As a rule, silent film is mysterious and elegant. But there are exceptions to every rule and my review of the Wizard of Oz, a 1925 silent film, is representative of one exception.
This movie is awful. I managed to get through two scenes, with the music muted, so here’s my hot take on that:
We’re introduced to Dorothy early in the movie. This woman gives problematic vibes right away. Though she is dressed nicely, she’s skulking around in the bushes and appears preoccupied with a bouquet of flowers she’s carrying. She gives a credible impression of someone who is experimenting with peyote. Her hat–well, her hat is indescribable.
At some point, Dorothy notices that her elderly Aunt Em is outside in the hot sun doing manual labor. The farm obviously belongs to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and Dorothy is either living with them or is on an extended visit.
When Dorothy spots her aunt working in the heat, she walks over, not as you might guess with the intention of helping her or persuading her to get out of the sun or drink some water. No, Dorothy wants to talk about her bouquet.
Aunt Em, who has the patience of a saint, listens and even manages to look slightly interested in Dorothy’s vagaries.
Cut to Uncle Henry, who we soon learn, is subject to continual character assassination. Who knows why Dorothy is targeting him, but I can tell you Uncle Henry is the only normal person in this film.
Uncle Henry is working away and catches sight of his freeloading niece, dressed to the nines, standing in the middle of the farmyard, distracting his exhausted wife.
Uncle Henry storms over to confront Dorothy, and in one epic move, shoves her, seizes her bouquet, and tears it up.
At this point, a new character is introduced with the title card:
“With all the cinderelatives there must be a Prince Charming.”
Indeed there is! He’s the guy in overalls and a straw hat, listlessly picking up after the cows.
Prince Charming, played by Oliver Hardy, hears Uncle Henry’s shouting and correctly surmises that Dorothy has probably done something to set him off.
As the hapless Prince Charming runs to her aid, Uncle Henry seizes a pitchfork. Dorothy observes the situation is escalating into violence and her true love is running into what could be mortal danger. The proper thing to do would be to apologize to her uncle, give her aunt something to drink before she faints, and start helping out.
But instead of doing any of that, Dorothy climbs a tree and just watches while her irate uncle nearly murders Prince Charming with a pitchfork.
Scene 2 begins with one of the creepiest characters ever to appear on film. He is just waking up in Uncle Henry’s barn—a trespasser. Maybe the worst thing about him is the huge floppy bow around his neck.
After needlessly prolonged stretching, an egg falls on the Creep’s face. It must be filled with chocolate sauce or some other foreign material that normal eggs don’t have.
The Creep peers up at a hen laying eggs in a little corner above him. I don’t know how many eggs a hen normally lays at once, or how often they just roll the eggs out of the nest to fall on the floor, but this guy grabbed at least a dozen eggs and put them in his pockets.
Uncle Henry, perhaps satisfied with Dorothy being stuck in the tree, has returned to toiling out in the yard because somebody has to work.
He catches sight of this lunatic stealing eggs and runs into the barn to order him off. The Creep starts prancing around and the eggs fell out of his pockets, but instead of breaking when they hit the floor, little chicks hatch.
The Creep pirouettes around the property, getting into all manner of shenanigans, and occasionally gazing at poor Uncle Henry in a very unsettling way. Then he reaches into his overalls and brings out a giant lollypop and begins lapping at it.
At that point, despite my concern for Uncle Henry, I was ready to abandon The Wizard of Oz. No tornado, no ruby slippers, not even a flying monkey to relieve us of Dorothy? But I persevered.
The Creep notices Dorothy, who has most unfortunately climbed down from the tree, and he is overcome with admiration for her. The Creep thinks he can woo her with the lollypop, and really… it’s as good a plan as any.
Dorothy is talking to Prince Charming, possibly explaining why just she sat there and watched as he was nearly murdered.
The Creep approaches her several times but the self-absorbed Dorothy doesn’t notice him, even when he puts the lollypop (that was just in his mouth) in her pocket.
The Creep immediately regrets parting with the lollypop and unsuccessfully tries to snatch it back. When Dorothy sees the lollypop in her pocket, she and the Prince gaze into the sky wonderingly, as if they thought God deposited a partly eaten lollypop in her pocket. Prince Charming encourages Dorothy to eat the lollypop. Dorothy tries it and makes a face. The prince also tries it. Then he chucks it over a fence, where a duck picks it up. As the Creep watches, the duck disappears through a crack in the fence, with the lollypop in its bill.
Believe it or not, the subplot with the duck does not end there. The Creep wants his gross lollypop back, even though it’s been in his mouth, Dorothy’s mouth, Prince Charming’s mouth, and now the duck’s mouth. The Creep finds a stick and positions himself just behind the fence. Only then do we realize this psychopath is intending to bludgeon the poor duck to death.
As it turns out, the duck easily outwits him and in a twist I didn’t see coming, projectile vomited on the Creep. Even though it was the best part of the movie so far, I stopped watching. I have my health to think of.
Does Dorothy go to Oz? Was the Creep apprehended and subjected to a psychological evaluation? I don’t know. Uncle Henry is the only person whose fate concerns me.
I can’t recommend enough that you steer clear of the Wizard of Oz, but here’s the movie link if you care to watch it.