The Wizard of Oz (1925)
The Wizard of Oz (1925)
Director: Larry Semon
Writers: L. Frank Baum, Frank Joslyn Baum, Leon Lee, Larry Semon
Cast: Dorothy Swan, Larry Semon, Mary Carr, Virginia Pearson, Bryant Washburn, Josef Swickard, Charles Murray, OIiver Hardy, Frank Alexander, Otto Lederer, Frederick Ko Vert
Synopsis: A Toymaker tells a bizarre story about how the Land of Oz was ruled by Prince Kynd, but he was overthrown by Prime Minister Kruel. Dorothy learns from Aunt Em that fat, cruel Uncle Henry is not her uncle, and gives her a note due on her eighteenth birthday, which reveals she is actually Princess Dorothea of Oz, and is supposed to marry Prince Kynd. She, Uncle Henry , and two farmhands are swept to Oz by a tornado. Snowball, a black farmhand soon joins them after a lightning bolt chases him into the sky. They land in Oz, where the farmhands try to avoid capture. Semon becomes a scarecrow, Hardy briefly disguises himself as a Tin Woodman, and Snowball is given a Lion suit by the Wizard, which he uses to scare the Pumperdink guards.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Note: In honor of the recently released "Oz: The Great and Powerful", the upcoming "Dorothy of Oz" and the currently in development remake, I've taken it upon myself to review every single film adaptation of the Oz franchise; with the notable exception of TV mini-series and cartoon shows because there's simply too much of it.
The Wizard of Oz (1925)- Full Movie
The final silent film based on "The Wizard of Oz"
Depending on who you ask, Larry Semon's "Wizard of Oz" remains arguably one of the most controversial Oz adaptations to date. Not because it has anything offensive, or anything. No, no, no don't be silly. Well there is one African American slave that's used for comic relief that can be construed as offensive, but then again, it could've been a lot worse. Heck, at least, it's not as bad as D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation", or anything close to that. By comparison, it's almost relatively harmless.
However, it's controversial with many of the fans of Baum's book series because of the obvious liberties it takes with the story. Granted, there have been other films that have taken liberties as well such as "The Wiz" and the 1933 short cartoon. Heck, even the classic 1939 version had it's own share of liberties. However, this particular film takes it to a whole another level that it almost feels like a different story entirely.
In fact, I would probably call this movie more of a re-imagining of Baum's classic story if anything else. The film starts off in Oz, where it's revealed the evil dictator of Oz, King Kruel, has ruled over the land with an iron fist. Forcing even the noble and brave Prince Kynd to be reduced to nothing more than a mere subject to his reign. Although it's never revealed why the Prince can't simply become King to overthrow this dictating tyrant, but hey it's a movie, so you have to let a few things slide.
As it turns out, Dorothy is secretly the true heir to Oz. Left on the doorsteps of a poor family in Kansas, when she was just a baby; along with a note stating her true lineage, and instructions to give her the note upon her 18th birthday.
Dorothy seems to be a simple Kansas girl, who even has two farm hands that are hopelessly in love with her; played by both Larry Semon and Oliver Hardy. When the dictating tyrant, King Kruel, learns of Dorothy's existence, he decides to do whatever it takes to get rid of the paperwork that would allow her to know her true identity; thus preventing her from ascending to the throne in his place. Although, one might wonder if simply killing her would also have the same effect. I mean they are royalty, and she's a commoner at the moment, so you'd imagine a powerful king like him would have no problem taking her out discreetly. But for plot convenience, it's better not to ask too many questions.
Anyways, due to a series of unlikely events, our heroes get whisked away to Oz. Uncle Henry is named the King of Whales. Yes, I'm dead serious when I say that. Dorothy is named the new Queen of Oz, but that doesn't stop King Kruel from trying to reattain the throne again. Plus, Hardy and Semon end up getting falsely accused of kidnapping Dorothy by King Kruel himself. Apparently, Dorothy does nothing about this which suggests she either doesn't care, or she knows nothing about it. I'm guessing she doesn't know, but it's never exactly made clear in the film itself.
Along the way, Semon ends up disguising himself as a scarecrow to escape capture, while Hardy poses as the tin man. Somehow Hardy ends up making the whole kingdom believe that Semon is the real guilty party, so it's just him that gets falsely accused. Snowball gets talked into disguising himself as a lion, to scare off some of the guards. And, that's all you need to know about the story without giving away too much.
As I pointed out earlier, the film takes a lot of liberties with the original classic story that it barely resembles the source material if at all. Therefore, my only advice to readers is to think of this film as more of a re-imagining of the original story. Having said that, does the film hold on it's own?
Well yes and no. Yes, because it still manages to tell a more cohesive story narrative that seems easier to follow than the other Oz film attempts, and the cinematography is vastly improved in this version.
Sadly though, the plot of this is filled with plot holes that don't make any sense like why King Kruel didn't just kill Dorothy before she found out about her royal lineage. Why is Uncle Henry named the King of Whales? Does that mean Oz takes place in our world? And if so, then does that mean this is supposed to be a more realistic version? If that's the case, then why is it that Dorothy and her friends still get to Oz via tornado? And why the hell does Dorothy fall for Prince Kynd? They're barely in two scenes together, and those two scenes are less than two minutes, so it looks like a lot of their forced romance takes place off camera.
Plus it doesn't exactly help that most of this movie is filled with nonsensical humor that does nothing to benefit the overall story of the film; unless you count the scene when Snowball disguises himself as the lion.
The movie itself is mainly based on slapstick humor almost reminiscent of what you might find in a Charlie Chaplin flick; minus most of the charm. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad film to watch, as it's fairly decent for what it tries to be.
However, the story is substandard at best, and the characters aren't developed too well. Granted, I can forgive changes in most movies, as long as those changes enhance the story somehow. Sadly, in this particular film, every change they make is towards the worse, and does nothing to help convey the story it's trying to tell.
Having said all that, I'm glad I saw this film, but I wouldn't see it again if I had a choice. Sure, it's interesting to watch if your into old silent movies, or if you just happen to be a fan of Baum's Oz series, but I wouldn't expect too much out it. Overall, I'd have to give this film a two out of four.