Film Review: The Patchwork Girl of Oz

The Patchwork Girl of OzThe Patchwork Girl of Oz is an eye-opening experience for viewers unfamiliar with it. A quirky and amusing silent film.

Ojo and his father decide to travel to Oz in order to escape poverty. On their way, they come across a magician who is attempting to bring a patchwork doll to life. When the experiment has an unexpected outcome, the group must work together to rectify things…

Directed by J. Farrell McDonald, The Patchwork Girl of Oz is based on L. Frank Baum’s book of the same name. The plot focuses on lesser known Oz characters, but retains the same narrative style as Baum’s most famous work. The quest aspect of fantasy adventure reigns supreme, with Ojo and pals being plagued with various obstacles on their journey.

The one thing that lets The Patchwork Girl of Oz down is that the characters are not quite as endearing as they should be. Unlike The Wizard of Oz, the protagonist does not capture the hearts of viewers. The film’s running time is fairly short (81 minutes), and there a number of characters vying for attention.

Scraps, the patchwork doll come to life, is a surreal character. Played by Pierre Couderc, there is no mistaking that the doll is a man, despite the title. The image of the doll is quite unusual; viewers may feel they have been slipped something mild-altering. Couderc physicality is impressive, even if the appearance is bizarre.

The film exhibits a good use of trick photography, especially considering it was made in 1914. The Patchwork Girl of Oz amuses in its peculiarities. Not a patch on later Oz films, McDonald’s film is worth watching for its surreality alone.

The Patchwork Girl of Oz was screened with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) as part of the BFI’s ‘Returning to Oz’ season. Piano accompaniment was provided by Costas Fotopoulos.