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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
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The Magic Cloak
of Oz

(1914)
 

Oz author L. Frank Baum continued his film productions of his Oz books through the Oz Film Manufacturing Company with The Magic Cloak of Oz. Full of fairies, magic and kingdoms, this Oz film features little of the familiar Oz trappings or characters.

Violet Macmillan and Mildred Harris are featured as a pair of orphans who end up ruling the land of Noland while it is theatened by a band of soup hungry roly-polys. In retrospect, the film makes little plot sense and may explain why the Oz Film Manufacturing Company soon stopped production.

In 1917, the original five-reel film was edited to three reels and rereleased in the USA. It is that disjointed version of the film, in poorly-duplicated 16mm reduction prints, that is commonly available for viewing today.

2009 Warner Home Video Blu-ray Disc edition

The Wizard of Oz (1939), color and color-toned black & white, 102 minutes, Rated G,
including The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914) [abridged 1917 rerelease version], color-tinted black & white, 43 minutes, not rated.

Warner Home Video, 3000024968, UPC 8-83929-05736-8, ISBN 1-4198-7873-5.
Full-frame 4:3 MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, two single-sided Blu-ray Discs, and one dual-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard BD keepcase, $49.99.
BD release date: 1 December 2009.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 4 / audio: 0 / additional content: 8 / overall: 5.
This 3-disc Emerald Edition of The Wizard of Oz contains in its supplemental materials five surviving silent era adaptations of L. Frank Baum Oz stories. This edition of The Magic Cloak of Oz has been mastered from a good 16mm reduction print. The quality culprit here is the video transfer. The somewhat contrasty source print is presented in an alternating too-dark then too-light video transfer, with deep, plugged-up shadows and dark middle graytones alternating with bright, completely blasted-out highlights and OK middle graytones. The full-frame transfer runs faster than natural speed, with movement bordering on unreal rapidity, and may have run closer to 55 minutes had a natural speed pace been chosen. The video transfer is so contrasty, there is little in the way of print flaws that can be reported other than a moderate amount of dust, a few vertical scratches, and a few splices. The overall print and transfer results can be a challenge to watch.

What can be said be said in favor of this edition, is that it includes footage and intertitles that do not appear is other home video editions of the film, including the better-looking Alpha Video edition noted below. The duration of shots within a sequence are often longer, with additional footage, and the editing sequence appears to better represent the 1917 abridged rerelease of the film. That having been said, while there is more footage in this edition the video transfer runs through it at a faster pace than the Alpha edition.

The film is presented without musical accompaniment of any sort.

The new HD transfer of The Wizard of Oz (1939) in this BD disc set is stunning, and itself worth its price, but if you want to collect The Magic Cloak of Oz we recommend the budget Alpha Video edition for its visual quality of the footage common between both editions. So, collectors are faced with a trade off, higher visual quality or relative completeness. Maybe, both the Warner and Alpha editions are necessary?

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2005 Warner Home Video DVD edition

The Wizard of Oz (1939), color and color-toned black & white, 102 minutes, Rated G,
including The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914) [abridged 1917 rerelease version], color-tinted black & white, 43 minutes, not rated.

Warner Home Video, unknown catalog number, unknown UPC number, unknown ISBN number.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, three single-sided, dual-layered DVD discs, Region 1, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, three plastic trays on roll-fold cardboard case in cardboard slipcase, unknown suggested retail price.
DVD release date: 25 October 2005.
Country of origin: USA
This multifilm edition containing The Magic Cloak of Oz has been mastered from a good 16mm reduction print, but the results will be similar to those noted on the Blu-ray edition reviewed above.

This edition is recommended if you don’t have a Blu-ray Disc player.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2005 Alpha Video DVD edition

The Wizard of Oz Collection (1914-1925), color-tinted and color-toned black & white, 258 minutes total, not rated,
including The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914) [abridged 1917 rerelease version], color-tinted black & white, 38 minutes, not rated.

Alpha Video, ALP 48310, UPC 0-89218-48319-5.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 4 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $6.98.
DVD release date: 23 August 2005.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 6 / audio: 5 / additional content: 5 / overall: 5.

This budget edition of The Magic Cloak of Oz has been transferred from a good to very-good Em Gee Film Library 16mm reduction print which has been digitally color-tinted yellow in its full-frame video transfer, which runs a bit faster than natural speed. The print exposures fluctuate a bit, with momentary sections of darker footage, and some dust and prints scratches are present, but the transfer better represents the surviving picture in grayscale ranges and image detail than other home video editions, including those from Warner Home Video noted above — go figure.

It is worth noting that this edition of The Magic Cloak of Oz runs 38 minutes, while the Warner edition runs 43 minutes. Some of the difference in running times can be accounted for in the differences in print edits. There are intertitles and footage in the Warner print that don’t appear in the Alpha print, and there differences in sequences and the duration of shots. The differences between the two editions are far too numerous to detail here. But this Alpha edition appears to be a shambles of the surviving footage, with entire sequences and intertitles missing.

The musical accompaniment composed and performed by Paul David Bergel on MIDI synthesizers — aimless at times — shows marked improvement over his previous compositions for silent film.

Far from perfect, this is the best-looking edition of The Magic Cloak of Oz that we have viewed. The downside of this edition is its incompleteness, even allowing for the film’s incomplete survival state, and its shambles of sequential order. What is implied here is that there is an opportunity for a home video producer to conflate surviving print materials into the most complete and logical reordering of footage and intertitles to best represent the most-complete and visually-clear surviving version of the film.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2005 Brentwood Home Video DVD edition

The World of Oz (1914-1925), black & white and color-toned black & white, 259 minutes total, not rated,
including The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914) [abridged 1917 rerelease version], black & white, 38 minutes, not rated.

Brentwood Home Video, 46303-9, UPC 7-87364-63039-4.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, two double-sided, single-layered DVD discs, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 8 chapter stops, two-disc DVD keepcase, $9.98.
DVD release date: 12 July 2005.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 5 / audio: 5 / additional content: 5 / overall: 5.

This edition collects all four films previously released on VHS videotape. The full-frame video transfer has been mastered from the same EmGee Film Library 16mm reduction print as the Alpha Video edition noted above, but with flatter, grayer results.

The presentation on this disc includes narration (with reverberation effects) of the intertitles by Jacqueline Lovell. Clearly, the intent is to make the film accessible to children that are too young to read the intertitles, but the narration is likely to annoy older viewers who are capable of reading (thank you very much). We encourage Brentwood, in the future, to consider providing separate DVD audio tracks that would provide a music and narration track and a music-only track.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
200? Reel Classic DVD edition

The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914) [abridged 1917 rerelease version], black & white, ? minutes, not rated,
with His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1914), black & white, ? minutes, not rated.

Reel Classic DVD, no catalog number, no UPC number.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD-R disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $20.00.
DVD release date: 200?
Country of origin: USA
This DVD-R edition has likely been mastered from a 16mm reduction print.

Both films are accompanied by a music score performed by Donald Sosin.

 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition is available directly from REEL CLASSIC DVD.
Other OZ FILMS of the silent era available on home video.
 
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