June 9, 2014
Movie Night: Wizard of Oz.
Review #589: Wizard of Oz.
Larry Semon (Scarecrow/Toymaker/Farmhand), Dorothy Dwan (Dorothy/Princess Dorothea), Bryant Washburn (Kynd), Oliver Hardy (Woodsman/Knight of the Garter/Farmhand), Josef Swickard (Prime Minister Kruel), Charles Murray (Wizard of Oz), Spencer Bell (Cowardly Lion/Rastus/Snowball), Frank Alexander (Uncle Henry/Prince of Whales), Otto Lederer (Ambassador Wikked), and Mary Carr (Aunt Em) Directed by Larry Semon.
There was an earlier version of the Wizard of Oz? Yes, there was. Tons in fact. This isn't even the first one, there are other silent versions before this, all (loosely) adapted from the original novel by L. Frank Baum. This movie has the distinction of being written by (supposedly) L. Frank Baum, Jr and Larry Semon, who practically steals the show in this movie. And that's the problem considering this isn't the Scarecrow of Oz, it's the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy barely gets any screen time, especially in the last 40 minutes, when the movie is taken over fully by Semon, and occasionally Bell, who gets some moments, only for it to cut back to Semon, though I guess being the director means getting the opportunity to be in every scene. It wouldn't be as grating if the movie didn't pad itself by just not going anywhere, taking forever to begin the movie and taking forever to end the movie. It takes so long to get to Oz (again), and we're stuck watching slapstick over and over again. It's fun the first time, but it gets old really fast. The actors aren't bad, and if you look hard enough, you'll find Oliver Hardy, before he would gain fame as part of the duo Laurel and Hardy. The characters in this movie are bizarre in their actions, especially Hardy's character. The movie at least is colorful with the hues and the music is decent, but this is still a weird movie. You haven't lived life until you've seen a man flying through the air running away from lightening...and then he climbs into a house. Weird movies can be good, this is not. The setup for the movie by use of a toymaker narrator is either an odd way to setup the movie or just a lazy way. It could be both, given the nonsensical ending that leaves no proper conclusion. It's no wonder why this was a big failure (even bankrupting the studio), the movie is just not that good, and it suffers even more when compared to the more famous 1939 film, which knocks this right off the block. I'd recommend Return to Oz before I recommend this, at least the former is sensible. This is just a sad mess that can't comprehend itself.
Overall, I give it 4 out of 10 stars.