Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wizard of Oz movies

Now that I’ve talked about “Alice in Wonderland” and “Frankenstein” I figure I should write about the “Wizard of Oz” there are a several versions of this story. Two that I know of from the silent film era, the classic MGM version of 1939, “The Wiz” from 1978, “Return to Oz” and “Tin Man”.

Of the silent film variety both can be seen on YouTube now and both are interesting to say the least.  “The Wonderful World of OZ” from 1910 is one of the earliest I can find. It’s really well done with the costumes and sets.   There was another version from 1925 with Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy fame that would come later.  That short is not that good though since the story centers on a farmer character and not Dorothy.

The MGM film of “The Wizard of Oz” is a classic.  In terms of epic film making its one of those movies that seems to be ahead of its time.  The use of color makes it seem like it’s more out of the 50s then out of the 30s and it really can still captivate the imagination with impressive sets, costumes and effects.  The characters are all memorable and the story has become iconic in American cinema.

“The Wiz” I’ve only seen parts of but it’s a unique vision.  An all African American cast playing the roles to the “Wizard of Oz” and making it more urban and modern.  Diana Ross is Dorothy, a young Michael Jackson is the Scarecrow.  It’s a pretty sweet concept really.  Considering, there is bullshit like “Blacula” out there this at least takes a classic and gives it a clever twist with some extraordinary talent behind it.  I really need to see it in its entirety though.

“Return to Oz” was made in 1985.  It’s a sequel to the “Wizard of Oz” but it’s a lot darker and not a musical.  Dorothy, played by a very young Fairuza Balk, is back on her farm.  No one believes that she was in this fantastic world she raves about.  So they go to give her electric shock therapy.  She escapes and is transported to Oz this time with her talking chicken sidekick.  No Toto here.

The yellow brick road is in ruins.  The Scarecrow has been kidnapped by the Gnome king and the rest of her old friends have been turned to stone.  On top of that she has to escape an evil witch named Mombi that wants to steal her head. Visually it’s awesome to watch but its total nightmare fuel for a wee kid I’m sure.  Dorothy meets new friends like a robot man named Tick Tock and Jack Pumpkinhead and her adventure is impressive and well worth seeing.  It’s a clever movie and a worthy sequel.

“Tin Man” was a 2007 miniseries made by Syfy.  It featured an all-star cast and a stupid and weak plot.  Not nearly as bad as their reimagining of “Alice in Wonderland” this one aimed on being surreal and blowing your mind with science fiction oddities when it lends nothing to the story. Give it a miss if you can. These miniseries are such tripe.  So really if you are even a casual fan you should at least see the 1939 version and “Return to Oz”. If you like those expand your horizons, go with “The Wiz” and maybe the silent shorts just to say you’ve seen them.

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