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You really have to look at "The Patchwork Girl of Oz" in context, otherwise you'll just dismiss it as a dull and incomprehensible movie. But, back in 1914, it was a rather impressive tale--but one that even audiences back then probably struggled to understand unless they'd read the Frank Baum story. Heck, I tried watching it was was TOTALLY confused until I read a summary of the story on the internet! That's because the narrative is really scant--with almost no intertitle cards. Instead, it's shown as a series of tenuously connected vignettes which are described on the card and then acted out...as was the style up until about 1914 or a bit later. It comes off almost like a slide show that is acted out for the audience! This certainly is NOT all that entertaining and too often the characters just cavort about aimlessly or do acrobatics instead of acting--and it comes off pretty poorly. BUT, again, it was pretty much the style of the day. The ladies in the film and sets and 'magic' were pretty similar to the work done a decade earlier by the groundbreaking French film maker Georges Méliès. By 1914, these amazing effects and story telling really were a a bit passé--definitely on their way out--which might explain why the film was a critical flop--that, and the fact that the audience probably had no idea what was occurring on screen! Interesting from a historical perspective and having excellent production values for the time, but still very easy to skip unless you adore very early silent films.
Thomas Edison not only was the inventor of the motion picture camera, but he was the one of the earliest movie producers. I have been a fan Baum's "Wizard of OZ" books for years so when I saw this movie at my local library I was intrigued. Techincal the movie shows its age being silent and some parts of the movie missing, and the special effects looking primitive. The movie closely follows the book, while being quality family entertainment.
Anybody who has seen THE WIZARD OF OZ (and who hasn't) should check out this earlier silent story from the Land of Oz. Don't expect the same story though as the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion only show up at the end of the movie. The Patchwork Girl resembles an acrobatic Bozo the Clown with dreadlocks and a hoopskirt. Other bizarre creatures that show up include the Woozy (a sort of cardboard-box/cat creature) and the scary but lonesome Zoop.
A feast of quaint but super-hectic activity, presented before a solidly
stationary camera (except for the effective concluding shot), this is a
dated and none too interesting attempt by author L. Frank Baum himself
to transfer his Oz from the printed page to the cinema. He is let down
by the totally unimaginative direction (from well-known character actor
J. Farrell MacDonald), the almost entirely stationary camera-work
(though there are a couple of clever touches here and there) with its
long, boring takes, and the inappropriately over-the-top enthusiasm of
almost all the players.
As a curiosity, the movie would make a tolerable two-reeler, but 65 minutes of repetitious jumping, sliding, running, kicking, dancing, climbing, gallivanting, funning and frolicking, is, despite the picturebook tints and novel costumes of its picturebook illustrations brought to life, just far too much of a mediocre thing.
Now, if the highly imaginative original drawings by W.W. Denslow that accompanied Baum's first and most famous venture into the land of Oz, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), had been brought to life rather than the conventional Victoriana here displayed, the film would doubtless have captured an audience's interest far more than this ultimately wearisome parade. Unfortunately, there was no chance of that happy eventuality. Baum and Denslow had a falling out in 1901 when both men claimed that the instant success of Oz was primarily due to their own input. Therefore it's no surprise that producer Baum made it his business to ensure the movie's visuals were as far removed from Denslow's creations as possible.
The recent phenomenon of Harry Potter isn't so unusual. An early case
it the amazing popularity of Oz.
The books, the first ones, became popular, amazingly so. By some measures more popular than Potter. They are simple: children, a magical land rather a land like ours in many ways but with magic and magical creatures.
Then the movies started. Magic sells cinematically when the world is like the one we live in plus magic that matches what the camera can emulate. When the writer understands the overlap, he or she can write books that are cinematically rooted. Each feeds the other. Each feeds the juvenile imagination.
You should watch this. Because with distance, you can see how shallow that imagination is. The effects of today's movies are better, but they are no less believable to us than these were in their day. Let that soak in and you'll get pretty depressed about the current Potter phenomenon (and probably increase your appreciation for the "Rings" works).
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
"The Patchwork Girl of Oz" is one of the three Oz films produced by
author L. Frank Baum's own production company. And, as to be expected,
it's childish for sure. Supposedly, there's humor in characters jumping
around and moving about erratically. Violet MacMillan plays a munchkin
boy, but is very obviously a woman. Additionally, the static shots from
a stationary camera make it a typically primitive film from 1914. But,
there is also some inventive fantasy design--in the story, its odd
places and characters, the costumes (even the silly animal ones) and
the sets. The trick shots, such as stop-motion animation, are very
basic, even for 1914, but nothing more was needed.
Children of today could still probably have fun watching this, but even for adults addicted to silent films, like myself, it may be too childish. Yet, they transferred the fantasy from the book very well and that made it worth a look for me. And, the film's faithfulness to the book shouldn't be in question, as Baum worked on this adaptation himself. It's also interesting how far back children's movies and fantasies go in film history. It's been sometime since I saw the two follow-ups to this film: "The Magic Cloak of Oz" and "His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz", but I remember them as more of the same.
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