Monday, July 18, 2011

1,400th Post Celebration: The Patchwork Girl of Oz

Seriously, I need a new hobby! To celebrate 1,400 posts at Mondo Bizarro, I'm bringing you an obscure movie from nearly 100 years ago. Seems par for the course, huh? Let's step back in our Delorean to the year 1914 and meet a writer named L. Frank Baum. To my younger readers (not like I'm that old, but whatever) or those that don't know classic literature, Baum is the Writer of the 'Oz' series of books. Yes, it is a series- despite only the first one being super-famous. In fact, 1939's The Wizard of Oz is so famous- thank you, Ted Turner- that people fail to realize that about a half-dozen films precede it! The oldest known film is 1910's Wizard of Oz, which is a Silent Film adaptation that has more to do with Baum's Musical adaptation of the story. Another fact many don't realize is that Baum was not just a Writer of books/short stories. No, Baum Produced Musicals and Plays to promote his tales, not leaving it to others. Today's film is not the first one- obviously- but it is the oldest one I could find that is not a version of the most often done story. This Silent Film is a version of another tale in Oz, not even featuring Dorothy! In fact, only one of the characters most associated with Oz stories shows up here. Thanks to the folks over at Kino Films (the source for Super-Old-School Films), I can bring this to you today. Let's sew up our relationship with...
Due to the format, this tale is a bit hard to follow. Stick with me though. A young boy (who looks like a girl, thanks to the outfit and over-done make-up of the Silent Era) goes off with his father in search of food.
Meanwhile, a pair of young lovers are celebrating, well, their young love. Further meanwhile, we see a horse causing mischief. Due to different standards, this bit looks much creepier than intended. Cue Silent Film Chase Scene!
In yet another location, a scientist has just finished up six years of work making a potion to give life to inanimate objects. Animated objects in an Oz tale- get out! The wife chooses a bunch of patchwork quilt material to animate, making the titular girl. You get some Super-Old-School Stop-Motion Animation to boot.

The Patchwork Girl is originally made without brains (to be a servant), but our gender-ambiguous hero gives her some. This makes her so happy that she flips.
We have a missing scene in which a bunch of powder gets tossed on the boy's father, the scientist's wife and the young lover. The scientist explains that it takes six years to mix and animate their statues. No offense, but that's a silly plan.

 Instead, the group go off to visit Oz and find the ingredients to a potion that will, stone them. Cue Writing Cliche! Oh yeah, the horse comes along too.
Highlights from their journey include a trip past the Imaginary Wall. Yes, it's called that. In spite of that, people still find it hard to believe that it's not there. 

For any Era, the effect they use is actually pretty damn good. For 1914, it's amazing!
They also meet up with a lion-like creature that is played by what looks like a man in a cardboard suit. It looks like a drawing that I did as a kid.
They also crawl up a wall like the old Batman TV series and then walk back down it again.
In the midst of all that, they meet the Scarecrow, create the potion and all is well. The End.
It's a patchwork yarn. The plot of this movie is certainly strange, to say the least. It involves nearly a dozen characters, not counting random guards and such. It's intriguing to see the other aspects of Oz and it's characters, since most of the time you just see Dorothy, the Tin Man and company. The Patchwork Girl is certainly an odd character, as she never really 'talks' and expresses herself through gestures alone. The lead character is pretty stock, but there is a reason why they're used so often after all. The 'lion' and 'horse' are certainly weird, the former looking like a very awkward costume to move in. It makes you wonder why they didn't use a normal suit like they did for the 'horse.' That said, it does look neat. With the constraints of the Era, the plot moves a bit oddly and many of you may not stick with it. Silent Films are a tricky lot for the most part, especially if you read quickly like I do. I'm always wondering if people really read that slow back then! While a bit slow and awkward (due to the Silent Film constraints), the movie is a fun, simple story that foreshadows the kind of film that would come 25 years later. If you're interested, the movie actually comes as part of a FOUR film set including other rare, Silent Oz films. If film history intrigues you as much as it does me, it's worth a look.
For the next 100th post, I have no clue. What am I- a machine?!?!? Stay tuned...

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