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This is a pretty weird adaptation of the "Wizard of Oz", bearing only a
passing resemblance either to the original book or to the beloved Judy
Garland version. The story is much different, and the characters look and
act much differently. Frankly, most of it isn't really very good, although
for those who enjoy silent films there are some points of historical
Instead of the more familiar story of young Dorothy's trip to Oz, the scenario here has a melodrama centering on a somewhat older Dorothy (Dorothy Dwan), combined with some slapstick involving the Oz characters. In itself, it's not necessarily a big problem to adapt the story (after all, the great 1939 version also made some significant changes from the book), but this one does not really fit together very well, and it certainly does not work as well as the more familiar story. It really looks as if Larry Semon just tried far too hard to put his own personal stamp on the story, instead of simply trying to make a good movie version of the Wizard. It's interesting to see Oliver Hardy as the Tin Woodman, but he doesn't really get a lot to do, and a number of the other characters are ill-conceived, and do not work out well at all. It's also plagued with a lot of excruciating puns in the title cards, plus other similar problems.
Some of the finest movies ever made came from this era, when the silents were at their peak, and it should have been possible to make a first-rate adaptation of the Oz story, but unfortunately this isn't it. With its overdone attempts at humor and melodrama, it looks more like the stereotyped images of silent movies that are held by so many ill-informed modern moviegoers. For silent movie fans, there are still a couple of points of interest that might make it worth watching in order to satisfy one's curiosity, but otherwise there's really no particular reason to see it.
I approached this film with great interest. Being a fan of Oz in general
and silent film in particular, this seemed like a sure fit. Well, it's hard
to put all prejudices aside, having (like most people) been bombarded with
various adaptations of L. Frank Baum's book that one naturally has
Now, I won't bother to comment on the liberties taken in this film, the 1939 film bears, in all truth, barely a passing resemblance to Baum's dark and bizarre novel. The problem is, the changes made for this film just don't work. It's really just a standard silent slapstick film, but not a very funny one.
It's hard to sit through 90 minutes of lame jokes and vulgar stereotypes. But, as a historical curiosity, the film merits a once-over. I cannot, however, endorse the release pictured on the IMDb page, with it's "Digital Soundtrack" and "Narration." The music is inappropriate and the narration is silly...I mean, I CAN read for myself thank you! It was like sitting in the theatre with some rude patron talking to the screen! I expect this was added for children watching the films, but I really don't think many young children today would sit through this, sadly.
See it at least once, but don't expect too much from it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**Contains spoilers ** Where do I begin with this one? Okay, you'll
have gathered that the film is based only very loosely on the book. And
by very loosely I mean its taken a few basic ideas - a girl called
Dorothy, three workers from her farm in Kansas who (sort of) become a
scarecrow, a tin woodman and a lion, and a far off land called Oz where
resides a 'wizard'.
Larry Semon's complete re-working of the story just fails. It is an awkward mish-mash of ideas. Some of the elements of Baum's original story are shoe-horned into the plot without much logic behind them, and there are a number of sub-plots that are not satisfactorily resolved.
Dorothy loves her Auntie Em - but once the action switches to Oz, Auntie Em and Kansas are just forgotten about.
Then there's Oliver Hardy's character which is inconsistent throughout the film. When we first see him he's kind and protective towards Dorothy. At the end of the film he's one of the prime villains! Likewise Dorothy's Uncle Henry is initially hostile towards her, then is a protective guardian before becoming a bit of a villain again by the end.
Most disgracefully the film's eponymous character, the Wizard, is hardly in the plot at all. He's not a wizard but a charlatan and has little relevance to the story other than to provide a (very tenuous) reason why the farmhands disguise themselves as a scarecrow, tin man and lion.
Dorothy totally lacks any motive throughout this film. The plot is more centred around Semon's character who loves Dorothy but spends most of the time clowning around totally independently of her. His gags are mostly physical and some of the stunt-work is impressive but there are also sequences which go on well past the point where the idea has been milked, notably an impossible scene where Semon is hiding in wooden crates and somehow manages to teleport himself from one to another! Given the otherwise complete absence of magic in the film, the sequence defies explanation.
Also confused is the idea that the ruling Prime Minister of Oz is going to whatever lengths necessary to retrieve papers that prove that Dorothy is the true ruler of Oz. Now even overlooking the extraordinary coincidence that his men turn up to get them on the very day she is about to be given them, it begs the question why he left the papers there in the first place when they could easily have been destroyed. And to add to the lunacy, even when the papers are found and their contents made public, in the end it makes little difference to his position! As a framing sequence we see a grandfather figure relating the story to a little girl. This starts off well enough as the viewer gets the impression that what we are seeing is what the girl is hearing/imagining, but later on when we cut to these characters the grandfather doesn't even have the book out and the girl is in a separate room! The ending is also muddled. Dorothy falls for the prince she hardly knows (just like that) and the supposed hero of the film, Semon, is seen falling (to his death?) from an aeroplane. And the wizard himself just disappears from the proceedings about halfway through! Hardly a fairytale ending!
This is a strange, sometimes misogynistic, and sometimes racially
stereotypical film, reflective of the time in which it was made. It
fascinates on a historical level, and on a foundational comedic level.
can see the trademark Oliver Hardy gestures in development, and his
interaction with Larry Semon foretells his film relationship with Stan
Laurel. Some cute little animation effects (a bee enters one of Semon's
ears only to exit from the other), reflective of Disney's contemporaneous
mix of live action and animation.
The "digital" score and the use of a "narrator" (who horribly reads the subtitles...where did she learn to read???) is annoying.
All in all, cute, and worthy of 90 minutes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are a number of reasons for WANTING to like this movie. There are
indeed some moments of inspired slapstick and Larry Semon deserves his
dues for daring to take the story into new directions. But, uh, good
luck reminding yourself of this as you try to sit through the movie.
Some boys play with electric trains to feel like big men, Semon played with L Frank Baum's novel and a film camera and then sought to inflict this film upon cinema-goers when it seems to have been made solely to amuse himself. Yes, Semon does some fine physical comedy. Giving credit where it's due, his looseness and comic 'floppiness' contain elements that will later be part of Ray Bolger's performance in the celebrated 1939 film adaptation of this story.
Unfortunately, Semon's enthusiasm is effectively much of this film's problem. The movie strings together slapstick moments, a story about Dorothy being a kidnapped and relocated princess of Oz, a perverted uncle, a racially-stereotyped black farmhand, and a convoluted set of scenes with a disturbing-looking grandfather reading the Oz story to his granddaughter and presenting the story. All these ideas that may seem inspired in isolation are not presented in any coherent form here, and the movie comes across as a contrived attempt at a star vehicle for Semon.
Yes, every film adaptation of a story will make departures from the original material. However, if other films put a few dents and dings in Baum's novel, this one smashed it into Semon's oncoming ego.
Watch it for historical interest, see Oliver Hardy developing the characteristics that would become legendary in his partnerships with Stan Laurel, chuckle at the occasional stunts and pratfalls, but don't expect to be too impressed... or know what the hell is going on
This movie was reportedly the one that sunk Larry Semon's career.
Instead of the usual short films he was known for, Semon decided to do
something "important" and made this (for the time) long film adaptation
of THE WIZARD OF OZ,....or at least that's what the title indicates it
should be. The story, it seems, bears little similarity to either the
1939 movie or the books. In fact, apart from a few names here and
there, it is pretty much unrecognizable as the story about Dorothy and
Oz. Instead, it was just an excuse to string along a lot of familiar
and not especially funny gags--like I have seen in several other Larry
Semon films, the big stunt is his swinging from tower to tower. A neat
stunt the first time you see it, but not when it's old material and has
nothing to do with the plot.
Overall, I consider this movie a wasted effort. I know that Semon COULD be funny--like he was in his short films. But here, it's just a confusing and dreary mess. Likewise, having Oliver Hardy in the film SHOULD have been an asset, but he was pretty much wasted as well. While not exactly a classic, the 1910 short silent version was much better and stuck closer to the original story and the 1939 version is a classic. This one is better off staying forgotten or seen by the morbidly curious as the project that may have ultimately destroyed Semon's career.
PS--In addition to being a terrible movie, there is a Black man named "Snowflake" that likes to eat watermelon! Ugghh!!!
This WIZARD OF OZ is merely a frantic slapstick showcase for LARRY
SEMON, apparently a silent comedian who is unknown to today's audiences
and who died at a young age (39). He had a hand in the production and
even designed his own Scarecrow costume, but the film is a curio that
starts with a toymaker (again, LARRY SEMON) who tells a little girl the
story of Dorothy (DOROTHY DWAN) from Kansas who, it turns out, is heir
to be ruler of The Land of Oz.
But the story he tells has nothing whatsoever to do with L. Frank Baum's story as we know it from the '39 version starring Judy Garland. And this Dorothy is a grown-up young lady of 18 who bats her eyelashes and puts a finger to her lips in a coy manner as though signifying youthful uncertainty.
The only connection to the Oz story Baum gave us is the tornado, the effects for which are very good for 1925, and the combination of the Tin Man, The Scarecrow and The Cowardly Lion. OLIVER HARDY is the Tin Man (before his screen partnership with Stan Laurel), SPENCER BELL, a black man, is the Cowardly Lion and LARRY SEMON hogs the whole show as The Scarecrow. The best I can say for Lemon is that his costume and make-up for the role is laudable.
But the fragments of story used here are all over the map, the key to everything being the chance to have all of the performers involved in slapstick stunts. Only MARY CARR as Aunt Em is spared this indignity.
There are a few well staged moments that one can appreciate but all in all it's a bit too much for any adult to watch and I have no idea what children thought of this bizarre exercise in slapstick comedy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a terrible film! I should point out that I don't like the famous
1939 version of the film either. I am, however, a big fan of the 40 or
so Oz books, and this film really has nothing to do with any of them!
In essence, it's set in contemporary (1925) Kansas, and Oz is a modern
country off in the third world somewhere. (It looks a bit like Russia).
Dorothy was the heir to the throne, who was kidnapped by the prime
minister as a baby and dropped off with the Gale family in Kansas.
Eighteen years later, the Prime Minister is afraid she'll return to the
throne, so he sends some goons to Kansas to off her. (They go by
plane!) They fail owing to a tornado, and Dorothy et al end up in Oz,
where she becomes queen, but the Prime Minister is still attempting to
gain power. A whole lot of pointless and frequently racist slapstick
ensues, when, unrelated to any of this, the Prime Minister is deposed,
Dorothy marries a Prince of Oz, and lives happily ever after.
As inexplicable as all this is, it's even more inexplicably told in a series of flashbacks from a creepy 'grandfather' figure to a little girl; he's reading it from a book. There's no reason for this device, it's just one of a bunch of things they do in this movie to kill time.
What amazes me about this isn't so much that they took a beloved 26-year-old children's book (at the time) full of magic and wonder, and they managed to completely wrest any semblance of magic or wonder out of it. That's no mean feat, but they did it. It's as if someone made a movie version of The Bible "Without any of them thar' hokey miracles in it!" Seriously, stay away from this film. I was charged two dollars for it, and feel I got ripped off at that price!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I hit the mute button to avoid the oddball "music" and the narration.
Everyone is comparing this to the 1939 version but recently I got a 2
disk set of the music of the 1903 stage version and actually (from
reading the plot, what there was of it, in the notes that came with the
CDs) this movie hearkens back to it, with the dungeon and dictator and
other anarchist elements. A 1910 film version is sort of the stage
version in digest form. The play was performed by various amateur and
professional groups from 1904 through the 1930s. So it's probable that
Larry Semon developed his version less from the book(s) than from the
Though they are disguises and not characters, Semon and Hardy made a pretty good Scarecrow and Tin Woodman.
Semon didn't seem to know when to stop wringing a joke. Jerry Lewis was just as guilty in a few of his first post-Dean Martin films, too.
Charlie Murray was marvelous as the humbug wizard with that wonderful rubber face of his. I wish he's gotten more screen time.
The lines on the title cards aren't any worse than others of the period. It was the heyday of the wisecrack and very few of the comedies of the day overlooked an opportunity to use them. I'm including Laurel & Hardy, Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd.
Even in it's day, I think that this movie would have been looked on as rather average. It just isn't a patch on the classic 1939 version. The scarecrow, the tin man and the cowardly lion are not characters, but rather disguises that three of the characters "put on". And there is no witch at all. [Margaret Hamilton, we miss you.] Although the plot is good, the way it's done would confuse younger children, and it somehow just doesn't hold up. It is interesting to see, only for its historic aspect.
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