The Wizard of Oz

by John Holbo on February 18, 2010

Lots of folks seemed to think that Japanese paper theater manga book sounded pretty interesting, and many had good suggestions for related material; so here’s something vaguely similar – proto-pop culture-bleg-wise. The new The Wizard of Oz blu-ray set is on sale cheap [amazon]. Apparently they’ve toiled to improve the visual quality and the thing includes extras I want: namely, the early silent films. These are public domain, so you can watch them courtesy of the Internet Archive: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910); The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914); The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914); and His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz (1914). May I recommend, in particular, the fight scene between Hank the Mule and the Witches! (For anyone looking to extract baffling visual material to incorporate into your clever hipster music video project – here you go!) But the Internet Archive quality is poor, bless their charitable hearts. I’m hoping they’ve done a bit better with these new discs.

Fun facts! The Scarecrow of Oz – the 1915 book – is based on the film, not the other way around. Although I have to say: the relation is kinda loose.

The 1939 film we know and love was not, in fact, the first version to present Kansas in b&w, Oz in color. That honor goes to a 1933 cartoon included with the new set, which was originally released all b&w due to a lawsuit about the color process. You can watch it on YouTube but, again, quality not great. (Music by Carl Stallings!)

Also, The Wiz (1978) was not the first crazy blacksploitation installment of the franchise. That honor goes to the far crazier, Larry Semon-directed/starring, young Stan Laurel-containing 1925 version (again, YouTube provides, at least a bit). It has Spencer Bell as “Snowball”, the black farmhand who is send skipping to Oz on lightning bolts. (He is billed as G. Howe Black.) So far as I can tell, this version is not included in the new set, but one Amazon reviewer seems to think it is. I guess I’ll find out for myself. [click to continue…]