It is of course rather a crude film, even by silent standards, and hampered by cross-sexed casting in both directions. The hero of the film, a Munchkin boy named Ojo, is obviously played by an adult woman. The Patchwork Girl, Scraps, is very obviously played by a man. However, Pierre Couderc, the French acrobat who plays this role, gives an incredible performance. He effortlessly turns backward handsprings and shoulder kips, his performance made even more amazing by the bulky costume and elaborate hoop skirt he's wearing. There's one very amusing sight gag when the Patchwork Girl and the Scarecrow meet for the first time. Ah, true love!
The plot of this film is a simplified version of the Oz novel. Orphan boy Ojo and his elderly Unk Nunkie visit Doctor Pipt the magician. Pipt has invented the Powder of Life, which brings life to any inanimate object it touches. (Why doesn't it animate its own container?) Pipt's wife Margolotte has made a girl dummy out of patchwork quilts, which will become Margolotte's maidservant after Pipt animates it. When Pipt brings the Patchwork Girl to life, her exuberance causes her accidentally to spill another elixir over Margolotte and Unk Nunkie, which transforms them into marble statues. Dr Pipt can't reverse the enchantment until he mixes another batch of the Powder of Life, which requires certain ingredients ... including three hairs from a Woozy's tail. Ojo sets forth to obtain the ingredients.
Animal impersonator Fred Woodward does amazing work as several different animals. Woodward is the spiritual father of Janos Prohaska, a 1960s stuntman who specialised in portraying animals and aliens. One of the roles Woodward plays here is the Woozy, a creature whose body is made of cardboard boxes. (This is a very low-budget movie, but that's part of its charm.) The squared-off look of the Woozy in the Oz book's illustrations was obviously inspired by the low-budget costume worn by Woodward in this movie.
TRIVIA NOTE: Watch for Harold Lloyd and Hal Roach Snr (very early in their careers) in grass skirts and body paint as two of the Tottenhots. Shortly after this movie was filmed, Roach received the inheritance which enabled him to set up his own film studio. Juanita Hansen, later a Roach actress, appears briefly here. Also glimpsed is Charles Ruggles, who would soon get his big break as Private Files in L. Frank Baum's stage musical "Tik-Tok in Oz".
"The Patchwork Girl of Oz" is an absolute delight, which adults and children will enjoy in repeated viewings. There are some impressive sets and costumes, despite the low budget. Jaded modern audiences will sneer at the very crude special effects, but I would rather watch this movie instead of a certain overrated MGM musical starring Liza Whatsername's mother.