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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Director: Otis Turner
Writers: Otis Turner, L. Frank Baum
Cast: Bebe Daniels, Hobart Bosworth, Eugenie Besserer, Robert Z. Leonard, Winifred Greenwood, Lillian Leighton, Olive Cox, Alvin Wyckoff, Marcia Moore
Synopsis: An early version of the classic, based more on the 1902 stage musical than on the original novel. However, this film features the evil "Wicked Witch"; who wasn't present in the play originally.
MPAA Rating: N/A
Note: In honor of the upcoming "Oz: The Great and Powerful" and the remake that's currently in development, I've taken it upon myself to review every film adaptations that's ever been made about the "Wizard of Oz" story; with the exception of any TV shows and/or Mini-series because there's simply too much of it.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)- Short Film
Enter the Land of Oz
To this date, the short film titled "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" is the earliest surviving film in existence, to ever feature the iconic characters from L. Frank Baum's classic story. As some of my readers might know, I did claim that I'd try to review every single film adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz", in honor of the upcoming prequel and remake set be released soon.
Before starting on this task, I never would've discovered this gem, but here we are. Although this wouldn't be the first attempt to adapt the "Wizard of Oz" into a movie, as there was another one made in 1908, but it's been reported that the footage to that movie is lost; hence the 1910 version is the earliest surviving movie.
Although I would still say that the 1939 musical is clearly the best by far, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was very interesting to watch nonetheless. It's essentially a short silent film that's based on the stage musical play that was released in 1902. However, unlike the play allegedly, this film features the "Wicked Witch"; which according to most reports, she was absent in the original play this movie was based on.
Another notable change that viewers might notice is that the witch isn't referred to as the "Wicked Witch of the West." No, she's referred to as Momba, in this short film.
The film starts off with Dorothy (Bebe Daniels), as she gets chased off by the antics of Hank the Mule. As she runs off, Dorothy discovers that the scarecrow (Robert Z. Leonard), that resides in her cornfield, is alive. Yes, it turns out that talking scarecrows exist, in Kansas...oh my..
Eventually a cyclone comes and whooshes Dorothy, along with the scarecrow, Toto and Hank, to the land of Oz. From there, they meet the Tin Man and the cowardly lion; while also confronting the evil witch simply known as Momba.
Without giving away too much, if you've seen the 1939 version of "The Wizard of Oz", then you might have a general idea how this film plays out. Granted, since it's a short film, a lot of stuff is cut out, but the ending is still basically the same.
As far as story goes, I have to say it was very creative for the most part. Although I don't know if I agree with the concept of the viewers meeting the scarecrow, before seeing the land of Oz. After all, wasn't the whole point of Oz was that it was a magical world unlike our own?
After all, the world that Dorothy comes from is supposed to be very similar to ours, in that there is no magical elements until she lands in Oz. But then again, I never seen the musical play this film was based on, so perhaps this couldn't be avoided. However, it's worth pointing out.
As far as cinematography goes, I have to say it's very well done considering it's time period, and the editing isn't half bad either. Although I wouldn't say this is the best short silent movie that I've seen, as that honor still goes to Georges Méliès' "A Trip to the Moon." However, for what this film happens to be, it's not bad at all.
I should warn readers that the pacing of this movie goes by so fast that if you were to blink once during this movie, then you might miss what's going on. The acting was great, as you can tell that they put a lot of energy into their roles. However, that's not to say that this film is perfect by any means.
Although I'm sure this one scene was more of a social commentary about the times, when the film was made. In this particular scene, the wizard orders to have his hot air balloon prepared, so he can leave Oz. During the preparations, one of the workers puts up a sign saying how the Union requires them not to work after twelve; which later sparks a laugh out of Dorothy. The scene itself doesn't add much to the story, as it seems kind of pointless.
But then again, I'm sure it was more of a subtle social commentary about the Unions back then more than anything else.
Overall, I wouldn't recommend this film to everyone, unless you're really into old movies, or if you just happen to be a huge "Wizard of Oz" fan. In the end, I'd have to give the movie a two and a half out of four.