A lot of people would argue that the greatest benefit of the internet is that it put the bulk of human knowledge at everyone’s fingertips. With a little bit of spare time and some discipline, anyone with an internet connection can teach themselves how to do just about anything – become an armchair expert on just about any topic. This is all well and good, but I think this dismisses the single most important byproduct of the information age: the depth and breadth of weird shit you can watch on YouTube when you’re too stoned to do anything that involves leaving the couch.
People in the 80s and 90s had to make do with Rage or whatever else was on TV. People in the 60s and 70s had to – I don’t know – talk to each other? Read books? Whatever it was, it sounds terrible. But now, we have unparalleled access to the media of the past and the present, and most household set-ups let you just chuck ’em up on the TV. Incredible.
As P.TV‘s official weed correspondent (I’m hoping if I type this enough, they will believe that this is my actual job title), allow me to present to you only the finest selection of weird shit on YouTube to bliss out to.
1970s paranormal documentaries
I’m not saying that we know everything now, but we certainly know a lot more than we did in the 70s. For the most part, this is good, but it kinda ruined the paranormal documentary. It’s hard to make 90 minutes of engaging entertainment about ancient aliens when we can immediately debunk pretty well any bit of ‘evidence’ offered up. There’s none of this in the 70s. Absolutely ridiculous hypotheses based on botched interpretations of outdated archaeological finds and obvious hoaxes are delivered with the same confidence as someone describing the colour of the sky. It fuckin’ rules.
There are a whole bunch of these just kicking around on YouTube, but I’ll start you off with a few of my favourites.
The Amazing World of Psychic Phenomena
A completely nuts 1976 documentary about telepathy that has little play along exercises for you to do at home, to prove that you are, in fact, psychic.
In Search of Ancient Astronauts
Scientists are yet to discover anything more calming than listening to Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling‘s voice, and I doubt they ever will. At one point in this, there’s an interview with Werner von Braun about aliens that somehow completely neglects to mention that he was a former Nazi scientist brought to the US as part of Operation Paperclip.
Alright, given that this was released in 1980, this is not technically a 1970s documentary, but it’s definitely in the spirit of the time. Genuinely one of the most confusing things I have ever seen, this starts off as a relatively straightforward documentary about the Tunguska event in 1908 and then veers wildly into UFO territory. The whole thing is wrapped up in this weird meta-story about a humanoid alien trying to learn more about Earth culture. It is unbelievably fucked.
The Mysterious Monsters
Peter Graves talking to me about the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot? Yes. A thousand times yes.
Fleischer Studios cartoons
People in the 30s might have been terrible at a few things (not being racist, not being sexist, etc) but they were sure good at making cartoons. Brothers Max and David Fleischer were pioneers in early animation and the stuff still holds up today, even more so if you are stoned out of your gourd.
Swings You Sinners
If you turn a blind eye to the incredibly offensive racist and anti-semitic stereotypes in this, it is an incredible piece of art. This 1930 cartoon starts off relatively straightforward then descends into complete madness that ranges from dancing skeletons slapping their own butts to a morphing scat-singing demon frog screaming its head off while fireworks (?) go off behind it.
Minnie the Moocher
This has legendary jazz singer Cab Calloway both performing the titular song and also dancing along to it in the form of an animated walrus that was traced over footage of his moves. What really bakes my noodle is that Calloway was filmed performing this for both a 1932 cartoon and the Blues Brothers, released in 1980. What a life.
The Old Man of the Mountain
Another very solid Fleischer / Calloway collab. The whole thing is not only deeply strange, but also terrifyingly catchy.
Pro-tip: if you run out of the early Fleischer studio ones, the early Looney Tunes stuff is solid gold as well.
Vic Berger videos
Good news: we’re back to things that were made this century. Vic Berger has an incredible talent for taking otherwise innocuous and turning it into things that are, at times, terrifying and, at other times, hauntingly beautiful.
Jim Bakker’s Buckets
Daytime evangelical television is already unsettling enough, but Vic has managed to pull all the strangest moments into one seamless nightmare. Slow, pensive, and very, very creepy.
Steve Harvey Doesn’t Want To Do ‘Ask Steve’ Anymore
Another beautifully edited work of art, this time showing Steve Harvey‘s slow descent into madness as he becomes more and more disenchanted with what people say to him on TV.
Is this just a derivative of vaporwave that has the added hook of exploiting your nostalgia? It sure is. Is it the best thing in the world when you’re high? You’re absolutely goddamn right.
There are a whole bunch of these and your YouTube recommendations will sort you out after you hoe into a few, but here are some to start you off.
These were something of a cross between a documentary and a really long ad, generally put together by airlines or tourism boards. Similar to the paranormal documentaries, these were made at a time when nobody really knew anything about anything, so they’re more often than not quite wrong, but in a really charming way.
I find these particularly good if I’m in that weird sort of high where I find myself reading way too much into what people are doing and forming a completely unwarranted emotional bond with them. Despite their ridiculously high pants and unnecessarily huge cars, I become overwhelmed at the thought that all of the people you see back then were just as real and complex as we are. Drugs, man.
This is not so much a category as it is just one movie. Fehérlófia (AKA Son of the White Mare) is a 1981 Hungarian animated movie that I have watched maybe half a dozen times and yet could still not tell you a single thing about, at least as it pertains to the plot. This is largely due to the fact that it is in Hungarian (there are subtitles if you really want them). The plot, however good it might be, is unimportant. What’s important is that this movie is 90 minutes of abstract, colourful, ever-shifting craziness.
Fehérlófia feels like it was designed for people who are high (although this also generally seems to be true of anything I watch when I’m high – coincidence???). I usually chuck this bad boy on mute and slam on some music, my preferences tend towards something big and epic like Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World, Barge With An Antenna On It‘s Divided at the Serpent River, Sleep‘s Dopesmoker, or Ufomammut‘s Idolum, but your mileage may vary.
Other people’s home movies
Admittedly, this one is a bit weird.
Probably because it’s an easy way to share them with your extended family, YouTube is chock full of people’s digitised home movies. Holiday get-togethers from the 50s and 60s shot on 8mm film, 80s dads posing with their new car or whatever ripped from VHS – it’s all there. This might sound a bit creepy and invasive, but this shit is straight up fascinating. You watch one of these for long enough when you’re super high and after a while you start to believe maybe you grew up with this family.
I watched one one time where the person editing it had done a bunch of little editing tricks to make people disappear in and out of the frame and I was so powerfully struck by the thought that there was no way that, back in the 70s, this guy could have predicted that a super high guy 50 years in the future would see it and be like ‘nice, dude’.
A lot of these tend to have no sound thanks to the fact that they were on mediums that didn’t record it, but I can tell you straight up that nothing accompanies these better than just chucking the entire Boards of Canada discography on shuffle.
Unsurprisingly given that they were made specifically to be paired with music, silent movies work really, really well paired with music. This is perfect for if you are like me and you really want to both simultaneously watch a movie and listen to music, because your attention span has been ruined by the internet.
Basically, any movie will work with any kind of music but here are a few combinations I’ve found delightful.
The Golem + Chelsea Wolfe’s Apokalypsis
A 1920 film about a clay man and the downtempo gothic folk (?) of Chelsea Wolfe goes down a right treat.
Häxan + Slint’s Spiderland
Häxan (known in English as The Witches or Witchcraft Through the Ages) is a 1922 sort-of documentary about witchcraft that mainly acts as a montage of incredible cool shit, and the atmospheric gloominess of Spiderland goes with it beautifully, imho.
Metropolis + Bowery Electric’s Beat
Keen observers will note that Beat is about an hour long and that Fritz Lang‘s 1927 masterpiece Metropolis is over double that, but if your attention span happens to last that long, following Beat up with the self-titled Bowery Electric record will also be a good time.
How good is living in the future, hey?