Friday, November 30, 2007

The Wonders of Oz Episode 6

It's online! Now for December! This episode covers the making and release of the MGM movie version of "The Wizard of Oz."

In December, I have two videos that HAVE to be made and released then, or else they will lose all relevance. I'd better get busy...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Comments Are Back!

Okay, I have opened public commenting again. Only if the hateful comments return and persist will I close it again.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Returning to Oz #28 + MGM DVD review

And now, it is time to review the 28th episode of Aaron Pacentine's "Returning to Oz."

This episode opens with Aaron Pacentine and Aaron Schultz introducing Gabe Rodreiguez, who has made a feature-length documentary on Disney's Return to Oz, The Joy That Got Away. Gabe tells us about the production and how it came. (As creator of my own documentary series, The Wonders of Oz, I could relate to Gabe on many points.)

Up next, Aaron Schultz answers the question "Was Ozma real in Return to Oz?" Aaron's answer is well-researched and satisfying, and may help you make up your own mind. (I came up with a complete theory on the movie, and will soon post it as a blog.)

Then, we get a very special treat. Aaron interviews Dorothy Gale.

Yes, Dorothy Gale.

Dorothy Gale?

Okay, well, it's actually impersonator Penny Wiggins, but she does an excellent job, not only imitating Judy Garland's voice, but answering Aaron's questions (remember, this is the Dorothy from the MGM movie, not the books, so several of Penny's answers will not match up with what we've read). It's sure to raise a chuckle!

(I will note here that I actually discovered Penny. I found this video on YouTube, featuring her as Dorothy, and told Aaron about it, but he gets full credit for contacting her.)

Following this is a quick interview with Derek Shapiro, brother and manager of previous guy Rolla, who appeared and sang "Over The Rainbow" on episode 24.

Aaron and Aaron wrap it up.

After a hiatus of a few months, this is a great return to the series. It gets funny and informative when it needs to, and, once again, IS WORTH THE DOWNLOAD!

Yesterday, I also reviewed the MGM Wizard of Oz 3-disc DVD at Here it is...

(5 stars) Why MGM Is The Best To Date

This is not one of my favorite movies. To be sure, to some degrees, it is a faithful adaptation of the book with certain liberties taken considering the time it was made and the technology for film at the time. I am a huge fan of L. Frank Baum, however, and long to see a much more faithful version brought to the big screen.

The film's plot is a great condensation from the book. Although they made Oz simply a dream, audiences would not be expected to believe otherwise. (Even before "Happy Days," you could "jump the shark.") The Wicked Witch appear near the beginning, making her the main antagonist, so the film has to end shortly after her demise.

The acting is superb, as are the songs and directing. (And no, no one hangs themself in the movie!)

One element that made this film the biggest version of Oz for a long time is often overlooked. Before this classic musical, the most beloved version was the musical extravangza, which debuted on stage in 1902. In order to make their film succeed and surpass this version, MGM went closer to the book, although taking the play's ideas of humor and contemporary-sounding songs with it. Like the play, Judy Garland's Dorothy is older than she was in the book, but not quite as old as Anna Laughlin's portrayal.

There have been many other versions of Oz since this one, but they spend too much time trying not to resemble this version (or try to seem like it without completely copying it), that they are either largely forgotten or have become blacklisted. (Disney's ambitious "Return to Oz," which almost followed the same pattern, for example.)

If a new version is to succeed, it needs to see what made this film great, and try to incorporate that into it. (Sorry, Todd MacFarlane, you're not going to cut it.)

Now for the DVD. The 3-disc edition is the one I own and reccomend. The picture is sharp and clear, now completely restored to how it should have looked since 1939. The audio is crisp and lossless. The whole movie now looks as good as a new film.

And now the DVD is loaded with bonus features. An audio commentary hosted by John Fricke gives you a look into the making of this classic. Other audio features let you hear the film's original mono soundtrack, and the soundtrack without dialogue. Disc 1 also features cast profiles for the supporting cast (strangely, no biographical information about the star, Judy Garland, is given on the set, except very basic information), a documentary on the restoration of the film for this set, and an animated abridgement of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," read by Angela Lansbury.

Disc 2 gets into the making and legacy of the film. Two previously made TV specials on the movie are included. The highly informative "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic" and "Memories of Oz," which is informative, just not as much. The new featurette "The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz" features contemporary film-makers giving their opinions on the movie. "Because of the Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy of Oz" features Oz fandom and the continuation of Oz after the 1939 movie, even featuring a few people I've contacted myself. Also, archival audio and video features round out disc 2, making just these two discs satisfying for any fan of the film.

If you're a Baum fan, however, Disc 3 holds more wonders. An excellent documentary on Oz creator L. Frank Baum leads it. (However, in a few spots, the information does get confusing...) Also included is the earliest surviving Oz film: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" from the Selig Polyscope Company in 1910. Then we have two of Baum's own Oz films, "The Magic Cloak of Oz" and "His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz." (There was also "The Patchwork Girl of Oz," but it is not on this set, though the Baum documentary does mention it.) Following these is a restored version of the 1925 silent "Wizard of Oz" with Larry Semon, one of the worst Oz films ever. Wrapping up disc 3 is the first Oz cartoon, "The Wizard of Oz" from 1933.

Also in the 3-disc set are print materials: reproductions of the film's premeire program, ticket, invitation, the MGM studio newsletter, a Photoplay Studies Guide for teachers, and restored publicity photographs. Also is a postcard sized... card showing several of the movie's poster.

If you are a Baum or Oz collector, GET THIS EDITION! You will not be sorry!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Catching up

Hey, haven't really blogged in awhile, have I? Well, it's been a little busy around here. I got the rare opportunity to clean a nasty mark off of my job history, so I took it. This means that I'm switching jobs again.

Recently, I have acquired 3 new DVDs and my first commercial VCD for my Oz collection: Hello Kitty Goes To The Movies, Jim Henson's Mother Goose Stories: Humpty Dumpty & Jack & Jill, and a VCD of a 1970's Wizard of Oz anime.

The Hello Kitty DVD featured "The Wizard of Paws." Kitty and her friends do a play based on "The Wizard of Oz." Based loosely on the story, Dorothy (Kitty) falls asleep and finds herself caught in a cyclone. She arrives in Oz, greeted by the Munchkins, Tin Penguin, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Bunny. The Wicked Witch threatens Dorothy and her new friends, so they go to the Emerald City, where the Wizard tells them to get the broom from the Witch. There are some spins, here and there, on the story, but this is Hello Kitty, and it's under 10 minutes long. A little laughable, and very silly.

The two Mother Goose DVDs were for some of the episodes, based on the stories in L. Frank Baum's first children's book, Mother Goose in Prose. Real children play certain roles, usually the main characters, but the rest of the cast are puppets... okay, since it's Jim Henson, "Muppets." But don't expect Kermit the Frog to cameo. The stories from Baum on the DVDs are: "Humpty Dumpty," "Little Boy Blue," "Tommy Tucker" (DVD only), "A Song of Sixpence" (DVD only), "Old King Cole," "The Man in the Moon," and "Little Miss Muffet."

The stories are quite faithfully adapted for such short running times. Each episode is introduced by a mother goose and her three goslings. The only one that is not faithfully adapted is "The Man in the Moon." In the Baum story, the Man in the Moon lives in the Moon, but here, the Moon comes to earth. It has a face and talks, but that's as man-like as it gets. It does feel warm when exposed to cold and cold when exposed to heat, just like the Baum character. And his mouth, of course, is burned by eating cold pease porridge. While the Baum story has a balloon carry the Man back to the Moon, the porridge sustains the Moon enough for it to rise. The Moon is not exposed to many people, as in Baum, but is only seen by the little boy and a couple of puppets. Still, the people the Moon meets help restore it to it's place.

Also, the episode "Pussycat, Pussycat" is not based on Baum's "Pussycat Mew." This episode has the Queen held hostage by a mouse she is terrified of, to be saved by a cat who is delievered instead of the mouse's demand of cheese. It does, however, call to mind how the Scarecrow, assisted by the Field Mice, rids the Emerald Palace of General Jinjur and her army in The Marvelous Land of Oz, except quite a switch is pulled here.

Nice for Baum fans, but some Oz fans may want to pass it by. (There is also a DVD with "Hickory, Dickory, Dock," but it's only sold in Region 2. I don't quite feel like paying for international shipping yet.)

Now, for the anime. It's a faithful adaptation of Baum's book in less than 50 minutes. Trip to the south is excised in favor of the Golden Cap calling Glinda to the Emerald City, and yes, there is a Kalidah! I didn't quite like the character design, but this is one where we get to see the Wicked Witch of the East in action. (P.S. The Wicked Witch of the West is a cyclops!)

Aaron Pacentine has sent me the narration for "Wonders 6," and I've already edited the audio. Hope to have it done by the end of the month, but we'll see. Sam Milazzo is planning another video, we'll see where that goes, and I plan to have the "Oz Club Special" Wonders episode done by the end of the year. In fact, I'm switching over to Notepad... NOW!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

An Oz Like Cinar

Hey! I've made a new Oz music video! I had a dry spell, there. But this video was easy (except the original sound file was corrupted, but thank God for Audacity) because Sam Milazzo thought it up and planned it out. Thanks Sam for letting me have some fun!

Monday, November 12, 2007

(Entry 155)... Contacts dropping off the face of the earth

Recently, it seems that my usual Oz contacts tend to dissapear. You may guess who some of these are, but for their privacy, I'm not going to reveal any names.

One contact I tried to call, and his cell phone was "temporarily out of service." He also tends to rarely answer e-mails. Fortunately, I got a new e-mail from him today. (At least he isn't dead, despite what the obituaries say.)

Another I'd e-mail once every two days to, sometimes, twice a day. He hasn't answered any e-mail for awhile now.

The third and final is usually signed onto Yahoo! Instant Messenger, but tonight, he wasn't!

Maybe they're running off to Oz without me...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Wonders 5

Okay, on all the other items, I've said the same thing:

Returning for the fifth episode, "The Wonders of Oz" presents "Before The Rainbow" (I know... the title's been used... twice...), covering the early Oz plays and films before 1939.

Matt Bloom subsitutes for Aaron Pacentine, who was very busy with his Oz event at the time of recording.

I was going to wait until after Aaron's event to make the video, but when Mr. Bloom heard of it, he offered to record the narration. Aaron agreed when I informed him, so Matt was in.

Second, I know some of the editing looks a little rough. Well, my computer is being a grouchy old man. I was lucky that it didn't crash Movie Maker for the 7th time, or suddenly shut off again. (Anyone got a good deal on a laptop with Windows XP?)

Anyways, I did my best under the circumstances, even if I had to NOT check my e-mail in the morning...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

For Mature Audiences Only...

Yeah... Here's a load of Oz videos, and these have adult language and themes. If you're prepared for this junk, you can watch it. (I didn't call this "Great Oz videos" for a reason...) You have been warned...

"Homies To Smoke With," lyrics based on the MGM movie and drug use. Note the music is a remix of "Soon As I Get Home"/"Home" as they were rearranged in the film version of "The Wiz."

"Oz" Deleted Scene on MadTV. MUCH tamer than the above video, but...

"Oz" Alternate Ending on MadTV. Pretty tame, but still not for kids.

There was once, on YouTube, another Oz video from MadTV that involved Dorothy moving to Florida, where she returns to Oz three more times, thanks to the hurricanes, to kill the Lollipop Guild, then Glinda, then the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, and the Wizard. MadTV also did a parody of the M&M commercial.

"Oz" from "Alternate Endings." (Sigh...)

So, yeah... I'm working on Wonders 5 so you have something to wash out the bad taste...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

My Playable Oz...

On a whim, I searched "Dorothy & Ozma Productions" on Dogpile tonight. Two pages of results, yay!

I did find one thing that bugged me, though... Sometime back, I released my text adventure computer games (which can also be downloaded from my website, completely for free) to the Internet Fiction Archive. One game was based on U.S. Gold's Commodore 64 game adaptation of Disney's Return to Oz. I also based it on the movie as well.

But guess what? Instead of being seen as an original game, it's considered a port. A port is a vertabim re-make of a game for another system. This is not a port, it's more of an adaptation of a game into another game. (Heck, you can't even use the same walkthrough!)

Oh well, let them think it. If anyone comes for my blood, I'll just point them to this blog entry.

And speaking of my computer games, I did make an adventure for the Eamon Deluxe System. It's called "Realm of Fantasy," and takes off of Oz, Wonderland, Looking-Glass World, The Princess Bride, and Super Mario Brothers. (So, yes, the Tin Woodman and Fezzik can take Mario's hammer from him and use it against the Queen of Hearts!) It's also available for free here, along with the main Eamon Deluxe Program. (I'd reccomend getting used to the Eamon system first, though.)