Anyway, instead of seeing Goblet of Fire, I went back home and checked out my new Wizard of Oz DVD set. I started with the third DVD, which had a documentary on L. Frank Baum (I actually watched that last night) and several silent films. I already knew most of the stuff in the documentary, but it's cool that the set even acknowledged Baum that much. It did say that Baum's last words were "Now we can cross the Shifting Sands," which I believe might actually be apocryphal.
The silent films that Baum himself made were apparently somewhat primitive even for their time (although, as mentioned in the documentary, Baum's idea of making films for children was somewhat ahead of its time). They weren't that well-defined in terms of place, with a lot of scenes of characters essentially just running around the landscape. The Magic Cloak of Oz was an exception in some ways, in that it actually followed the source book (Queen Zixi of Ix, which wasn't actually an Oz book, although it was later tied in with the Oz series in The Road to Oz) pretty closely. Since a lot of what happened in the book consisted of dialogue and exposition, though, the film consisted almost as much of title cards as of actual action. There was also a subplot about Aunt Rivette's donkey (who wasn't named in the book, but was called Nickodemus in the movie) being kidnapped by a band of robbers, which was presumably just included so they could reuse the animal costumes from other films. The Cowardly Lion suit from other films was used for the Lazy Lion, and the Woozy even made a brief appearance. There were some oddities on the title cards in that one, like confusion between Noland (the country) and Nole (its capital city), and referring to Jikki the valet as "Zixi." I already had a DVD copy of His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz, but this version seemed to have better music (I mean, it still wasn't something I'd want to just sit down and listen to, but it was less boring), and it lacked the porn star reading the title cards for no apparent reason.
The DVD also had the 1925 silent Wizard of Oz, a slapstick comedy starring Larry Semon and Oliver Hardy that was VERY loosely based on the book. Dorothy was an eighteen-year-old girl who was the rightful heiress to the throne of Oz. Uncle Henry was a stupid, abusive fat guy. And the Cowardly Lion character was an incredibly racist portrayal of a black man; the character's name was "Snowball," and the actor's screen name was "G. Howe Black." As an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, it's terrible. I'm not sure how it stacks up to other slapstick comedies of the same era, but I can't say I'm particularly interested in that genre anyway. It was interesting as a curiosity, though.
The last thing on the disc was an animated short from 1933, which apparently originated the idea of the picture switching to color once Dorothy reached Oz. The Cowardly Lion wasn't in it, the Wizard was a creepy-looking old man with a long beard, and the whole thing ended with a magic show involving a growing egg. Even considering all this, though, it was still closer to the book than the 1925 film. There was actually one creature in the Emerald City that looked like the A-B-Sea Serpent from Ruth Plumly Thompson's The Royal Book of Oz, but I have no idea whether that was intentional.
After finishing with the third disc, I moved on to the first one, and watched the MGM movie itself with commentary. Most of it was by John Fricke, whom I've met before at conventions. Compared to other DVD commentaries I've heard, this one was more rehearsed and less conversational. It worked, though, and it included audio clips from long-dead people actually involved in making the movie, which was a nice touch. The hanging man was touched upon, and it was made clear that it was really a bird. The thing is, I believe I originally thought the bird was the Wicked Witch of the West sneaking away, and I apparently wasn't alone in this. I never would have thought it was a guy hanging himself, though.
Speaking of rumors about the movie, it would have been cool if they'd included the ability to play Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon along with it, since I've never seen that. I guess it would have cost too much to do that, though.
Thoughts on tonight's block of animated programming should be coming soon. I could have just added them to this post, but I didn't want it to get TOO long.