc­tors with fil­mo­gra­phies as dis­tinc­tive as their per­son­al­i­ties. (You’ll find oth­er episodes on this Youtube playlist.) Ross and his team go all out, inter­view­ing not just the auteurs behind Eraser­head, Pink Flamin­gos, and The Holy Moun­tain them­selves but their friends, fam­i­ly mem­bers, and col­lab­o­ra­tors in var­i­ous loca­tions impor­tant to their work and their lives. (Ross even takes the step of dress­ing like his sub­jects, but­ton­ing his shirt all the way up in the Lynch episode and so on.)

The Incred­i­bly Strange Film Show orig­i­nal­ly aired in 1988 and 1989, but after decades of cel­e­bra­tion in cin­e­ma cul­ture, does the work of the likes of Lynch, Waters, and Jodor­owsky still count as “incred­i­bly strange”? Their movies cer­tain­ly do endure, but not by sheer odd­i­ty alone. We’ve seen plen­ty of stranger or more extreme images than theirs com­mit­ted to cel­lu­loid in the years since, but we’ve arguably seen far few­er equal­ly coher­ent and per­son­al visions suc­cess­ful­ly make the tran­si­tion from obscu­ri­ty to influ­ence. These elder states­men of famous fringe film, in oth­er words, each in his own way made the zeit­geist itself a lit­tle more incred­i­bly strange. Long may that achieve­ment inspire.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Moviedrome: Film­mak­er Alex Cox Pro­vides Video Intro­duc­tions to 100+ Clas­sic Cult Films

John Lan­dis Decon­structs Trail­ers of Great 20th Cen­tu­ry Films: Cit­i­zen Kane, Sun­set Boule­vard, 2001 & More

David Lynch Presents the His­to­ry of Sur­re­al­ist Film (1987)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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