Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reviews coming...

... just not here.

You noticed in my last blog that I did a brief video review of the new edition of Queer Visitors From The Marvelous Land of Oz. I also have James C. Wallace II's Magician of Oz, and am... reading it. And I've been keeping up with Marvel's Oz comic book series. I might try actually subscribing when they start The Marvelous Land of Oz so I don't have to do the tedious "buy an issue, wait for it to arrive" every month. But we'll see. That will depend on where I'm living when next November rolls around. (I have toyed with the idea of moving, but we'll see. Chances are, I'll stay here, but you never know.)

Sam Milazzo and I are also planning the next podcast to record on Tuesday night for me, Wednesday morning for Sam. We'll be discussing David Hutchinson's Oz: The Manga, both the adaptations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. (So, if you have any points you'd like us to bring up or discuss, hurry and post a comment!)

As for reviews, I agreed to review Queer Visitors and Magician for the Baum Bugle, so any reviews you see here won't be very long or detailed, as the Bugle is not interested in reprinting my blogs. So, I'm saving my better reviews for them. (It was a little hard for me to write a new review of the Tin Man DVD without sounding like the blog I reviewed it in.) So, if you don't get the Bugle, you might want to go ahead and join the Club. Minimum membership cost is $25, $35 USD for overseas.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Biggest L. Frank Baum book I have ever seen...

Yesterday, I got my copy of Queer Visitors From The Marvelous Land of Oz! This is probably the largest book by L. Frank Baum I will ever own.

Instead of writing a review, I videoed it... Hey, "videoed" is a word? Okay...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Take me back to Phunnyland...

Some people have noted a screen name I've begun to use over the past year on many websites: JaredofMO. This of course refers to my home state of Missouri, but some Oz and Baum fans have asked if it is a reference to Baum's book The Magical Monarch of Mo.

Actually, this book has an interesting history. It was actually written before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Baum had originally intended for it to be published before that famous book, but somehow, it did not come out until 1900, the same time Oz appeared on the market.

Now, at this time, the book was not The Magical Monarch of Mo, but A New Wonderland, telling of the adventures and misadventures of the King of Phunnyland and his family and subjects. The stories were light, whimsical fairy tales, with logic similar to that of Alice in Wonderland: the King escapes a hole by turning it upside-down, two beasts devour each other, and an elephant jumps down it's own throat.

And in Phunnyland, Baum played with ideas he would later use in his Oz books. No one dies in Phunnyland, food, necessities, and other items grow on plants. In one chapter, a prince is dismembered, but his severed body parts find each other and re-attach. In another, another prince is flattened and is restored to three dimensions by an air pump. Baum's second mechanical man appears as a weapon of an antagonist. (The first was a clockwork man in Father Goose: His Book, but Tik-Tok was still his first sentient and intelligent mechanical man.) And all animals talk in Phunnyland, and are held in every bit of esteem as the human citizens.

In 1903, the Bobbs-Merrill company re-issued the book as The Surprising Adventures of the Magical Monarch of Mo and his People, but on the cover, the easier to digest title The Magical Monarch of Mo appeared. (This is, of course, the title most people use when referring to the book.) Phunnyland was changed to Mo, and for alliteration, the king became the Monarch. The opening chapter was re-written. It is this version that is now available today, though many Baum fans would like to see the original.

Both books were illustrated by Frank Ver Beck. His pictures excellently suited Baum's whimsical text: the Monarch is a jolly round fellow, the princes are boyish and heroic, the ladies are slim and fair, and the animals look quite ready to speak.

Baum connected A New Wonderland to The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus in a sentence about how Santa Claus was aided by his fairy friends to get candy to put in children's stockings:
And other Fairies flew to the wonderful Valley of Phunnyland, where delicious candies and bonbons grow thickly on the bushes, and returned laden with many boxes of sweetmeats for the little ones.

So, that connected A New Wonderland to Oz when Santa appears in The Road to Oz. However, a connection to Oz and Mo would surface in time.

In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, the 1913 novel that re-launched the Oz series, Ojo and his friends come across a Wise Donkey who lives with a foolish owl. The Wise Donkey reveals that he is not a native of Oz at all:
"You are wrong in calling me a Munchkin," interrupted the donkey, "for I was born in the Land of Mo and came to visit the Land of Oz on the day it was shut off from all the rest of the world. So here I am obliged to stay, and I confess it is a very pleasant country to live in."

And, in The Scarecrow of Oz, after leaving Pessim's Island, Trot, Cap'n Bill, and Flipper the Ork find their way to the home of the Bumpy Man, "The Mountain Ear," who tells them they are in Mo, and Baum finally got to revisit a fairyland he had created so many years ago. (I mentioned in an earlier blog that Baum may have begun the book as a third Trot and Cap'n Bill story to follow The Sea Fairies and Sky Island, so this may not have originally been a connection to Oz. On second thought, I guess it would, since characters from the Oz books appeared in Sky Island.)

Now, then, of course Phunnyland's mention in The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus is simple, since at the time, the book was about Phunnyland. But now that both countries are connected to Oz, is there a way to reconcile them? There must be, as some maps of the Surrounding Countries of Oz I've seen show the Valley of Mo and write under the title, in parenthesis, "Phunnyland."

In the context of a fictional world, it is possible that Phunnyland had it's name changed. (After all, two-lettered names for countries seemed to become quite the rage in the Nonestic continent, with Oz, Ix, and Ev.) It happened in the real world with Constantinople becoming Istanbul. (Why they changed it, I can't say, people just like it better that way.) The King decided to call himself the Monarch, and they called for a revision of the book of fairy tales about them.

It seems a bit odd that, at this time, no one has adapted the Mo stories in a visual medium. In fact, I only know of one adaptation the book has had, done by Your's Truly. It was a text-based computer game that took elements from many of the stories in the book and put them into one narrative. The goal was to collect iron to strengthen the forceps that you must use to defeat the Purple Dragon. Not exactly the greatest game ever, though I could see it further developed into a "point and click" game.


"So take me back to Phunnyland!
No, you can't go back to Phunnyland!
Been a long time gone, Phunnyland
Why did Phunnyland get the works?
That's nobody's business but Baum's...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The New Oz DVD...

Yeah, so this year marks the 70th Anniversary of MGM's The Wizard of Oz movie musical. I don't blog much about the MGM movie, very much for the reason that it's SO popular, almost everyone talks about it, so there's not much more you can say about it that hasn't been said before. And I also tend to shy away from things that are overtly popular. There's also how much I appreciate Baum's vision of Oz, and how I feel that while the MGM movie nicely retold the story, it did not present the same vision of Oz.

But anyways, as I am also an Oz movie collector, here is my sum-up and thoughts on the press release of the inevitable 70th Anniversary DVD release, which was just announced. (Please note I refer to the press release, which I've seen on the International Wizard of Oz Club's Message Board, and on an e-mail list.)

There's going to be three editions, a 2-disc DVD, a 4-disc DVD Collector's Edition, and the Blu-Ray Edition.

Disc 1 of the DVD contains everything the 2005 contained, plus a sing along feature (which, in my own opinion, will probably be pretty useless, seeing as you could probably get the same thing by watching the movie with subtitles).
(The following is what was on the 2005 edition's first disc.)
  • Audio Commentary hosted by John Fricke with archival audio interviews
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook
  • Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration of Oz
  • We Haven't Really Met Properly
  • Music and Effects Track
  • Original Mono Track

Disc 2 is exactly the same as Disc 2 of the 2005 edition.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic [1990 TV special]
  • Memories of Oz [2001 TCM documentary]
  • The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz
  • Because of the Wonderful Things it Does: The Legacy of Oz
  • Harold Arlen's Home Movies
  • Outtakes and Deleted Scenes
  • It's a Twister! It's a Twister! The Tornado Tests
  • "Off to See the Wizard" Clips
  • 3 Vault Shorts
  • Audio Jukebox Selection
  • Leo Is on the Air Radio Promo
  • Good News of 1939 Radio Show
  • 12/25/1950 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast
  • Still Galleries
  • Six Theatrical Trailers

Discs 3 & 4 is where new content finally turns up:

Disc 3's probably most-awaited feature is the 1990 movie "The Dreamer of Oz," based on the life of Oz author and creator L. Frank Baum. Also a new feature is "Victor Fleming: Master Craftsman," a documentary about the director whose name appears on the movie. (Albeit not the only director...)
"Celebrating Hollywood's Biggest Little Stars," a featurette about the midgets who portrayed the Munchkins, culminating with their receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Ported over from the 2005 DVD for this one is "L. Frank Baum: The Man Behind The Curtain," a short documentary that might get a little muddled in it's presentation, but is much more factual than "The Dreamer of Oz." There is also the 1910 silent movie "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," and the 1933 cartoon "The Wizard of Oz."

Disc 4 contains the other Oz silent movies. It's noted that "The Magic Cloak of Oz" (1914) will contain footage that has not been available on home video. The disc will also contain "The Patchwork Girl of Oz" from 1914, which was not on the 2005 DVD. So, directly ported over from Disc 3 of the 2005 is "His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz" (1914), and the 1925 "Wizard of Oz" silent movie.

The press release says "Blu-ray Hi-Def will have Discs 1 & 2 and Discs 3 & 4 combined," so don't expect the special features to be remastered in HD.

Also, exclusive to the Blu-Ray is a documentary called "MGM: When The Lion Roars."

And yeah, a "Digital Copy" will either be on one of the DVDs or on a bonus DVD-ROM.

And like the 2005 edition, actual print material and other physical items will be with the Collector's Editions:
  • Collectible and numbered 70th Anniversary Wizard of Oz watch with genuine crystals
  • Replica of the original film budget
  • Behind the Curtain, A 52-page, coffee-table book
  • Reproduction of the original 1939 campaign book

(This doesn't sound like it's going to contain the print materials from the 2005 DVD set. Those were reproductions of the premiere program, ticket, invitation, the issue of MGM studio news that featured "The Wizard of Oz," a Photoplay Studies Guide about the movie, reproductions of publicity photographs, and postcard-sized card that showed tiny versions of publicity posters.)

The release date for the sets is listed as September 29.

So, yeah, there's a bit of an upgrade from the 2005 edition, though I suspect casual movie fans might skip the DVD, unless they want "The Dreamer of Oz" and the bonus non-DVD goodies. (Me, I'm interested in the new version of "The Magic Cloak of Oz.") Oz collectors will probably get it and also hang on to the 2005 set. (MANY Oz fans have many copies of the movie on VHS, DVD, and laserdisc.)

People who are in to Blu-Ray will be glad that the Blu-Ray didn't skip anything from the old DVDs, though I doubt the one Blu-Ray-exclusive special feature will make people want to jump over to the new format.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Winter 08 Baum Bugle

(No, you didn't miss my mention of the Autumn 2008 issue, as somehow, copies of that one were sent to me but never arrived. Not yet, anyways. But by the time I get it, any mention of it would not be timely at all.)

Sean Duffley opens the issue with the Editor's Note, announcing that this is his next-to-last issue. He announces that Scott Cumming will be taking over.

I was a little surprised to see a mention of my fan fiction site The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Writer's World in the Oz and Ends section. Many of the other things brought up I'd heard of, but some were news. These four pages are always a fun reminder that something Ozzy is always happening...

The main focus of the issue is the centennial Oz book: Dorothy & The Wizard in Oz. J.L. Bell offers a nice analysis of the book's narrative (and in a sidebar, offers a way the story could have been more dramatic). Robin Hess also refutes the commonly thought idea that the earthquake that sent Dorothy, Zeb, Eureka, and Jim to the land of the Mangaboos was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and offers alternative solutions.

Bill Thompson adds to Bibliographia Baumiana by examining the publication history of The Christmas Stocking Series, a set of picture books published by Reilly & Britton, each one offering an introduction by L. Frank Baum.

Rounding out the issue are reviews. I got a review of the DVD of Tin Man in. (It's not the same as the one I posted on my blog last year. I'd like to think this one is better written...) Joe Bongiorno looks at Oz in Perspective by Richard Tuerk, Michael Gessel reviews The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum by Kathleen Krull, and Marin Elizabeth's The Bouncy Bunnies in Oz is reviewed by Suzanna E. Henshon.

The recipients of the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award are summed up, and a little bonus from Bill Campbell's blog, The Oz Enthusiast, make up two of the remaining three pages, but one is headed "In Memoriam," offering memorials of Clarence Swenson, a Munchkin soldier from the MGM movie, and Philip Jose Farmer, author of A Barnstormer in Oz.

The front cover is from a Japanese edition of Dorothy & The Wizard In Oz, and looks rather nice, except that Zeb resembles a young British boy from the eighteenth century, Dorothy has an odd shawl on, and a Dragonette is seen in the same scene as the Mangaboo Princess. The back cover features John R. Neill-influenced art for this story by Rob Roy MacVeigh.

(Thanks to the folks who pointed out my pre-edit errors and gaffes...)