Monday, November 21, 2011

1914 - The Oz Film Manufacturing Company

Ozma of Oz  (1915)

In 1914, L. Frank Baum, the creator of the classic fantasy world of Oz, decided to get into the film business to produce movies for the entire family. The studio lasted for less then two years and was never a financial success.

While never big money makers, three of the studio's production's, all based on Baum's Oz books, truly stand the test of time and are not only lovely silent films, but also Oz stories created by Baum directly for the screen that any fan of the Oz books, should do themselves a favor and watch.

The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1915)

The first film was a fairly bare bones adaptation by Baum of his 1913 book The Patchwork Girl of Oz, filmed in a slapstick manner and with very limited special effects or plot development, it still manages to capture the feeling of the early Oz books.

The next feature on the other hand is a much more in-depth fantasy with great characters and some creepy villains  The only issue with The Magic Cloak of Oz is that it's not actually based on an Oz book, but instead is taken from another Baum story, Queen Zixi of Ix.

The Cowardly Lion, The Magic Cloak of Oz (1915)

Still, The Magic Cloak takes the non-Oz story and throws in several Oz characters like the Cowardly Lion and turns the story into an adventure in the magic land of Oz.

The Roly-Rouges, The Magic Cloak of Oz (1915)

The Magic Cloak of Oz concerns two regions of Oz that find themselves under attack by the dreaded Roly-Rouges and the search for the one magic item that can save all of Oz. The story is pretty standard but the Roly-Rouges are actually pretty creepy for a silent children's film. Their unchanging faces make for one of the creepier silent film images I've seen in awhile.

Finally we have what is a very loose adaptation of both The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Land of Oz titled, His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. Where the Scarecrow and the Tin Man with a small amount of help from the Lion, rescue Dorothy from her burden as a slave to the evil witch Mombi.

His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1915)

Mombi, who looks more than a little like the great Margaret Hamilton, is a nasty piece of work who is loyal to the evil King Krewl of Oz.

The Tin Man and the evil witch Mombi, His Majesty the Scarecrow of Oz (1915)

But in the end the Scarecrow with some help from the Wizard and the Tin Man's trusty ax, soon enough set things right in Oz and in the end even place the great Ozma on the throne making for a very happy ending.

These films suffer from a heavy use of slapstick and a bit too broad a pantomie, though who's to say by 1915 standards. And the scripts are weak in places, and yet these films are honest to goodness pieces of the story and being from Baum himself are nice little side pieces to the ltierary classics that spawned them.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, I'll definitely have to check these out. Nice article, Rick.