Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Another option to play in Oz

A few months ago, we shared a Kickstarter for a deck of Oz-themed playing cards based on the MGM film. But perhaps some of you wondered, "Why can't we get a deck based on the book?"

Well, now there's one.

Lux is a company that will be releasing two decks of Oz-themed playing cards in June. The original artwork is certainly inspired by the classic images of Oz that the public has come to know. So far, it's on a good start with 42% of its goal reached with 24 days left. And a $12 pledge will get you one of the decks! So go ahead and check it out.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Phoebe Daring

Well, I finally read Phoebe Daring. As I said in my review of The Daring Twins, this was the last published L. Frank Baum novel I had yet to read. Now I've read it and there are no known books by Baum that I'll be enjoying for the first time ever again.

This was the first time in a very long time where I'd read a Baum book in a digital form for the first time. My first readings of The Master Key, The Sea Fairies, Sky Island, The Magical Monarch of Mo and Queen Zixi of Ix were on my parents' now long-gone Windows 3.1 computer. This time, I'd found the book available in an ebook from Delphi Publishing titled "The Complete Works of L. Frank Baum" (which isn't complete). I read it on my phone, but I'll save any further notes for a review of that ebook. (There is a lot of say.) There were a few formatting issues I'll note. One paragraph had misplaced quotation marks, and the grocer was called "Tom Eat bun" which I felt couldn't be correct. Also, em dashes had spaces around them.

Phoebe Daring was the second of the Daring Twins series, which Baum began in 1911 in his boldest move of all: non-fantasy works under his own name. It seems he intended to continue the series with a book titled Phil Daring's Experiment, but in 1913, Baum went back to Oz books only. If any of this third book was written, it is not known to exist.

The book opens with catching us up with the Darings and their friends in Riverdale. Judge Ferguson—who took an interest in the Darings and gave them a lot of support before wrongs were finally righted—has suddenly died, and in the midst of settling the Judge's affairs and holdings, one Mrs. Ritchie demands her safety deposit box. When it can be returned to her, it cannot be found. Mrs. Ritchie accuses the Judge's apprentice Toby Clark of stealing the box. After a beaten up box and some papers from it are found in and around Toby's home, he is arrested.

Phoebe and the Darings—Phil Daring is away at college—cannot believe that Toby would have done such a thing, even if he is a poor boy who was crippled while helping the Darings recover their fortunes. The younger Darings get together "The Toby Clark Marching Club," consisting of other children who believe in Toby's innocence, hoping to sway public opinion of Toby.

Phoebe and "little mother" Judith conspire to find out who really committed the crime, because if Toby's innocent, then surely someone else did the deed. Phoebe handles detective work remarkably well, asking questions, checking around for clues and information. By the time some "evidence" turns up that seems to indicate Toby definitely stole the box, Phoebe is sure he didn't do it and is on the trail of discovering the true criminal!

We also discover another relative of the Darings: Cousin John, the state governor. (So... where was he during the last book?) He winds up being quite influential in helping Phoebe find out what happened to Mrs. Ritchie's box.

There is, of course, a happy ending for all, and Toby gets a surprise that has become common for Baum's non-fantasy heroes and heroines. I wish I could go indepth about these recurring concepts, but I'm afraid of dropping too many spoilers. Perhaps some other time.

Baum kept up his regular enjoyable writing style, even when not much is going on in the plot, he keeps it from dragging. Still, Baum falls onto his old tropes a bit too much and with this being the last of his novels that I've read, so I'm hesitant to put it with his best.

On the other hand, if Hungry Tiger Press can finally get their new edition published, I'm totally buying it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Yellow Brick Road

Jared talks with writer Angelo Thomas and director Leigh Scott of the upcoming animated movie Yellow Brick Road. Be a part of the movie by donating at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/yellow-brick-road

Download this episode (right click and save)

You can also subscribe to the podcast at the podcast site!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Oz on Home Video, part 1

As Sam and I evidenced with our Movies of Oz podcasts, Oz has been quite influential in cinema. However, movies don't play in theaters forever. In order to enjoy films, we have little choice aside from home video. Unless you can purchase a film copy and have a film projector.

In that case, I want to live with you.

From home film reels to video tape to laserdisc to Video CD to DVD to Blu-Ray, there's been ways to see movies at home for a while. And a fair number of Oz titles have made it to home video. So, this is kind of a buyer's guide to picking up an Oz filmography. It will not be complete because there are some titles that have not been released, and some haven't legally been released. We will not be discussing bootlegs because they are not legal copies, and also, there is no constant source for them.

Another note is that not all titles are available everywhere. Due to licensing, a title that can be released by one studio in the US might be released by another one in the UK. And due to discerning customer interest, that title might not be available in all parts of the world. A dedicated collector of Oz films needs to prepare to import certain titles.

Another factor is encoding differences. In the US and Japan, NTSC was a standard through DVD. You get a smooth 29.97 frames per second and a video size up to 480 pixels high on DVD. The rest of the world used PAL. 25 frames per second and a slightly larger picture size. Blu-Ray now uses a standard 1080 pixels high on image size, but frame rates can still differ. Different parts of the world have different region codes, and not all home video players can handle them all. (Some can be hacked, but this voids your warranty.) The codes are different between DVD and Blu-Ray, but basically, if you're in the US, you need Region 1 or 0 for DVD and Region A or ABC for Blu-Ray. Region 2, 0, B or ABC for the UK. There's plenty of guides to check for this.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)
Being public domain, this film can be found for free online on Archive.org or on video streaming sites. It has not been remastered to high definition and has only been released on DVD and as a standard definition feature on Blu-Ray issues of The Wizard of Oz (1939).


More Treasures from the American Film Archive (out of print)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- 2005 3-disc edition
- 2009 Emerald and Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD and Blu-Ray
- 2009 Exclusive 2-disc Walmart DVD
- 2013 3D Collector's Set and Exclusive Target Edition

The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914)
While much of the same information applies to the next several films in this list, unfortunately, each film is different enough to warrant individual notes.

This and the later Oz silent films (the next three entries) were released to several video tapes through the 1990s. Many of these are cheap and fairly easy to find on sites that sell VHS. Patchwork Girl was included on a tape from the Origins of Film series, specifically, the Origins of the Fantasy Feature tape. While a nice print, it removed the opening title screen for a standardized screen. This was later used for DVD and found its way to the World of Oz DVD collection.

This and the later silent films have since become available digitally through Archive.org and video streaming sites, due to their public domain status. This is why it was available on several video tapes and later, several DVDs. Like the previous silent film and the later ones, it has not been remastered for high definition.


The Patchwork Girl of Oz (any VHS tape bearing the title is the silent film)

The Origins of Film: The Origins of the Fantasy Feature (VHS)

The World of Oz DVD collection

The Wizard of Oz Collection DVD

The Wizard of Oz: The Lost Original L. Frank Baum Versions DVD

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- 2009 Emerald and Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD and Blu-Ray
- 2013 3D Collector's Set and Exclusive Target Edition

(There is also a manufacture on demand DVD version on Amazon claiming to be digitally remastered. This is under the title "The Patchwork Girl of Oz.")

The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914)
This one gets a little unusual as there is now two different cuts of the film available on home video. As far as I am aware, all standalone DVD and VHS editions are the usual, shorter cut. This cut is available on these releases:

The Magic Cloak of Oz (any VHS tape or DVD bearing the title is the silent film)

The World of Oz DVD collection

The Wizard of Oz Collection DVD

The Wizard of Oz: The Lost Original L. Frank Baum Versions DVD

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
-2005 3-disc DVD edition

The longer cut is available on Archive.org and perhaps on video streaming sites. You can tell if it's the longer cut by watching the first minute, because the opening title "The Magic Cloak" will have the Tin Woodman and Dorothy behind the title, along with some John R. Neill style houses (a bit dimly) before switching to an elaborate screen titled "The Magic Cloak of Oz." The shorter cut shows only "The Magic Cloak" and the title is too dim to see the illustration behind it. (Please note that due to frame rate differences, while there is more footage, the running time difference between the two cuts might be misleadingly similar.)


The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- 2009 Emerald and Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD and Blu-Ray
- 2013 3D Collector's Set and Exclusive Target Edition

His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz (1914)
This is the simplest of the bunch as only one version has been available on home video. Again, it can also be found for free on Archive.org and video streaming sites.


His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz (any VHS tape or DVD bearing the title is the silent film)

The World of Oz DVD collection

The Wizard of Oz Collection DVD

The Wizard of Oz: The Lost Original L. Frank Baum Versions DVD

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- 2005 3-disc DVD edition
- 2009 Emerald and Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD and Blu-Ray
- 2013 3D Collector's Set and Exclusive Target Edition

The Wizard of Oz (1925)
 Also public domain, this title has been available on several releases and can be seen for free on Archive.org and video streaming sites. However, since it shares a title with several other Oz films, you will have to look for identifying marks to identify that this is the version you're getting.

The best version is unquestionably the version Warner Brothers bundled with the 1939 Wizard of Oz in certain editions, beginning in 2005. It contains different title cards and a longer opening sequence. The picture is clear and it features a new score written specifically for it by Robert Israel. Like the previous titles on this list, no high definition version is available.


The Wizard of Oz (please ensure that the video tape or DVD indicates that it is the Larry Semon version or a silent version or features Oliver Hardy)

The World of Oz DVD collection

The Wizard of Oz Collection DVD

The Wizard of Oz: The Lost Original L. Frank Baum Versions DVD

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- 2005 3-disc DVD edition
- 2009 Emerald and Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD and Blu-Ray
- 2013 3D Collector's Set and Exclusive Target Edition

The Land of Oz (1932)
This title, though existing (but missing the second half of the sound track), has not been released to home video in any form. 

The Wizard of Oz (1933)
 This Ted Eshbaugh cartoon has been made available on several VHS and DVD compilations of public domain cartoons. It is also available through streaming sites and probably Archive.org. In 2014, it received a Blu-Ray restoration by Thunderbean Animation, creating the definitive and best home video release so far.


It is almost impossible to note every DVD and video release this has been featured on. Many such releases feature a list on the back of the package, and if it seems to contain public domain cartoons, a "Wizard of Oz" in the list surely contains this cartoon in its rough shape. It is the feature title on some VHS tapes, playing first. The cover art may or may not reflect the actual cartoon.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- 2005 3-disc DVD edition
- 2009 Emerald and Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD and Blu-Ray
- 2009 Exclusive 2-disc Walmart DVD
- 2013 3D Collector's Set and Exclusive Target Edition

 Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares Blu-Ray/DVD edition

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
This title has actually been released to every conceivable home video format.

The Wizard of Oz (Super 8)
The Wizard of Oz (VHS, several issues)
The Wizard of Oz (Betamax)
The Wizard of Oz (CED)
The Wizard of Oz (Laserdisc from the Criterion Collection, The Ultimate Oz laserdisc, and a later issue)
The Wizard of Oz (Video CD)
The Wizard of Oz (DVD, several issues)
The Wizard of Oz (Blu-Ray, several issues)
The Wizard of Oz (Digital copy)
The Wizard of Oz (Ultraviolet)
The Wizard of Oz (3D Blu-Ray)

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Craig's Bookshelf: L. Frank Baum's Pseudonymous Books (Part Two)

The Twinkle Tales were written for younger readers
Unlike most of L. Frank Baum's pseudonymous works, the books by Laura Bancroft were written for a younger audience than the Oz books. Reilly & Britton simultaneously published the six "Twinkle Tales" in 1906: Bandit Jim Crow, Mr. Woodchuck, Prairie Town-Dog, Prince Mud-Turtle, Sugar-Loaf Mountain, and Twinkle's Enchantment. When Reilly & Lee reissued the books, they bore the following blurb on the back cover:

The Twinkle Tales

Interesting stories of the adventures of Twinkle and her chum, Chubbins, with Mr. Woodchuck, Bandit Jim Crow, Prince Mud-Turtle, The Prairie-Dogs and other curious characters.

While these are not fairy tales they have the imaginative and fantastic twists that always fascinate children from five to ten years old, whose greatest happiness is in the wonderful land of "make-believe."

The author has a vein of humor of the quaint kind that delights the little folk.

Each book contains fifteen full pages in colors and a multi-color title page by the noted artist Maginel Wright Enright.
The Twinkle Tales in a single volume: Twinkle and Chubbins
The Twinkle Tales are quite small. Each volume measures just 6 15/16 x 5 1/8 inches and runs a little more than 60 pages. Enright's illustrations are simple yet charming. The flat perspective makes them more similar in style to drawings by W.W. Denslow than John R. Neill. (An interesting side note: Enright was the younger sister of Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect.)

The Twinkle Tales are certainly the best written of Baum's pseudonymous stories, a fact he recognized himself. In a letter to Frank Reilly in 1915 Baum wrote, "I have always considered [them] among my best stories." In 1911 Reilly & Britton reprinted the Twinkle Tales in a single volume titled Twinkle and Chubbins.

The only book-length story by Laura Bancroft was Policeman Bluejay, which came out in 1907. The publisher reissued the book in 1911 with the new title of Babes in Birdland. It printed the story under this new title again in 1917, but this time credited Baum as the author.
The final printing of Babes in Birdland credited Baum as the author
Policeman Bluejay is a scarce and difficult title. A further challenge for collectors is finding the story in decent condition; all three printings were issued in paper-covered boards, which are prone to wear and rubbing at the corners.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Craig's Bookshelf: L. Frank Baum's Pseudonymous Books (Part One)

Laura Bancroft's six Twinkle Tales were published in 1906
QUESTION: What do "Anonymous," Floyd Akers, Laura Bancroft, John Estes Cooke, Capt. Hugh Fitzgerald, Suzanne Metcalf, Schuyler Staunton, and Edith Van Dyne have in common?

The 3rd Aunt Jane's Nieces Book
ANSWER: They are all pseudonyms for L. Frank Baum, who wrote a staggering 39 books using pen names between 1905 and his death in 1919. In 1906 alone, Baum published the following 10 titles, only one of which was issued under his own name:
  • John Dough and the Cherub by L. Frank Baum
  • Aunt Jane's Nieces by Edith Van Dyne
  • Daughters of Destiny by Schuyler Staunton
  • Annabel, A Novel for Young Folk by Suzanne Metcalf
  • Mr. Woodchuck (Twinkle Tales) by Laura Bancroft
  • Bandit Jim Crow (Twinkle Tales) by Laura Bancroft
  • Prairie-Dog Town (Twinkle Tales) by Laura Bancroft
  • Prince Mud-Turtle (Twinkle Tales) by Laura Bancroft
  • Twinkle's Enchantment (Twinkle Tales) by Laura Bancroft
  • Sugar-Loaf Mountain (Twinkle Tales) by Laura Bancroft
Title page to one of Bancroft's Twinkle Tales
Baum's publisher, Reilly & Britton, advised him to use pseudonyms for a number of reasons. First and foremost, he was so prolific that it was deemed unwise for him to have multiple new titles on the shelves competing against each other. Other reasons: R&B questioned whether the intended audience of adults or young adults for many of these titles would be willing to purchase books written by a known author of childish works like the Oz books; and the quality of Baum's pseudonymous writing (with a few exceptions) was frankly not up to snuff compared to his children's fantasies, and he and his publisher did not want this to reflect poorly on him.
John Estes Cooke's "Summer Comedy"

Until this year I had not read a single one of Baum's pseudonymous works. Even though I was trying to collect them all, I didn't feel compelled to read them because I believed the conventional wisdom that Baum's pseudonymous writing was mostly "hack" work. However, last spring I embarked on a reading marathon and consumed all 39 of them. I was pleasantly surprised.

It's true that these stories are not as well crafted as Baum's Oz and similar fantasies. Even so, I really liked them. What was it that I enjoyed so much? It reminded me of being entertained by a movie even when I know it's not great cinema. Yes, these stories were entertaining, but there was something more to it, something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then I realized it. It was the voice. I recognized the voice. It was the familiar voice of my favorite storyteller. It was L. Frank Baum!

Edith Van Dyne wrote 10 books about Aunt Jane's Nieces
By the time I finished reading the ten Aunt Jane's Nieces books— which rival in number Baum's fourteen Oz books—I had come to care about the three nieces.

In the first book, Aunt Jane’s Nieces, I was invested in knowing which of the three cousins—Beth, Louise, and Patricia—would inherit Aunt Jane's money. As the series progressed, I followed with interest their encounters with a volcano and kidnappers in Aunt Jane’s Nieces Abroad, their forays into politics and society in Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Work and Aunt Jane’s Nieces in Society, their road trip across the country in Aunt Jane’s Nieces and Uncle John, their exploits reporting and publishing a small town newspaper in Aunt Jane’s Nieces on Vacation, their efforts to solve the mystery of a missing baby in Aunt Jane’s Nieces on the Ranch, their escapades in the nascent movie industry in Aunt Jane’s Niece’s Out West, and their contributions to the World War I relief effort in Aunt Jane’s Nieces in the Red Cross. And all the while, I grew to admire Uncle John’s unpretentiousness and his love for his nieces. By the end of the series, the three nieces and their uncle had become fond friends of mine in much the same way as Dorothy and her comrades in Oz.
Van Dyne's "flying girl" was 17-year-old Orissa Kane

Next I read the two books in Edith Van Dyne's short-lived Flying Girl Series, The Flying Girl and The Flying Girl and Her Chum, which follow the adventures of seventeen-year-old Orissa Kane in the early days of aviation. This was followed by the Mary Louise Series, which tells of Mary Louise Burrows and her girl detective friend Josie O'Gorman solving various mysteries.

Mary Louise was named after Baum's sister
The Edith Van Dyne books may have faded from memory compared to the Oz books, but they were successful enough in their time that Reilly & Lee continued the series for five years after Baum's death in 1919, much as it did with the Oz series. Only this time, instead of publishing the books under the new author's name like it did with the Oz books (with the exception of The Royal Book of Oz, which was published under Baum's name even though it was written by Ruth Plumly Thompson), the five Mary Louise books written by Baum's successor Emma Speed Sampson were still published under the pen name Edith Van Dyne.