A scene from THE MAGIC CLOAK OF OZ, directed by J. Farrell MacDonald for Paramount Pictures.

The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914, J. Farrell MacDonald)

I was going to say it was odd Frank Baum wrote the screenplay, but I guess he wrote a bunch of them back in the teens. The Magic Cloak of Oz is a silly little film–I’m assuming the target audience was children–and a lot of fun. Baum has a good time with the title cards (the villains are motivated by an irrational desire for soup), but director MacDonald shows a lot of creativity as well, particularly in the first act. The rest of the film is populated with silly characters (in sillier costumes), but the first act contains the most scenes shot inside, which gives MacDonald a real chance to create the Oz setting and he succeeds well enough.

The main action of the film is a bunch of grown men dressed up as animals (these animals, ranging from crow to elephant, are all the same size) either fighting each other or men not dressed up as animals. The battle scenes are funny–the mule’s a lot of fun–and some of the costumes are fantastic.

The secondary action involves a couple kids becoming the King and Princess of a land of Oz through absurd means. There’s some funny scenes, but for the most part, they’re all filler. The meat of their story is the villainous (well, mildly villainous…) Queen from another land, who turns out to be incredibly helpful in the end.

Imaginative filmmaking–a few of the composites are better than ones I’ve seen in big budget films today–helps a lot too….

I’m not sure it’s a wonderful world of Oz (the location shooting of a village at the end hurts), but it’s a fine one.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by J. Farrell MacDonald; written by L. Frank Baum, based on his novel; director of photography, James A. Crosby; produced by Baum and Louis F. Gottschalk; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Mildred Harris (Fluff), Violet MacMillan (Bud), Fred Woodward (Nickodemus), Vivian Reed (Quavo) and Juanita Hansen (Queen Zixi of Ix).


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