Join 3,551 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.
March 5, 2013 10:06 PM   Subscribe

Mike Ryan was asked to re-watch The Wizard Of Oz in advance of the upcoming James Franco feature, Oz the Great and Powerful. So he went to iTunes, scrolled through six seasons of the other Oz, and bought the film. One problem: he actually bought the 1985 sequel, Disney's Return To Oz, featuring a young Fairuza Balk. Liveblogging ensued.

In the grand tradition of 80's fantasy films, the movie is remembered as dark, creepy, and frightening. Stills and behinds the scenes photos can be found on Flickr.
posted by maryr (155 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
Baum wrote like 350 Oz books. The Harry Potter of its day. I've always wondered why there weren't more movies based on them.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:19 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


This film warped me for life.

See also: Labyrinth, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Dark Crystal, and Xanadu.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:23 PM on March 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Return to Oz: The Joy That Got Away is a documentary about the making of the movie that originally screened at an Oz fan convention. It's ... odd and not exactly well-made, but it's weird enough that I sort of like it.
posted by incessant at 10:24 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I remember this! I had read all the original Oz books. Did this have the living wardrobe in it?
posted by bq at 10:26 PM on March 5, 2013


This movie has such a little niche built up in my childhood psyche it's incredible. My working theory is that it is proof of trollish time-travelers from the future, because casting Fairuza Balk as Dorothy is so perverse that it really can't be anything but intentionally so.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:26 PM on March 5, 2013


This is riffing done right.
posted by JHarris at 10:26 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Did this have the living wardrobe in it?

I think that's possibly the only thing that's not in the movie, actually.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:27 PM on March 5, 2013


Dorothy, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Pringles logo and the chicken just escaped the witch on a flying moose of some sort. Only the moose has tree branches, I think, as wings?

I need to see this movie immediately.
posted by davidjmcgee at 10:34 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


"She has a... a chicken with her."
"A CHICKEN!?"

Return to Oz is an amazingly weird movie, and it's actually much closer to the original dark surrealism of the books than that silly, excessively happy Wizard of Oz musical

I've honestly watched it from start to finish on YouTube twice within the last year. It's currently available in a full free version, a full paid version and in annoying 10 minute segments.

The MGM Wizard of Oz movie bears less resemblance to the actual books as Michael Bay's version of Transformers do to the original cartoons and comic books.

Yes, the Wheelers and lunch pail trees and Tik Tok are all in the original Return to Oz book.

They did an exceptionally good job on the lunch pail trees based on the descriptions of the book - a hollow gourd-like fruit, segmented inside with layers of fibrous paper neatly wrapping up a number of lunch pail items in a way consistent with the idea they all grew in there, like the layers of "paper" that segment an orange.

The Wheelers, too, were oddly colorful, and rolled around on naturally grown wheels described as having the texture and hardness of fingernails or hooves. Ok, so they weren't really supposed to be urban rollerblading rejects from the set of The Wiz, but that's actually where The Wiz got the inspiration for the roller skating scenes - Return to Oz. That crazy shit is actually canon.

What's not canon is like 50-90% of the Wizard of Oz movie, especially the song and dance routines. Right, that's what everyone mainly remembers about the Wizard of Oz is the saccharine-sweet musical/movie. That's not actually Oz. Oz is a freaky, dark, scary place. Much scarier than flying monkeys, much scarier than melting witches.

Also, the Ruby Slippers are not canon. They're Silver Shoes in the books. They were changed because of the use of Technicolor. Silver might as well be grayscale in technicolor-land, so they changed it, along with a lot of other stuff.

READ THE BOOKS! They're still excellent and amazing. Hell, they should all be public domain by now and available for free on Project Gutenberg. They're deeply weird and surreal in ways Dali only wished he could bend his brain. I highly recommend them.
posted by loquacious at 10:37 PM on March 5, 2013 [86 favorites]


I loved Return to Oz so much when I was a kid because it felt more like the books, The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz than The Wizard of Oz did.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:41 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember this as not being fun at all. AT ALL!
posted by mazola at 10:43 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The full version of the Return to Oz is available on youtube!
posted by ruhroh at 10:45 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


In addition to being totally surreal and fascinating, the Oz books feature a wonderful friendship between Dorothy and Ozma - they are basically two female besties who run the world together between bouts of playing dressup.

Some time last month my little corner of tumblr got all emotional about Oz and it reminded me about those two and how damn much they need to be a cartoon show geared towards girls.
posted by Mizu at 10:50 PM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Previously, which covers the documentary that incessant linked to above.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:52 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


My fourth grade teacher had the whole set of Oz books, so I'd actually read the book before the movie came out (although I think the movie combines stuff from two books), which probably mitigated some of the horror that folks here felt. I knew it was all coming, and I remember being glad that the movie matched the book illustrations so much better than Wizard.
posted by LionIndex at 11:00 PM on March 5, 2013


READ THE BOOKS! They're still excellent and amazing.

THIS. Same goes for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It's such a shame that everyone's reference point for this amazingly weird and innovative book is the asinine Disney movie.
posted by oulipian at 11:01 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


In Japan they made an animated TV series out of 4 of the books, called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Rights were bought up by HBO and they were dubbed and formed into 4 feature length movies. They are also pretty dark, and the '80's soundtrack is pretty kitchy/great. Here's a sample on the youtube.
posted by cman at 11:03 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was probably about the same age as Fairuza when my parents rented this for family movie night. I can still recall the writhing nugget of fear, lodged in my gut as I watched. I just knew little Dorothy was going to end up getting eviscerated by Jack Pumpkinhead before the end credits rolled.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:07 PM on March 5, 2013


> Baum wrote like 350 Oz books.

Actually 14. It would have taken you seconds to get the right number, but as it is you're off by a factor of 25.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:08 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


God forbid anyone use hyperbole around here.
posted by dersins at 11:14 PM on March 5, 2013 [52 favorites]


I found the Wheelers to be the most frightening part of this movie when I was a kid.
posted by PJLandis at 11:15 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


It would have taken you seconds to get the right number, but as it is you're off by a factor of 25.

It's called artistic license. Jeez.

I read all 14 when I was a kid, and loved them.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:21 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh, I enjoyed the liveblogger's incredulousness as the movie unfolded. Yup, it really is that weird.

I read all the Oz books when I was a kid--I was so thrilled that they were making a movie out of Return to Oz and that the star was a little Canadian girl, like me! (Actually, I think she is American but just lived in Vancouver for a while.) My aunt took me to the theatre when it was released and both of us were like this while watching it:

o_O

But I enjoyed it anyway, nightmare fuel or not. As many have mentioned, its darkness makes it much more faithful to the source material than the musical with Judy Garland (though I have a fondness for that too).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:23 PM on March 5, 2013


Return to Oz is an amazingly weird movie, and it's actually much closer to the original dark surrealism of the books than that silly, excessively happy Wizard of Oz musical

Gonna disagree on that. There's more dark surrealism in the munchkin's hair alone in the original film than there is in Return, as much as I like the films. The original Wizard of Oz is a breathtakingly weird film.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:44 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


The gump! He's like a stuffed moose head attached to a couch/chaise-longe, right? Am I remembering the book correctly or is this just a fever dream I once had?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:58 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gonna disagree on that. There's more dark surrealism in the munchkin's hair alone in the original film than there is in Return, as much as I like the films. The original Wizard of Oz is a breathtakingly weird film.

We're so going to have to disagree. Their hair was contextually not that weird. People actually used to pomade their hair kind of like that at the time and it's an early attempt at a very intentionally non-threatening kawaii, and it's not that surreal when they're basically singing (oddly, I admit) about candy and sweets.

Especially considering the historical context they're evoking "childlike and harmless", not bizarre or surreal or frighteningly strange.

Where the MGM musical Wizard of Oz merely suggests "I'll get you, Dorothy, and your little dog Toto, too!" the Return to Oz Dorothy is being overtly threatened with the removal of her head, electroshock therapy and much more.

"But... but I haven't done anything to you!"

"Isn't that a stolen lunch pail in your hand? Isn't that a CHICKEN in there with you!?"

...

Tik Tok: "I have always valued my lifelessness."

...

Return to Oz is much, much darker and more threatening and strange. In MGM's Wizard of Oz there's very little of this, in my opinion, especially when compared to the book it's supposed to be based on. When you compare the MGM movie to the book it falls flat and comes off like, well, a Disney movie.

Return to Oz probably would have come out much worse and less interesting if it wasn't made during a period of turmoil and unrest at Disney, just like we ended up with less threatening versions of Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and other popular Disney versions of classic stories and fables.
posted by loquacious at 12:02 AM on March 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


One of my earliest memories is my mom taking me to see this movie in the theater. I was four years old. About fifteen minutes in I was seriously freaked out and started bawling. We had to leave.

It's nice to hear the movie is awful. I guess I did Mom a favor that day.
posted by foobaz at 12:14 AM on March 6, 2013


I saw the trailer for Oz, The Great and Powerful, in a theater and for a few confused seconds thought it was a Microsoft Surface commercial.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:20 AM on March 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


The whole of it seems to be on YouTube.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:23 AM on March 6, 2013


I wonder... Is this film on YouTube, perhaps?
posted by gern at 12:27 AM on March 6, 2013 [21 favorites]


God forbid anyone use hyperbole around here.

My only complaint is that you briefly tricked me into believing that there were many more books than the 14 I'd heard about.

I need to reread them. I think I only have one of them left after giving most of them away.

*checks bookshelf* Yep, just Wizard of Oz left, an early edition given to me by my grandpa.
posted by loquacious at 12:36 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


This wonderful movie was the first and only film to be directed by Walter Murch. Murch is best known as an editor - he edited APOCALYPSE NOW, THE ENGLISH PATIENT, THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY (and GHOST!) and did sound work on THE GODFATHER, PART II. He also wrote a very good book on film editing called IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE and participated in an extended interview with Michael Ondaatje about film editing called THE CONVERSATIONS. Not everything he touches turns to gold, but he's an interesting figure.

His name is not mentioned in the liveblogging article. I guess the writer considered it more interesting to pantomime confusion at how "dark" and "mad" the film is. It's heartening to see how many people there are out there who really like the film, though: I suspect that many of them probably came across it unexpectedly and found it mesmerizing, which is one of the nicest ways to discover anything.
posted by lucien_reeve at 1:02 AM on March 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


That liveblogging thing was kind of lame. Herp derp, look at me being snarky! It's really just lazy.

I LOVED this movie when I was a kid. I was a huge Oz-o-phile growing up, and I had the original 14 Baum books committed to memory (especially GLINDA OF OZ, the last one he wrote). I thought RETURN did a great job of evoking the fantastic, surreal creepiness of the books, and I adored how J.R. Neill's Edwardian-era illos had inspired the art direction. (The movie's Ozma even had the poppies on the side of her head, like she did in the books!) I never cared much for the Judy Garland movie... I appreciate it now more but I seriously disliked it when I was younger, since it wasn't Oz to me.

There was a Joan Vinge novelization, and I read and reread it until it was falling to pieces.

I was such a huge mega-fan that it enraged me to see the critics tear it apart for not being a proper sequel to the 1939 film. How could these stupid old men not see it was really a loving homage to the Baum books!? I actually wrote a long, enraged letter to Roger Ebert explaining how wrong he was to give RETURN a negative review. My parents were proud of me.

However, I suppose it was a good thing the internet wasn't really accessible yet or my nine year old self would have been flaming people on message boards.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 1:13 AM on March 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


I just want to state my undying love for the original Wizard of Oz and Return To Oz.

These films improved me, confused me.
posted by Mezentian at 1:14 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, of a "journalist" can't figure out the right movie, I'm not going to take his "trying to be clever" work seriously.
posted by Mezentian at 1:17 AM on March 6, 2013


I totes wanted Ozma to be my BFF
posted by angrycat at 1:26 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't grow up with The Wizard of Oz, and seeing it for the first time as an adult it struck me as charming but also long and cloying and kind of shapeless... Like a really elaborate school play or something. (Not hatin' on it, it just did not interest me much.) Return to Oz, by contrast, is the Shit. I love the hell out of that dark, crazy-ass movie.

Kid pictures are supposed to be terrifying. Go watch Pinocchio at the right age, and for the rest of your life you'll probably have nightmares about sad little donkey-boys crying for their mamas. (The other day I read about some Pinocchio video game where you get to beat up the evil Coachman, push him off a cliff and save the poor donkey-children, and I was like, my GOD, yes. I sure wish that game had been around when I was 7!) RTO is scary as hell, just as it should be.

Even seeing it as an adult, it's an awesome, scary movie, arguably on par with Labyrinth and other classic weird fantasy pictures of the era. I skipped this guy snarking on it because it seems to me that there's way too much OMG STUPID FREAKY 1980s stuff online already. If you go into RTO expecting some cute little kiddie movie Care Bears shit, yeah, it's not that. But if you go it into looking for an actual interesting movie, with darkness and imagination and drama and spectacular production design, it delivers.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:28 AM on March 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


That guy can jump off a cliff. I prefer Return to Oz to the Wizard of Oz. I thought the lunchpail tree was just the coolest thing ever and the shock treatment getaway and the screaming heads gave me thrilling collywobbles when I was a kid.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:36 AM on March 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's nice to hear the movie is awful. I guess I did Mom a favor that day.

The movie isn't actually awful at all. The special effects and acting really are on par with Labyrinth or Dark Crystal, which admittedly isn't the highest bar in film, but it's decent and good for what was a non-animated Disney kid's movie. In fact it's one of the better Disney live action children's movies from any era. I'll take it over Mary Poppins or Bedknobs and Broomsticks, any day.

What Return to OZ wasn't at all is a sequel to the candy-coated MGM Wizard of Oz, which as many have been describing in this thread isn't all that faithful to the books.

I can't imagine what people and young children experienced if they saw it for the first time in a theater during the the theatrical release and they expected singing munchkins.

The first 20 minutes of the film are really dark and unpleasant, and as you yourself indicated you say you lasted only 15 minutes before leaving, and I'm sure that was the case with a lot of kids under 10 years old who went to see it in the theaters.

In the first 20 minutes or so there's a lot of stark realism and hints of death and mortality, and the movie doesn't really get going until 20-25 minutes in. (WARNING, SPOILERS BELOW)

Billina is under threat of being turned into a chicken dinner and being eaten if she doesn't keep laying eggs. The farm and farmhouse is ruined. Dorothy is having nightmares, and she's distressed she can't talk about Oz when she's reprimanded by an exasperated Aunt Em. (Remember, Dorothy's an orphan and well aware of her unsure place in the world - continually lost.) Then she gets institutionalized in the dubious care of an obviously cruel, vain and sadistic woman cutting a figure that's more stark, calculatingly cold and threatening than Cruella DeVille. Dorothy nearly drowns in a flooding river, Ozma-of-Kansas is presumed lost, and Dorothy wakes up in Oz (again) surrounded by the deadly desert, only to escape and be chased and attacked by Wheelers moments later.

Without spoiling too much Dorothy is basically fleeing from threats of horrible and painful and highly unusual deaths from the very start of the film all the way through the end.

Compared to MGM's musical version of Wizard of Oz the pacing and threats are relentless. In Wizard of Oz the main threats that Dorothy seems to face is just traveling a long distance from point A to point B while singing about it a lot. There really isn't any overt conflict or threats for Dorothy until she goes to kill the Wicked Witch of the West or, really, until she unmasks Oz at the very end, and the poppy field doesn't really count as a conflict in my reading.

It deserves to be more than just a cult classic. It's not a B-list movie. A lot of hard work, craft and care went into making it and getting as close to the book as possible, and I think they did a fine job.

This new movie coming out looks rather overpolished, too sexy and too action-packed by comparison, but I'll give it a chance when it goes to video. I'm not going to be holding my breath for a classic, cult or otherwise.
posted by loquacious at 1:56 AM on March 6, 2013 [17 favorites]


I had never been exposed to this - I actually thought that the parts of the movie used in a Scissor Sisters video were made for the music video. I had no idea.

Now I've stayed up way too late watching this and... WOW. Parts of it could have benefitted from some better CGI, but this is great! As someone who thought the 1939 movie was annoying, this really spoke to me. I have been glued to the computer screen for the better part of 2 hours.

Just wow.
posted by Tchad at 1:59 AM on March 6, 2013


Foam Pants, I love the word "collywobbles." It perfectly describes the childish sensation of being delightfully frightened.

Collywobbles!
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 2:06 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think he's entirely snarking. Particularly, I don't think the mere fact that it's disturbing is a bad thing, although I would admit that he might.
posted by JHarris at 2:10 AM on March 6, 2013


I really need to read the Oz books. I tried once, but I had a really hard time with the way Baum started writing the Tin Man and the Scarecrow after he saw the stage show. I'll give them another shot, though.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 2:17 AM on March 6, 2013


Some days you just can't get rid of a Baum.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:31 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is as good a place as any to post this charmingly enjoyable video of BBC 1 Radio's Chris Stark interviewing Mila Kunis about the new Oz film, only straying waaaay off topic.
posted by chavenet at 2:40 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


We got this far an nobody has mentioned the TV mini series "Tin Man"?
posted by HuronBob at 3:22 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Labyrinth or Dark Crystal, which admittedly isn't the highest bar in film"

Dark Crystal has its problems, but if you don't think Labyrinth is the best anything ever, I think you need to take a hard look at your priorities.

(Your one regrettable lapse in judgement aside, good post!)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:01 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


The gump! He's like a stuffed moose head attached to a couch/chaise-longe, right? Am I remembering the book correctly or is this just a fever dream I once had?

Yes.
posted by loquacious at 4:10 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Baum wrote like 350 Oz books. The Harry Potter of its day. I've always wondered why there weren't more movies based on them.

I'm reading the Oz series with my six-year-old. We're just about to wrap up the fourth book. So far, I would say that the biggest barrier to making movies out of them is their highly episodic nature. There's not a lot of big overarching plot, just "we met these weird rock people, then these weird plant people, then these people made of china, followed by these invisible bears and some wooden gargoyles." Return to Oz did a good job grabbing pieces from books 2 and 3 and arranging them into something coherent, but I think that would get harder to do in later books.

Plus, Baum did not give a damn about consistency. No damns at all. In Book 2, the Wizard is revealed to be a usurping bastard who deposed princess Ozma's father as ruler, and collaborated with an evil witch to hide the infant princess by turning her into a boy. In book 4, the Wizard meets Ozma, now a girl again and restored to the throne. Just when you are expecting him to be tossed in the dungeon or beheaded, he and Ozma have a nice talk where he inquires where the royal family was when he first came to Oz, and she explains that some evil witch, all by herself, deposed her grandfather decades before, leaving the land leaderless and isn't it wonderful how the Wizard came along and held everything together while they were away. This is not a minor change, but Baum just ignores a good part of the backstory he wrote because he wanted to bring the Wizard back as a leading character.

The books have some charm, and they are certainly imaginative, but the lack of any real character development or basic consistency is frustrating in the extreme. I could maybe see an extremely freaky TV show based on Oz, but movies would either have to ignore tons of the books and add some songs, or pick the best ideas of multiple books and put them into a more compelling plot. As you see, you get radically different results depending on your choice, but neither is really "faithful" to the books, although Return is much closer to the tone of the original.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:11 AM on March 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


The Wizard of Oz is significantly different from the book, and it's true that it does lose some important things because of it (for example, the death of the Wicked Witch actually makes sense in the book, rather than being the apparent inspiration for the end of M. Night Shyamalan's Signs: "Oh no! Water! My one weakness! Who would have ever thought that I would encounter such a rare substance as liquid water?!")

However, despite this, I have also always classed the movie version of The Wizard of Oz on the (quite short) list of movies that I actually consider better than the book they are based on. I do love the book very much, but the movie cuts out a lot of fairly pointless rambling and gets to the heart of the story.

Saying the movie is conflict-free is also a very unfair criticism, as the central conflict isn't, and never was, to combat the Witch - the central conflict is Dorothy's quest to get home; fighting the Witch is simply one part of that. The movie certainly contains as much overarching conflict as the very episodic book does, and, since it's been mentioned, far more overarching conflict than Alice in Wonderland, which is basically the story of someone wandering around. Don't get me wrong, Alice in Wonderland is brilliant, but it's not like there's a central villain or even central conflict. (It's not like the Queen of Hearts has some plot against Alice - she's just a person who shows up at one point, like the Cheshire Cat or the Mock Turtle, with as much or as little importance as they have.)

I read all the books, and while they sometimes go to darker places than the movie did, it's not like they were all Pan's Labyrinth-y; they were usually pretty lighthearted too. And the movie contains plenty of the surreal - the flying monkeys, the apple trees that object to being picked, the poppies, the fake floating giant head of the Wizard, etc.

Anyway, even if you disagree with me completely and like the book better than the movie, the book is still available and widely read. The movie didn't light the book on fire. Both are around, and people can choose which one they like best, which is a good thing.
posted by kyrademon at 4:16 AM on March 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


it does lose some important things because of it

My favorite was when they merged the Good Witch that knew how the magic shoes worked, and the Good Witch that was actually in Munchkinland to advise Dorothy but didn't know how they worked, into a single Good Witch who knew but didn't tell her because she was just kind of a jerk I guess?
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 4:29 AM on March 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


I saw Return to Oz with my aunt. Well, I saw part of it. We left some way through, as I was completely freaked out by the movie. Eventually I rented it and enjoyed it.

Talking to people who were about my age when the movie came out (I was 7), we have a lot of "started sobbing in the theatre" or "screamed and ran away when they played it at school" or other stories of terror.

John Joseph Adams recently published an anthology of short stories about Oz. I've only read a few of them, but they are enjoyable; people who've read more than the two Oz books I read might enjoy it even more (as I've heard from friends).
posted by jeather at 4:39 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dark Crystal has its problems, but if you don't think Labyrinth is the best anything ever, I think you need to take a hard look at your priorities.

Best anything, ever? Eh, not for me, but I like it plenty. I was just acknowledging we're not talking about Serious Film here, and that's fine.

Last year I saw Labyrinth as a midnight showing at the Egyptian theater here in Seattle on Capitol Hill... and I was actually kind of nervous about it, that people might take it too seriously or there would be too much very serious nostalgia or maybe even some swooning or something.

It turns out that Labyrinth actually has a secret laugh track and it's absolutely ripe for riffing, and people riffed the hell out of it and were all basically on the same page of "We're going to watch this very good bad movie together and heckle it just enough while enjoying it for what it is."

It's ripe for lampooning above and beyond David Bowie's rather prominently featured package. (Has anyone figured out how that didn't end up edited out of what was supposed to be a children's film, yet, or why the hell it was on camera in the first place? Or how it made it past the initial screen and costume tests, and why they didn't immediately give Bowie a tight pair of briefs to wear? That was damn near pornographically lurid and merely a loose pair of tights away from full frontal nudity. Also, was Bowie aroused every single time he was on camera or is he just naturally a shower instead of a grower? Because, WTF... I've seen less wang at a swingers club or a nude beach.)

Anyway, there are soooo many bad, bad lines in that movie. Most of them come from Bowie/Jareth which, if taken out of context or heard with adult ears sound basically like over-dramatic lines delivered from a really cheesy older stalker trying to woo or coerce a clueless Sarah.

Lines like "I have done it all for *you*!" and "How you turn my world, you precious thing." where the appropriate riffing and heckling was responses like "Dude, I didn't ask you to stalk me!" or "Gross! You're old enough to be my dad!" or "What the fuck is wrong with you?" (I'm paraphrasing. I really wish I'd had the forethought to record some of the heckling because it was hilarious.

Lines that would be totally creepy and much less sexy if they weren't delivered by Bowie being dashingly attractive and androgynous as The Goblin King.

Seriously, Jareth basically drugs Sarah with the peach in the scenes right after the Bog of Eternal Stench and sweeps her away in her implied (and drugged) dreams to a very adult and sexy masquerade ball to dance with her... and this is totally ok for a children's film because of Muppets or something.

It actually makes Twilight look a bit more balanced in the relationship and stalking departments, except it's Jareth/Bowie... and, yeah, I'm not sure if I've met anyone yet who likes sex of any kind that Bowie couldn't seduce just by shape-shifting a bit in either direction.
posted by loquacious at 4:57 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is an excellent place to link to Namesake, a webcomic that pulls characters from many children's stories but does a lot with the darker bits of Oz. Link is to the first comic.

I liked Return, but was never a huge fan if the original. Speaking of spinoffs, reading Wicked was torture, though I hear the musical is good. I also remember an essay on Baum that discussed the Oz series as pulling punches compared to older fairy tales..no one actually dies. Haven't read the books, is that true?
posted by emjaybee at 5:03 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Baum wrote like 350 Oz books. The Harry Potter of its day. I've always wondered why there weren't more movies based on them.

I can only assume the second half of your comment has the same glorious hyperbole as the first half.

posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:03 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


The movie didn't light the book on fire. Both are around, and people can choose which one they like best, which is a good thing.

Oh, I mainly agree with you. The MGM version is certainly in the fabric of my childhood and I remember I saw it many times when I was very young before I ended up reading the books.

And the books ramble on and on something terrible and are very inconsistent. But that's one of the reasons why I like the books. They're very dreamlike and disjointed and capture that feeling of weird dreams and nightmares very well.

My criticisms of the MGM film in this thread are just in the context of the Return to Oz film and how too many people expected more of the same coherence and song-and-dance routines that made Wizard of Oz so famous, and how I think RtO did a much better job of capturing the look and feel of the books, not that Wizard of Oz was terrible in and of itself.

Plus I'm generally vaguely irritated by and allergic to musicals and there's just way too much twee singing in WoO for my personal tastes, and there's basically zero musical numbers in RtO. (Though - oddly or appropriately - The Wiz is one of the few musicals that doesn't immediately irritate me, but the music in that is really fuckin' good.)
posted by loquacious at 5:08 AM on March 6, 2013


I can only assume the second half of your comment has the same glorious hyperbole as the first half.

Holy crap. Well, not all of those are movies, films or TV shows but, still. Holy crap.
posted by loquacious at 5:11 AM on March 6, 2013


As someone who has no memory of "Return to Oz," I enjoyed the liveblog. My favorite line: The rock monster is wearing the ruby slippers. Ruby slippers are not a good look for rock monsters.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:18 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some time last month my little corner of tumblr got all emotional about Oz

Thanks, Mizu; there's great stuff there:

And you know what? Most of the [Oz] books are about girls going on adventures and being awesome. And that was really really important to me as a kid. so the idea of a new movie that thinks it’s being clever and original by making the story about a dude just

really rankles


And, if you don't mind spoilers for The Marvelous Land of Oz, there's this:

like why would you make a movie out of cliche overused tripe about a young attractive Reluctant Hero saving a bunch of young attractive ladies when there’s already interesting stuff like this to work with?...NOBODY EVER DOES MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ, and that is a TRAVESTY. Boy escapes his abusive caretaker and goes on a quest to find the mysterious missing princess of Oz, and finds out that he IS the mysterious missing princess of Oz. HOW GREAT IS THAT.

and

wouldn’t it be amazing if they made an honest movie adaptation of The Marvellous Land of Oz and took the opportunity to make it a story little transgender kids would LOVE instead of trying to give us a heroic young Wizard who all the witches of Oz (who are naturally foxy young ladies) have just been WAITING to appear and sort everything out

Those seem like great points. Oh, and just to be the one who brings it up, one of the reasons I've never dived into Baum's Oz books and hesitated before recommending them is the accusation of racism that keeps coming up, not to mention learning later of those two infamous "bigoted and repugnant" anti-Native American editorials he wrote in South Dakota in the 1890s. The best the folks at the Oz Wiki come up with is "Compared with many contemporaries, Baum's use of racist stereotypes appears mild and infrequent." That seems fair, at least.
posted by mediareport at 5:19 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


11:59 a.m. Balk was 10 years old when she filmed this movie. Judy Garland was 17. This movie takes place after The Wizard of Oz.

Just wait until he finds out that Father Merrin, played by 44-year-old Max Von Sydow in The Exorcist is played as a man several decades younger by 53-year-old Stellan Skarsgård in the battling prequels.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:21 AM on March 6, 2013


Yeah, Labyrinth isn't something you watch for the acting these days, but for Jim and Brian pushing puppetry as far as they could with the technology they had the helping hands are my favorite.

I just read The Complete Annotated Oz Squad which is hot mess of comic art exploring some of the darker sides of the Oz mythos burdened by multiple rounds of being thrown into production hell and a weak trade-paperback reproduction.

But, I'm looking forward to Oz the Great and Powerful in contrast to this animated feature that looks and sounds terrible in spite of all the money spent on voice-acting talent.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:50 AM on March 6, 2013


Holy crap. Well, not all of those are movies, films or TV shows but, still. Holy crap.

I know, right? Of course, not all of these are Oz either, but still. The marketing for the Franco movie probably has many people thinking there is a second Oz movie coming out; Gen X-ers might recall the Return to Oz and/or The Wiz and the crude cartoons. A few people know that there were one or two previous kick at the can before the 1939 version, but it is always startling to me to realize that there are probably hundreds of hours of screen adaptations of the Oz books.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:53 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Holy crap.

loquacious, if you haven't seen Larry Semon's bizarre 1925 version, you should. It's a total mess that is difficult to take your eyes away from.
posted by mediareport at 6:24 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


The MGM Wizard of Oz movie bears less resemblance to the actual books as Michael Bay's version of Transformers do to the original cartoons and comic books.

Huh. I just read the book for the first time recently and was mostly struck by how amazingly faithful to the book the film is. For a Hollywood movie--especially in those days--it has an almost fan-boy obsession with staying true to the book. Changing the silver slippers for ruby ones doesn't really make any difference to the story (it's not like the fact of them being made of silver matters at all to the plot). The biggest changes are the fact that the flying monkeys are morally neutral agents in the book--being simply the tools of the person who weilds the golden cap--and the extended (and rather pointless) sequence at the end of the book in which Our Heroes trek to the Good Witch's castle after Oz floats off in his balloon. A few other incidents are elided or condensed, of course, (and they add in the "it was all a dream" frame) but pretty much everything in the movie is straight from the book.

Oh, and it's water that kills the Wicked Witch in the book, just as it is in the movie.
posted by yoink at 6:29 AM on March 6, 2013


Anyway, there are soooo many bad, bad lines in that movie. Most of them come from Bowie/Jareth which, if taken out of context or heard with adult ears sound basically like over-dramatic lines delivered from a really cheesy older stalker trying to woo or coerce a clueless Sarah.

But... that's the point. The whole film is about a young girl coming to terms with the death of her mother by finding an appropriate place for imagination in her life. David Bowie as Jareth is the beguiling force of adult male sexuality - something she would be well advised to see clearly rather than fantasizing about. People who heckle by saying that he's a bit stalkerish are basically just repeating the movie.

Much like this:

The rock monster is wearing the ruby slippers. Ruby slippers are not a good look for rock monsters.

Again: that. is. the. point.

I don't want to be a jerk about this, but you really aren't saying anything worthwhile about a work of art if you act like you are scoring a clever point against it when all you are doing is observing that, yes, it had exactly the effect that it was obviously intended to have.
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:37 AM on March 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is this the film with a terrifying scene where she has to touch the right thing in a room or else she turns in to an inanimate object? Because that shit fucked me right up.
posted by Theta States at 6:47 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Regarding racism:

I started to mention this in my earlier comment. Even though there isn't a lot of just outright racism in the Oz books regarding ethnic groups that appear in the real world, much of what occurs depends on and reinforces the essentially racist notion that the kind of person you are morally depends almost entirely on your ethnicity. The wooden gargoyles are all evil jerks, and so are the vegetable people, and the Wheelers and on and on. Other groups are kind and helpful, a la the Munchkins. There's never a good gargoyle that decides the help the protagonists, or an evil Munchkin that puts poison in their lunchbox. With the exception of the humans, (who I think we can fairly assume Baum is almost entirely imagining and depicting as white,) once you know someone's race, you know pretty much all you need to know about them. Race is destiny. That could just be bad, one-dimensional writing, and it's not like Tolkien isn't doing much the same thing with dwarfs, elves, and orcs in LOTR, but it reinforces a certain world view I'm not comfortable with.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:00 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apparently you can get a job writing for Huffington Post just by describing a movie without adding anything at all. Everything interesting that the author liveblogged was just straightforwardly recounting something that happens in an interesting movie.

When I was little, my greatest fear was being turned into an inanimate object. This movie played into that fear a LOT. Wheelers turning into sand, people turning into jade knickknacks, the Gump and Tik-Tok as objects that come to life and can slip back into being objects... brrrr.
posted by painquale at 7:07 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


the kind of person you are morally depends almost entirely on your ethnicity.

But doesn't using the word "ethnicity" here rather beg the question? Are munchkins simply a different "ethnicity" from gargoyles? It's not clear to me that we're invited to read the different species in the land of Oz as analogues for human races.

Actually, the "race" issue that did strike me in the book was how obsessed it is with liberating oppressed peoples from slavery.
posted by yoink at 7:07 AM on March 6, 2013


"I'm paraphrasing. I really wish I'd had the forethought to record some of the heckling because it was hilarious."

My god, does that sound insufferable. My world's a little poorer, just knowing such a thing took place.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:08 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


My god, does that sound insufferable. My world's a little poorer, just knowing such a thing took place.

It was in good fun and not mean-spirited. You don't show up to a midnight showing of nearly 30 year old movie if you hated it.
posted by loquacious at 7:13 AM on March 6, 2013


Is this the film with a terrifying scene where she has to touch the right thing in a room or else she turns in to an inanimate object? Because that shit fucked me right up.

YES. That was the scene that made me leave.
posted by jeather at 7:20 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, I watched Labyrinth about once a week for 2 or 3 years, I could speak the lines along with the movie...and I never really noticed David Bowie's "package". Because I was, like, 10. Maybe they made a poor costuming choice, but it's not so obvious unless you're looking for it. I didn't even notice it on a recent rewatch.

As for the evil stalker aspects of his character: as noted above, that's part of the story and theme.

That said: Dark Crystal is the best fantasy film of that period. More ambitious than Labyrinth, more memorable than Return to Oz (which I did love - a lot more than the MGM Oz).
posted by jb at 7:21 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Archive.org has the books, both as pure text from Project Gutenberg, and scanned in full color, for anyone interested. Plus, the 1925 Wizard of Oz movie, to stream or download.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:22 AM on March 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


I remember being kind of stunned when I first saw Return of Oz, because as everyone has noted before, there's a big difference between it and the Wizard of Oz. None the less, it was just one more of the fantasy movies I went and saw during my 80's childhood. I quite enjoyed it. I can still remember the tension that surrounds Dorothy upon her return and feeling a bit sad that the world she'd left had fallen and become ruin.

I will also add that the writers of the last turn of the century could cook up some dark and twisted things. Edgar Burroughs, for example, in a John Carter novel imagined living brains with spider/crab legs (and kinda crab mouths) that skittered around unless they climbed onto the headless bodies that served as horses for them. They were excited to eat humans, and also ate the headless bodies. Ah, early 20th century, good times for crazy...


And layoff of Labyrinth and Dark Crystal!
posted by Atreides at 7:23 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, The Labyrinth is a movie so steeped in nostalgia that it is awkward to watch for the first time as an adult. A friend and I did that, after so many of our friends raved about how great it was. We cringed and laughed so much, but we couldn't see how anyone liked it beyond some cult Rocky Horror Picture Show-type appeal.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:24 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


PEOUGH?!?!
posted by Peevish at 7:28 AM on March 6, 2013


"You don't show up to a midnight showing of nearly 30 year old movie if you hated it."

Labyrinth doesn't need smug hipster snark to be great.

"I never really noticed David Bowie's "package".

Neither did I, honestly. It wasn't until the internet came along that I heard people going on and on about it. It's just one of those weird, meme-y things people get obsessed with. Go figure.

"We cringed and laughed so much, but we couldn't see how anyone liked it beyond some cult Rocky Horror Picture Show-type appeal."

I don't just love it for nostalgia. Jim Henson directs David Bowie in a dark fantasy Muppet movie, with a script by Terry Jones, creature designs by Brian Froud, and sets based on MC Escher? Jesus Christ, that's almost too much 1980s awesome for one movie. This is a movie with Ron Mueck in it as a big fuzzy "Wild Things"-esque monster. Instant win.

(Note that by my saying Dark Crystal had problems, I didn't meant to suggest that it wasn't great in its own way. To me Dark Crystal is beautiful, but it's kind of ponderous and hard to relate to. With Labyrinth, Henson got the balance right.)


"once you know someone's race, you know pretty much all you need to know about them."

This stuff is complicated. On the one hand, yes, if you try to apply it to human ethnic groups, it's horrifying. But on the other hand, in stories, isn't there a place for characters or made-up groups who represent certain human traits taken to extremes? Star-bellied Sneeches, Lilliputians and Ferengi are all comments on certain ridiculous aspects of humanity.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:35 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Baum wrote a bunch of non-Oz books as well, and some of them are similar.
posted by bq at 7:39 AM on March 6, 2013


I love Return to Oz with the kind of love that can only come from being scared shitless by it as a child. The Deadly Desert. Mombi's interchangeable heads. The people turned into knick-knacks. THE WHEELERS. Oh, god, the Wheelers.

And the nightmares that film gave me have only intensified my nostalgia for it.
and the subway scene in The Wiz... christ.
posted by Gordafarin at 7:40 AM on March 6, 2013


yoink: The biggest changes are the fact that the flying monkeys are morally neutral agents in the book--being simply the tools of the person who weilds the golden cap--and the extended (and rather pointless) sequence at the end of the book in which Our Heroes trek to the Good Witch's castle after Oz floats off in his balloon.

I disagree a bit with that. The movie ends with a bit of hoodwinkery on the part of the Wizard. The novel explores some of the consequences for the companions. The Scarecrow is appointed ruler of Emerald City for his wisdom, and the Lion becomes King of the Beasts by virtue of his own courage. The quest to the South also reflects Dorothy's increasing autonomy. Book Dorothy picks herself up from the balloon diaster and starts looking for alternative ways to get home. Movie Dorothy just has the answer given to her in her darkest moment.

Pater Aletheias: N. K. Jemisin has been thinking in similar lines. I don't agree with everything but it's worth thinking about.

Back to Oz: I even have a bit of a soft spot for the production design and music of The Wiz. It rivals Un Lun Dun for sheer brass in re-imagining the urban landscape.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:42 AM on March 6, 2013


bq: "Baum wrote a bunch of non-Oz books as well, and some of them are similar."

Including the very odd The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, made into an equally bizarre Rankin-Bass TV special.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:45 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, there was a nice book by book review series of the Fabulous Forty on Tor.

For my part, I stopped with my kids after the first four, I feel there's a noticeable drop in quality after that.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:49 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Including the very odd The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, made into an equally bizarre Rankin-Bass TV special.

And, apparently, an anime.
posted by Gordafarin at 8:02 AM on March 6, 2013


I was just talking about this with someone the other day in reference to the new movie coming out. I saw Return to Oz on television as a kid and it freaked me the hell out. I'm not sure how old I was, but it was third grade or earlier based on when we moved from the house I watched it in. I think that freaked-outedness colored my subsequent viewings of the MGM Wizard of Oz in a way that's made it less enjoyable by association.
posted by Jahaza at 8:08 AM on March 6, 2013


Labyrinth doesn't need smug hipster snark to be great.

I did mention that this showing was on Capitol Hill in Seattle in the year 2012, yeah?

If there wasn't any smug hipster snark involved time itself might have actually ended.

You're welcome! :)
posted by loquacious at 8:10 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: doesn't need smug hipster snark to be great.

(But it helps.)
posted by Devonian at 8:13 AM on March 6, 2013


Labyrinth is troublesome to watch as an adult despite having watched it roughly once a week for two years as a kid because Sarah is such an infuriating character. Way to not learn anything! You wanna have an arc there? Some kind of character development? No? Okay then. Any of the dealing with parental death themes is so pushed to the margins as to be nonexistent.

But puppets! Oh god muppets! And mazes! I love mazes. and Bowie!* Bowie throwing babies! Bowie miming a coke bump! Bowie playing with balls! Bowie dancing with muppets! Bowie walking on walls upside down! Bowie as the Scary but alluring avatar of sexuality ...in makeup! I'm pretty sure that moment where he takes the mask off in the ballroom fever dream was the leading cause of puberty in 1983. And if you put on As The World Falls Down during a slow dance at your Halloween party you can make people aged 25-36 CRY.

I think you have to be the right age when you see it, but man never was a movie so made for 10 year old girls. It hits that sweet spot HARD.

*Bowie has said he based his performance of Jareth on mime and teenage girl's conception of a rock star fantasy figure.
posted by The Whelk at 8:22 AM on March 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


I disagree a bit with that. The movie ends with a bit of hoodwinkery on the part of the Wizard. The novel explores some of the consequences for the companions. The Scarecrow is appointed ruler of Emerald City for his wisdom, and the Lion becomes King of the Beasts by virtue of his own courage. The quest to the South also reflects Dorothy's increasing autonomy. Book Dorothy picks herself up from the balloon diaster and starts looking for alternative ways to get home. Movie Dorothy just has the answer given to her in her darkest moment.

I keep getting the feeling that people who claim great differences between the book and the film are relying on rather misty memories of the book as they read it as children--including all the imaginary extensions which children build in to books and which make them such compelling worlds.

For example, none of these things, above, really hold up to any scrutiny. The "bit of hoodwinkery on the part of the Wizard" comes straight from the book. Dorothy failing to get into the balloon because of Toto also comes straight from the book. In the movie and the book, Oz has already appointed the Scarecrow ruler of Oz in his absence by this time.

As for the "quest to the South" showing Dorothy's "increasing autonomy"--I just don't see it. How is her "quest to the South" any more "autonomous" than her "quest to the Emerald City"? If anything it is less autonomous--she has her companions built-in for the final quest, but she set out for the Emerald City entirely on her own. You can see why the film writers felt it was an eminently scrappable sequence, because it's structurally just a repetition of what we've already seen (Dorothy goes on quest to far city to ask powerful wizard/witch to return her to Kansas). Of course, it allows, as you note, for Baum to tidily give each of his three heros a kingdom to rule (and he's very keen on giving everyone a turn at everything, which I'm sure was very satisfying to a child's desire for neatness and fairness)--but I don't really see how that is so strikingly different from what the movie does (have Oz declare that the Scarecrow will be "assisted" by the Tin Man and the Lion, and that all three should be obeyed as he would be obeyed).

In the end of the book, the Good Witch is just as much a deus ex machina as she is in the movie (Dorothy has done nothing to "earn" her help between the final scene in the Emerald City and the moment where she asks to be transported back to Kansas). And in both cases it turns out that she had the key to returning home on her throughout the story: the magical shoes.
posted by yoink at 8:40 AM on March 6, 2013


The Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion already had what they were seeking within themselves in the book.

I saw the doc Kumare recently and was curious to know if Vikram had read it when he was a kid.

The characters from Baum's other fantasy novels show up at Ozma's birthday party in The Road to Oz.
posted by brujita at 9:00 AM on March 6, 2013


and Bowie!* Bowie throwing babies! Bowie miming a coke bump! Bowie playing with balls! Bowie dancing with muppets! Bowie walking on walls upside down!

Bowie singing! Singing TERRIBLE, DUMB, NO-GOOD SONGS.

This isn't an instance where the song could be made better by being in a foreign language that you don't comprehend. These are songs that Bowie, being Bowie, should have said "Dear god, this is drivel, let me whip up something better than Magic Dance." Except, it seems we can blame him for that song.

Which makes me sad for David Bowie.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:01 AM on March 6, 2013


...I actually like the songs.

I mean except Boggie Down, which is when the drugs go bad.
posted by The Whelk at 9:03 AM on March 6, 2013


Perhaps I don't really know the full scope of David Bowie, or perhaps I get too hung up on lyrics that do nothing for me. For fans of the movie, I'll give it a second go, probably when my son is old enough to enjoy the movie, so I can see some of it through the eyes of a less cynical little person.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:09 AM on March 6, 2013


Baum wrote like 350 Oz books.

Actually 14. It would have taken you seconds to get the right number, but as it is you're off by a factor of 25.


But, as pointed out by Chrysostom, there were 40 official Oz books, continued after Baum's death by the publishers of 13 of his 14 titles, so we're down to an 8.75 multiplier. Beyond that, there are more than 30 non-canon books, plus two new ones considered canonical by The Baum Trust, for an exaggeration of about 4.5 times.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:16 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


plus two new ones considered canonical by The Baum Trust, for an exaggeration of about 4.5 times.

Any fanfic?
posted by sammyo at 9:26 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion already had what they were seeking within themselves in the book.

Yes, but that is largely true of the movie, too. The Scarecrow frequently comes up with the smart solution to whatever problem they've found themselves in, and the Tin Man is not remotely heartless. The biggest change is the cowardly Lion, who really is cowardly in the film where he isn't in the book. Still, even he rises to the occasion in the final battle with the Witch. I've always thought the "lesson" of the film was "look inside you and you'll find the qualities you think you lack." Certainly in neither film nor book does the "Wizard" give the "questors" what they're seeking.

It is, of course, one of the oddities of the book that nobody grows or changes or learns anything during the course of it (especially odd for a "quest" book). The film does fight against that to a certain extent (Dorothy begins by yearning for "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and ends by learning "There's No Place Like Home"; the Cowardly Lion learns to face his fears etc.). But, again, by the general standards of what Hollywood is happy to do to a book when they adapt it to a movie, the 1939 Wizard of Oz is astonishingly faithful. Compare it, for example, to the gross travesty that is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (why yes, I'm still bitter; that was one of my favorite books as a wee kid).
posted by yoink at 9:32 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read the Wizard of Oz for the first time a couple of years ago. I was surprised by one element of the movie's fidelity to the book: I'd assumed the black and white -> color switch in the movie was a brilliant technical choice. But the book is explicit about how colorful Oz is and how grey Kansas was -- that choice was pretty directly suggested.
posted by Zed at 9:34 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting bit of trivia: Apparently, The Wizard of Oz was the last book Gore Vidal read before he died.

(There's a great Vidal essay about Baum and Oz that he wrote after re-reading the books, which were childhood favorites, as an adult. I can only find a pay-walled version, but you can read the first few paragraphs of the essay here.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:55 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


But on the other hand, in stories, isn't there a place for characters or made-up groups who represent certain human traits taken to extremes? Star-bellied Sneeches, Lilliputians and Ferengi are all comments on certain ridiculous aspects of humanity.

Well, sure. But in Oz you don't have any attempt at the kind of social commentary those characters represent. (Exception: maybe, maybe to some extent, with the Nome King and his minions in Ozma of Oz.) The groups that I'm thinking of are basically either good, neutral, or threatening, without exception, but they don't exist to critique any aspect of human society. They are just hurdles for the heroes to deal with, or strange cultures for them to encounter.

But doesn't using the word "ethnicity" here rather beg the question? Are munchkins simply a different "ethnicity" from gargoyles? It's not clear to me that we're invited to read the different species in the land of Oz as analogues for human races.

I suppose there are better terms. "Species" works. I don't know that Baum intended them to be analogues of human races, either, but I do think his writing reflects an essentially racial worldview where some groups are chiefly good and some are wholly dangerous or inferior. I haven't read a lot of contemporary fantasy, so I don't know how far this sort of thing persists pasts Tolkien, but it would seem really, really odd to me if a writer, even of children's literature, depicted whole nations/tribes/species/whatever as uniformly threatening, outside of a Seussian social commentary or Swiftian satire.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:55 AM on March 6, 2013


I am still convinced that my parents' fluffy, vain, pink-nosed cat has pink crystal brains and I can see them work.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:57 AM on March 6, 2013


I read the Wizard of Oz for the first time a couple of years ago. I was surprised by one element of the movie's fidelity to the book: I'd assumed the black and white -> color switch in the movie was a brilliant technical choice. But the book is explicit about how colorful Oz is and how grey Kansas was -- that choice was pretty directly suggested.

Yeah, that struck me, too. That is something that the film gets perfectly (and the super-super-super bright Technicolor color is exactly right, too). One other thing that struck me in the book is how clearly the "it was all a dream" rewrite is suggested by the book. The fact that Dorothy lies down on the bed and goes to sleep before waking with a start in the land of the Munchkins makes you strongly suspect that the whole thing is a dream. Of course, at the end, when she returns to Kansas you realize that that can't be the case, but there's definitely a strong hint of the idea there at the outset. I wonder if Baum had thought about doing that and then as he got further into the story thought "you know, I'm going to want to write more stories set in this land and that just won't work if it only exists in one girl's dream."
posted by yoink at 10:00 AM on March 6, 2013


I haven't read a lot of contemporary fantasy, so I don't know how far this sort of thing persists pasts Tolkien, but it would seem really, really odd to me if a writer, even of children's literature, depicted whole nations/tribes/species/whatever as uniformly threatening, outside of a Seussian social commentary or Swiftian satire.

I'm not up on the latest in fantasy lit either but I read pretty heavily in the genre and in scifi as a teen and this was really a besetting sin of the genre. "The Planet of People who speak Y and behave like X" is an enduring sci-fi trope and the "trolls are like this, dwarves are like this and elves are like this thing was always pretty hardwired into fantasy. Even Terry Pratchett who is consciously (and hilariously) working against that idea can't help but replicate it to a certain extent.
posted by yoink at 10:03 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Walter Murch, the director of Return to Oz and a helluvan accomplished editor and writer, has a reputation as one of the most serious intellectuals in Hollywood. That might be (among the reasons) why the movie is so much more faithful to the books.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:07 AM on March 6, 2013


Re: Labyrinth, which seems to be on-topic now...

Jim Henson directs David Bowie in a dark fantasy Muppet movie, with a script by Terry Jones, creature designs by Brian Froud, and sets based on MC Escher?

Don't forget choreography by Gates "Dr. Beverly Crusher" McFadden! (You can see her on the "Making of," working with the goblins in their village.)

Also, executive produced by G. Lucas, that guy who made those three great Star Wars movies.
posted by LEGO Damashii at 10:37 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Peter David, writer of stuff, on Return to Oz, among other things. There are too many awesome pull quotes so I just encourage you to read it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:39 AM on March 6, 2013


I love the books. The one thing in my life that I have always held most treasured is Oz. I have Oz themed sleeves, I am a rabid lover of so many things about Oz. I have always enjoyed Return to Oz much more than the beloved Wizard of Oz, just because Return to Oz had so much of the books in them. It holds a special place in my heart because I was the same age as Dorothy when the movie came out, and I loved that there were scenes that were almost directly out of the books.

I hate the snarky commentary in his "review." It was a movie that I think it hard to understand without the background. I watched it recently, and other than my annoyance that Ozma was blonde, I was happy with how it had held up for me over the years.

The new Oz the Great and Powerful has caused me to rant enough that a friend directed me to this thread. Oz was full of amazing stories and tales to adapt. It didn't need sexy witches. I feel like the bits I've seen are wasting perfectly good stories about kidnapping the child of the ruler, giving her to a witch and having the witch hide her away in the wrong body. I don't understand why they felt the need to write yet another prequel when there is a body of work in that world that would have been far more interesting to watch.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 10:40 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, Labrynth, all right, if you really want to feel lousy today...

I work at a high school. I brought up David Bowie the other day and was thrilled to learn that my students not only know of David Bowie, they love David Bowie.

"He's the guy who sings 'Magic Dance!'" they shouted with glee, "we love that song."

Might as well have thrown a glass of water on me and melted me into the floor.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:42 AM on March 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Including the very odd The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, made into an equally bizarre Rankin-Bass TV special.

Oh man, that procession of demons and elemental spirits during the opening credits...that was...so aggressively pagan and unlike anything else you were likely to see in a children's Christmas special in the 80's. Or any time since. I loved it.

A few years back I was SO EXCITED to see ABC Family re-airing The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, as my VHS copy was lost and probably long disintegrated, and when I realized they'd edited it down to the extent of cutting an entire song, many choice words were hurled in the direction of my TV. I really need to see if they've gotten around to releasing the full version anywhere.

On-topic: Return to Oz is a fantastic movie. The part that really creeped out seven-year-old me was when Dorothy was sneaking around the room with all the sleeping detatched heads. I liked the Wheelers and the room with the cursed inanimate objects. Hell, it's been years since I've watched the movie, and I still have recurring dreams about rooms laid out like that. Nice to know that there's enough weird/scary stuff in that movie to freak out kids of all kinds.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:49 AM on March 6, 2013


loquacious: [Labyrinth] actually makes Twilight look a bit more balanced in the relationship and stalking departments [....]

Yeeeeeaaah, no. The behaviors of Edward and Jareth are pretty similar, sure. But the attitudes the movies take toward those behaviors and actions couldn't be more different.

In Twilight, the message seems to be, "Hey girls, there are older men who want to stalk you and control you, but that's fine, because they're just doing it to show the depth of their love for you."

But in Labyrinth, the message is, "Hey girls, there are older men who want to stalk you and control you, and that is bullshit and it is not okay and you can walk away from it any time you decide to."

As glittery and attractive as Jareth may be, he is also clearly the villain. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that I think that's kind of an important distinction.
posted by webmutant at 11:07 AM on March 6, 2013 [17 favorites]


yoink: One key difference between book and movie is that the book spends three chapters developing the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion as protagonists with their own conflicts. Brains, heart, and courage are only the means to an end. The real conflicts are respect, happiness through love, and being a worthy King of the Beasts (Chapters 4-6). The Wizard's placebo magic doesn't really resolve those conflicts, it only gives the companions the self-respect necessary to resolve the conflicts for themselves.

The closing chapters of the novel serve to provide closure on at least two of those conflicts. The Scarecrow acts wisely as ruler of the Emerald City (Chapter 18), and the Lion is worthy of becoming King of Beasts because he protects them from monsters (Chapter 21). The Woodman gets shortchanged(*), but I'm not claiming those additional chapters as perfect, just necessary to resolve conflicts introduced earlier.

Chapter 18 marks a shift in agency. The companions go to the Emerald City because the Witch of the North suggested it to Dorothy. They go west because the Wizard demanded it. They mostly react to the Witch of the West. But they go south after investigating other potential ways to get Dorothy home (and trying one). There's also a shift in how Dorothy talks to the Wizard vs. Glinda. She asks the Wizard to send her home. She tells Glinda she wants to go home, and asks how to do it.

Novel Glenda demands a payment, in the form of the golden cap. Therefore, she's not a deus ex machina because the protagonists have undertaken a quest specifically to reach her and paid for her advice. The brief favoritism of the Witch of the North is weakly explained in terms of Dorothy's unwitting liberation of the Munchkins. Movie Glenda is, coming from nowhere with knowledge that she had all along with no apparent motivation other than to close the movie at a reasonable length.

(*) The Woodman's Munchkin love just vanishes from the narrative, and he chooses at the end of the novel to go to the other side of Oz from her. It's a plot hole big enough to drive a truck of subtext through, or just sloppy writing. I think it's the latter.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:07 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


(*) The Woodman's Munchkin love just vanishes from the narrative, and he chooses at the end of the novel to go to the other side of Oz from her. It's a plot hole big enough to drive a truck of subtext through, or just sloppy writing. I think it's the latter.

He actually does go hunting for her in book 13, The Tin Woodman of Oz.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 12:10 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I should say that the movie doesn't really have these problems because it doesn't go into much depth about what really motivates the companions. Since their motivations are trivially bundled up in three variations of a comic song, it's not a big deal for the Wizard to dispense with them in a few rushed lines of dialogue.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:10 PM on March 6, 2013


He actually does go hunting for her in book 13, The Tin Woodman of Oz.

I thought that might be the case for at least one of the sequels. It just doesn't appear to be much of a concern for him at the conclusion of Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:14 PM on March 6, 2013


James Franco on The Colbert Report
posted by homunculus at 12:49 PM on March 6, 2013


But in Labyrinth, the message is, "Hey girls, there are older men who want to stalk you and control you, and that is bullshit and it is not okay and you can walk away from it any time you decide to."

I see Labyrinth as a modernized, family-friendly, gender-flipped Thomas Rhymer. If you flirt with fairies, they'll turn into hags and you'll end up with a curse.

Unfortunately, most paranormal romance is Wagner's Flying Dutchman. Monsters can be redeemed by the love of a good woman, especially if they throw themselves into the sea.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:06 PM on March 6, 2013


I didn't like "Return to Oz" much when I saw it as a kid. It pulled out Tip and replaced him with Dorothy. And that bugged me, because I was fascinated with his story arc.

Unsurprisingly, I ended up going through gender transition, so you can kinda see the appeal there.

Other than that I was delighted to see so much stuff from the books rendered so lovingly. But oh man WHERE IS TIP THERE GOES THE HEART OF THE OVERALL STORY GOOD JOB.

I keep on thinking about doing a graphic novel that takes Ozma out of her usual role of "pretty frilly princess sitting in the castle, pulling on the Magic Belt to fix everything at the end" and makes her go through a journey across Oz and confront her own lingering issues. A little adult thinking made me wonder if the whole "magicians are illegal in Oz except for the two state wizards" thing is an overreaction to what Mombi put her through; I know I'd react pretty dramatically at anything that threatened to turn ME back into a boy. I've discussed doing it with a friend of mine who is also a transwoman and a cartoonist but we're both too damn busy for it right now. We both would really love to kind of reclaim Ozma as a trans heroine and give her a chance to kick some ass and have an adventure instead of always being either a deus ex machina at the end, or a Kidnapped Princess who spends most of the story being turned into a teapot or something.

And yes, I would totally address the about face between how the Wizard was depicted in book 2 and in book 4, when he came to live there and be one of two State Wizards.


Also.

Nimmie Aimee > [the Tin Woodsman] actually does go hunting for [his lost love] in book 13, The Tin Woodman of Oz.

Eponysterical.
posted by egypturnash at 1:57 PM on March 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


yoink: One key difference between book and movie is that the book spends three chapters developing the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion as protagonists with their own conflicts. Brains, heart, and courage are only the means to an end. The real conflicts are respect, happiness through love, and being a worthy King of the Beasts (Chapters 4-6). The Wizard's placebo magic doesn't really resolve those conflicts, it only gives the companions the self-respect necessary to resolve the conflicts for themselves.

But as you note yourself, this doesn't work at all for the Tin Woodman, and it's pretty shaky for the Scarecrow, too. He doesn't actually make all that much noise about "respect" being a key reason to want brains (he says he doesn't want people to think him a fool, sure, but it's not as if "respect" is the note that keeps being hit). Moreover, the Scarecrow does absolutely nothing to in the final chapters to show that he's a good ruler. So far as I can see, the only thing working for him here is precisely the Wizard's "placebo magic"--if he hadn't had his head stuffed with pins would he have accepted being made ruler of the Emerald City? After being made ruler, what does he do to "earn" the respect that position gives him? Even for the Lion--who does, at least, become "King of the Beasts" in those final chapters and who does, in fact, declare that this is the reason he wants to get courage, I see absolutely nothing in the story that suggests he would not have been willing to perform the courageous act that confirms him as King of the Beasts from the first moment we meet him. The only thing that scene in the final chapter gives him is an opportunity to display his courage to the other animals (who, it should be noted, have no doubt of his courage from the outset) and save them from the spider-monster.

The closing chapters of the novel serve to provide closure on at least two of those conflicts. The Scarecrow acts wisely as ruler of the Emerald City (Chapter 18),

I cannot find him doing any wise act of kingship in Chapter 18 or, indeed, any other chapter.

and the Lion is worthy of becoming King of Beasts because he protects them from monsters (Chapter 21).

Covered above.

Chapter 18 marks a shift in agency. The companions go to the Emerald City because the Witch of the North suggested it to Dorothy. They go west because the Wizard demanded it. They mostly react to the Witch of the West. But they go south after investigating other potential ways to get Dorothy home (and trying one).

This is a VERY slender reed. They go south because "the soldier with the green whiskers" suggests the idea to them. I really don't see the striking difference here from the scene in Chapter One. In both scenes Dorothy asks advice from multiple people and follows what seems like the most authoritative advice.

There's also a shift in how Dorothy talks to the Wizard vs. Glinda. She asks the Wizard to send her home. She tells Glinda she wants to go home, and asks how to do it.

Scene 1:
Then Oz asked, "What do you wish me to do?"

"Send me back to Kansas, where my Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are," she
answered earnestly. "I don't like your country, although it is so
beautiful. And I am sure Aunt Em will be dreadfully worried over my
being away so long."
Scene 2:
"What can I do for you, my child?" she asked.

Dorothy told the Witch all her story: how the cyclone had brought her
to the Land of Oz, how she had found her companions, and of the
wonderful adventures they had met with.

"My greatest wish now," she added, "is to get back to Kansas, for Aunt
Em will surely think something dreadful has happened to me, and that
will make her put on mourning; and unless the crops are better this
year than they were last, I am sure Uncle Henry cannot afford it."
No, that really doesn't withstand scrutiny.

Novel Glenda demands a payment, in the form of the golden cap. Therefore, she's not a deus ex machina because the protagonists have undertaken a quest specifically to reach her and paid for her advice.

But she demands a thing which is now, explicitly, of no use to Dorothy, and which Dorothy has no interest in keeping. It is, again, simply an odd form of the quest romance that she is asked to part with nothing of any value to her in order to return home.

The brief favoritism of the Witch of the North is weakly explained in terms of Dorothy's unwitting liberation of the Munchkins. Movie Glenda is, coming from nowhere with knowledge that she had all along with no apparent motivation other than to close the movie at a reasonable length.

Book Glinda has less "reason" to help Dorothy than Movie Glinda--she does it simply out of the kindness of her heart. In the movie, at least, they give her the same "weak" motivation as the book's Witch of the North has.
posted by yoink at 1:59 PM on March 6, 2013


> "Oh, and it's water that kills the Wicked Witch in the book, just as it is in the movie."

You're right. Sorry. Turns out I got confused by a stage version I saw, which colored my memories of the book.

(It does seem to be foreshadowed at least slightly in the book, with repeated references to the wicked witches being "dried out" or "dried up". The most telling is that "her dread of water was greater than her fear of the dark, so she never came near when Dorothy was bathing. Indeed, the old Witch never touched water, nor ever let water touch her in any way" ... but that one occurs so near her actual death I'm not sure it counts as foreshadowing, honestly.)
posted by kyrademon at 2:17 PM on March 6, 2013


It was seeing loquacious' comment about Return to Oz's fidelity to the books that made me refer Nimmie Amee to the thread.

During the James Franco interview on The Colbert Report, Stephen tried to start a game of "Fuck, Marry, Kill" with the witches; though Franco declined, that made me want to warn her and others away from that.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:47 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Labyrinth is troublesome to watch as an adult despite having watched it roughly once a week for two years as a kid because Sarah is such an infuriating character. Way to not learn anything! You wanna have an arc there? Some kind of character development?"

Labyrinth is all about Sarah's development and maturation.

She begins the story as a kind of bratty, overgrown little girl who lives in her own fantasy world, and when she enters Jareth's world she encounters various creatures who represent the trials of growing up. The "Chilly Down" party monsters, for instance, are a pretty clear symbol for drugs and dangerous, destructive friendships. ("Take off your head!") The sad and horrifying goblin old lady with the enormous pile of junk on her back, encountered near the end of the story, takes Sarah back to her safe little girl bedroom and encourages her to start carrying huge piles of old toys and other junk too, to cling on to childhood and never grow up. In the end Sarah lets go of childhood and her little girlish notions, but she very pointedly tells her fantasy adventure pals that sometimes she will still need them, that she will be an adult but she will never totally give up fantasy and imagination and the other valuable and healthy aspects of childhood we carry into adulthood.

"But in Labyrinth, the message is, "Hey girls, there are older men who want to stalk you and control you, and that is bullshit and it is not okay and you can walk away from it any time you decide to."

There is an aspect of that, but it's not just that. Jareth ends up a somewhat tragic character, because he is desperately trying to be exactly what Sarah wants, he is being sinister and grand and magical because that is what she thinks romance is, and in the end she outgrows him and rejects him. Like all of the other characters in the story, he represents a trial for Sarah as she passes through adolescence, but he seems to be actually aware of it (as he sings in his big closing song, "I can't live within you,") and unlike everybody else he doesn't get to be a part of her life moving forward.

Don't forget choreography by Gates "Dr. Beverly Crusher" McFadden! (You can see her on the "Making of," working with the goblins in their village.)

Oh, good catch! And with the Cat from Red Dwarf as one of the Chilly Down guys. I'll admit it, I know too much about this movie.

Also, executive produced by G. Lucas, that guy who made those three great Star Wars movies.

Before he lost his brains, yeah.


I think you have to be the right age when you see it, but man never was a movie so made for 10 year old girls. It hits that sweet spot HARD.


I have never been a 10-year-old girl, more's the pity. It's just an awesome movie, and one I would argue is better by miles than The Wizard of Oz. (And that's no knock on Oz.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:28 PM on March 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


> because casting Fairuza Balk as Dorothy is so perverse that it really can't be anything but
> intentionally so.

Disclaimer--I am a book-Oz and especially a book-Dorothy partisan. The books were read aloud to me when I was very small, I read them aloud to my own kids, and I have read them just to myself for the pleasure multiple times.

From that POV the only problem I can come up with about Fairuza Balk as Dorothy is that FB is brown-haired where book-Dorothy is Kansas cornsilk blond. Otherwise FB nailed Dorothy as surely as Robbie Coltrane nailed Hagrid, as surely as Ian McKellen nailed Gandalf, as surely as Connery nailed Bond.
posted by jfuller at 3:49 PM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


The scarecrow is the one who figures out how to get the group across a ditch and a river; the Tin Man rusts his jaws with his tears when he steps on a beetle and is appalled when the Cowardly Lion suggests killing a deer. These happen BEFORE they meet the wizard.
posted by brujita at 4:09 PM on March 6, 2013


He doesn't actually make all that much noise about "respect" being a key reason to want brains (he says he doesn't want people to think him a fool, sure, but it's not as if "respect" is the note that keeps being hit).

On the contrary, it's a central part of the chapters where the Scarecrow is introduced. "But I do not want people to call me a fool, and if my head stays stuffed with straw instead of with brains, as yours is, how am I ever to know anything?"

And then later "... but the old crow comforted me, saying, `If you only had brains in your head you would be as good a man as any of them, and a better man than some of them.'

Certainly it is the case that the Scarecrow's actions as ruler happen mostly off-stage. It's to Baum's fault that we're mostly told rather than shown. But it's the Scarecrow who decides to try the winged monkeys, and when that fails, to ask if other people might have good ideas on how to get Dorothy home. On leaving the Emerald City we have this line: ""You are now our ruler," (the Guardian) said to the Scarecrow; "so you must come back to us as soon as possible."" This is in direct contrast to the character who repeatedly throws himself into holes because that's what brainless people do.

Even for the Lion--who does, at least, become "King of the Beasts" in those final chapters and who does, in fact, declare that this is the reason he wants to get courage, I see absolutely nothing in the story that suggests he would not have been willing to perform the courageous act that confirms him as King of the Beasts from the first moment we meet him.

Except that contradicts both the action of Chapter 6 when Lion is shamed by a young girl, and his own self-description as being entirely dependent on bluffing his way out of fights: "If the elephants and the tigers and the bears had ever tried to fight me, I should have run myself--I'm such a coward;..." Then on facing the Wizard: "His first thought was that Oz had by accident caught on fire and was burning up; but when he tried to go nearer, the heat was so intense that it singed his whiskers, and he crept back tremblingly to a spot nearer the door."

Scarecrow and Lion sometimes rise to meet Dorothy's expectations, but they do a lot of dumb and cowardly things to satisfy their own expectations. That doesn't happen in Act III, because they grow as characters over the course of the novel.

No, that really doesn't withstand scrutiny.

Tomato, tomahto. The two scenes read very differently. Especially when you consider the Wizard's interviews with all four protagonists as a set:

Wizard (in all four interviews): "Why should I do this?"
Dorothy: "Because you are strong and I am weak; because you are a Great Wizard and I am only a little girl."
Scarecrow: "Because you are wise and powerful, and no one else can help me."
Woodman: "Because I ask it, and you alone can grant my request."
Lion: "Because of all Wizards you are the greatest, and alone have power to grant my request."

Then you have Glenda's questions:
"What can I do for you, my child?"
"What will you do when Dorothy has left us?"
"What will become of you when Dorothy leaves this country?"
"When Dorothy has returned to her own home, what will become of you?"

But she demands a thing which is now, explicitly, of no use to Dorothy, and which Dorothy has no interest in keeping. It is, again, simply an odd form of the quest romance that she is asked to part with nothing of any value to her in order to return home.

Certainly the conclusion of the quest in Act III is a bit too neat and tidy. And I'll agree that the final chapters are weak. But they have a structure and help to resolve conflicts introduced early in the novel, which makes them far from "pointless."

Book Glinda has less "reason" to help Dorothy than Movie Glinda--she does it simply out of the kindness of her heart. In the movie, at least, they give her the same "weak" motivation as the book's Witch of the North has.

Movie Glinda's motivation for not revealing the secret in Munchkinland is just a blatant prompt for Judy Garland to spit out the moral of the story. That turns the whole thing to a preachy object lesson for Dorothy, dismembered Scarecrow and dead witches reduced to just a dream. And that's something I think works for 1930s cinema.

Novel Glinda at least isn't burdened by the moral problem of sending Dorothy on a perilous quest for her emotional development, because she doesn't meet Dorothy until the final chapter. She's safely offstage ruling the Quadlings.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:16 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jack Snow wrote an adult story in which Tip kills Ozma.
posted by brujita at 4:21 PM on March 6, 2013


brujita: The scarecrow is the one who figures out how to get the group across a ditch and a river; the Tin Man rusts his jaws with his tears when he steps on a beetle and is appalled when the Cowardly Lion suggests killing a deer. These happen BEFORE they meet the wizard.

The key problem that unites all three characters is a lack of self confidence. Scarecrow throws himself into ditches and goes about tasks in inefficient ways because he doesn't trust his intelligence. The Lion gets cowed by both Dorothy and the Wizard. And the Woodman spends an entire chapter walking carefully to avoid experiencing grief.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:35 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Jack Snow wrote an adult story in which Tip kills Ozma.

I put on my robes and wizard hat. I send that story to its tomb in the fetid depths of Livejournal. For. Ever.
posted by jfuller at 4:45 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the contrary, it's a central part of the chapters where the Scarecrow is introduced. "But I do not want people to call me a fool, and if my head stays stuffed with straw instead of with brains, as yours is, how am I ever to know anything?"

And then later "... but the old crow comforted me, saying, `If you only had brains in your head you would be as good a man as any of them, and a better man than some of them.'


But it's telling that the only example you can find that is actually directly about "respect" is the one I already mentioned ("do not want people to call me a fool"). The others are about wanting to "know anything" and "be as good a man as any of them" (that is about what kind of man he is and not whether or not people "respect" him for it).

Certainly it is the case that the Scarecrow's actions as ruler happen mostly off-stage. It's to Baum's fault that we're mostly told rather than shown. But it's the Scarecrow who decides to try the winged monkeys, and when that fails, to ask if other people might have good ideas on how to get Dorothy home. On leaving the Emerald City we have this line: ""You are now our ruler," (the Guardian) said to the Scarecrow; "so you must come back to us as soon as possible."" This is in direct contrast to the character who repeatedly throws himself into holes because that's what brainless people do.


But these aren't actions as "ruler." They're actions as Dorothy's friend. This is what the Scarecrow has been doing from the moment she helped him down off his pole. He's always the one who comes up with the clever idea about what to do next. And the fact that the Guardian tells the Scarecrow he must come back is no comment at all on whether or not he's a good ruler; he simply has not done anything, since becoming ruler, that offers a basis of judgment. (We know, of course, that he will be a good ruler, but that is because we've seen how smart and kind and noble he is from the moment Dorothy teamed up with him.)

Except that contradicts both the action of Chapter 6 when Lion is shamed by a young girl, and his own self-description as being entirely dependent on bluffing his way out of fights: "If the elephants and the tigers and the bears had ever tried to fight me, I should have run myself--I'm such a coward;..."


No, the Lion, like the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, simply has a wrong idea about himself. He thinks he is a coward, but he very clearly is not. Every single challenge they face that requires physical bravery, the Lion rises to (leaping repeatedly back and forth over the terrible chasm in Chapter 8, for example, or facing down the Kalidahs in Chapter 7--and there is, of course, his continued, and prolonged, stoicism and defiance in the face of the Wicked Witch. You'll notice that even in the example you cite of his approach to "The Great and Terrible Oz" he gets close enough to the fire to have his whiskers singed--whatever "growth" the Lion goes through, it is not a growth in being willing to face dangers.

Scarecrow and Lion sometimes rise to meet Dorothy's expectations, but they do a lot of dumb and cowardly things to satisfy their own expectations.


Dorothy expresses no expectations of either of them, so that seems like a forced reading (I mean, I could imagine such a book, but it's not the one Baum wrote; Dorothy takes things as they come). And in fact, apart from the Scarecrow stepping in holes in the road, I can think of no stupid thing he does and time after time after time he is the one who comes up with the clever solution to whatever problem faces them (just as time after time the Lion is brave and time after time the Tin Woodman demonstrates his extreme empathy). I can't think of a single cowardly act by the Lion at all--nor a heartless one by the Tin Woodman.

The two scenes read very differently.

I simply cannot see what difference you are finding. She asks what she believes to be a powerful magical person to please, pretty please, return her to Kansas. One of them doesn't because he doesn't have that power, the other does because she knows the way to use the silver shoes.

But they have a structure and help to resolve conflicts introduced early in the novel, which makes them far from "pointless."


I think I've made a very good case that the book does not contain these "conflicts" and that the final chapters do not "resolve" them.

Movie Glinda's motivation for not revealing the secret in Munchkinland is just a blatant prompt for Judy Garland to spit out the moral of the story. That turns the whole thing to a preachy object lesson for Dorothy, dismembered Scarecrow and dead witches reduced to just a dream. And that's something I think works for 1930s cinema.

Novel Glinda at least isn't burdened by the moral problem of sending Dorothy on a perilous quest for her emotional development, because she doesn't meet Dorothy until the final chapter. She's safely offstage ruling the Quadlings.


But your first point negates your second. There's no "moral problem" if it's all just a dream, is there? Now, one may or may not like narratives which, retroactively, are discovered to be dreams, and that is, obviously, a major difference between book and film. But if you're willing to accept the dream metaframe then having Glinda withhold the secret of the shoes until the end makes perfect sense. The film definitely wants the story to have some kind of moral. Baum, I think, is much less interested in that--just as he is entirely uninterested in character "growth" of any kind whatsoever.
posted by yoink at 4:46 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


yoink and CBrachyrhynchos, I want the two of you to discuss this forever. I am loving reading this.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:57 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am enjoying that this is now Wizard Of Oz Grad School.
posted by The Whelk at 4:59 PM on March 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


But it's telling that the only example...

Two examples, in the chapters that define that particular character. Having dropped those lines in creating the character, Baum has defined a conflict which needs to be resolved.

But these aren't actions as "ruler."

Except, of course, that he's sitting on the throne and involving one of his subjects in the discussion.

No, the Lion, like the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, simply has a wrong idea about himself.

Certainly, didn't I already point that out? But because of that wrong idea all three of them engage in actions that Baum presents as stupid, cowardly, or avoiding emotion.

... I can think of no stupid thing he does ...

Then clearly, *I'm* not the one who's unfamiliar with the novel. Note that mere denial of cited parts of the narrative does not refute them.

She asks what she believes to be a powerful magical person to please, pretty please, return her to Kansas.

Actually, she doesn't ask Glinda at all. Glinda offers.

I think I've made a very good case that the book does not contain these "conflicts" and that the final chapters do not "resolve" them.

Then what is the purpose of an entire chapter devoted to the Scarecrow wanting to be, or be seen as equal or better, an entire chapter on the Woodman's emotional problems, and an entire chapter on Lion's unworthyness to be King of the Beasts?

But your first point negates your second. There's no "moral problem" if it's all just a dream, is there?

Then there's no "goodness of her heart" either in the action. Nor can you argue anything about the virtues of Scarecrow, Woodman, or Lion. In order to do that, you must look at them as character with stories that begin in Act I and are resolved, where exactly?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:22 PM on March 6, 2013


Heh.. like pretty much everyone here I watched this as a child just young enough to be disturbed by some of the freakier imagery. As has been said a million times by various internet commentators, the wheelers are high octane nightmare fuel for children. Then as the years passed, enough specifics of the movie disappeared from my memory to render it something I was never entirely certain was real. And since internet video, or even imdb, didn't exist in any useful form when I was a teenager I never really could piece together the memories. Then me and a friend with whom I spent a couple years cynically hating on everything surrounding us in our Central Oregon prison, individually composing lengthy rants we posted on a local BBS by day and MUD-ing Dragonlance based systems by night finally rented the VHS when found at a shop. His name was Robert Brockway, he went on to become a moderately successful writer. I went on to produce a friends jokey rap song about cockpunching.
posted by mediocre at 6:11 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeeeeeaaah, no. The behaviors of Edward and Jareth are pretty similar, sure. But the attitudes the movies take toward those behaviors and actions couldn't be more different.

Yeah, I would take back most of my statements about Jareth/Labyrinth and the general sin of putting it anywhere near Twilight. In my defense it was like 4 in the morning and I was a bit punchy.

As for Oz grad school, this is all awesome and I've learned a bunch of stuff I didn't know, and was reminded of some things I did. Cool
posted by loquacious at 6:30 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've developed an interest in public domain ebooks lately, and I thought I'd be able to find a full list of the Oz books with links. But I couldn't find one! So I put this together.

Of these, Project Gutenberg offers HTML - mostly text, with some images. Open Library - if you choose "read online" - offers the pages as images, so it's more like reading a book, but it'll be slower to load. So choose whichever you prefer.

1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Project Gutenberg (no images), Open Library

2. The Marvelous Land of Oz - Project Gutenberg (no images), Open Library

3. Ozma of Oz - Project Gutenberg, Open Library

4. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz - Project Gutenberg, Open Library

5. The Road to Oz - Project Gutenberg, Open Library

6. The Emerald City of Oz - Project Gutenberg, Open Library

7. The Patchwork Girl of Oz - Project Gutenberg, Open Library

8. Tik-Tok of Oz - Project Gutenberg (no images), Open Library

9. The Scarecrow of Oz - Project Gutenberg (no images), Open Library

10. Rinkitink in Oz - Project Gutenberg, Open Library

11. The Lost Princess of Oz - Project Gutenberg, Open Library

12. The Tin Woodman of Oz - Project Gutenberg, no scans on open library

13. The Magic of Oz - Project Gutenberg (no images), Open Library

14. Glinda of Oz - Project Gutenberg, no scans on open library
posted by Pronoiac at 7:32 PM on March 6, 2013 [32 favorites]


If we can't talk about characters as moral in dreams, we can't talk about them as moral in fiction either. After all, both are just different sorts of unreality. I reject that argument with both dreams and fiction, especially a fiction that includes the line, "are you a good witch or a bad witch?"
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:34 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


And with the Cat from Red Dwarf as one of the Chilly Down guys. I'll admit it, I know too much about this movie.

Danny John Jules. The Rastafarian member of Maid Marian and her Merry Men. Absolutely wonderful comic actor.

I honestly think that Labyrinth can be defended entirely on its own terms. No work of art is perfect, not everything it tries to do succeeds - but Labyrinth is an absolutely visionary piece of fantasy that is also funny and quite bittersweet profound about the necessity of balancing life and the imagination. I think it's one of the films that I genuinely love, as opposed to, say, admiring.

I even like the songs.
posted by lucien_reeve at 8:23 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Magic Dance" is the best Bowie song evar.
posted by jb at 11:17 PM on March 7, 2013


In addition to seeing the movie at a young age, I also had the Joan Vinge novelization on my bookshelf, and read it on several occasions. This certainly was a contributing factor to my weirdness growing up.

Also, as is typical for Amazon.com obscura, the reviews are a hoot.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2013


Do they mention the wizard's full name in the new movie? Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs?
posted by Chrysostom at 3:00 PM on March 8, 2013


Just peeking back into this thread one more time before it peters out. The songs from Labyrinth are indeed pretty great, but even I won't claim "Magic Dance" is Bowie's best EVER... Not in a world with Heroes, Life on Mars, etc. Some the lyrics in Labyrinth are kind of odd and goofy ("No love injection...") but the songs work because of the context, the melodies and the way Bowie sells them. Nice to know I'm not the only one who's totally lost it on the dance floor when "As the World Falls Down" started up...
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:21 PM on March 8, 2013


Pronoiac, WELL DONE!!
posted by BlueHorse at 7:20 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Wheelers, too, were oddly colorful, and rolled around on naturally grown wheels described as having the texture and hardness of fingernails or hooves. Ok, so they weren't really supposed to be urban rollerblading rejects from the set of The Wiz, but that's actually where The Wiz got the inspiration for the roller skating scenes - Return to Oz. That crazy shit is actually canon.

Heh. I love the Wheelers. And The Wiz. And Labrynth and that while slightly surreal creepy 80s kids movie genre.
posted by Artw at 6:39 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The songs from Labyrinth are indeed pretty great, but even I won't claim "Magic Dance" is Bowie's best EVER...

Well, I am more of a Muppets/Henson fan than a Bowie fan. My second favourite Bowie song is sung by Flight of the Conchords.
posted by jb at 4:10 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oz the Great and Powerful Stench of Garbage
posted by homunculus at 8:17 PM on March 11, 2013


That review has kind of an odd writing style.
posted by Artw at 10:24 PM on March 11, 2013


We’re off to see the lawyers, the wonderful lawyers of Oz. Because because because…?
posted by Artw at 10:34 PM on March 11, 2013


It's really interesting to me how many reviews fail to grasp that Oz started out as a series of novels and not a Hollywood studio adaptation (or hand-wave away that the problems of prior rulership were explored by Baum), compared to reviews of True Grit which immediately understood that the Coens were tapping Portis and not Hathaway.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:09 AM on March 12, 2013


> In Twilight, the message seems to be, "Hey girls, there are older men who want to stalk you and
> control you, but that's fine, because they're just doing it to show the depth of their love for you."
>
> But in Labyrinth, the message is, "Hey girls, there are older men who want to stalk you and control
> you, and that is bullshit and it is not okay and you can walk away from it any time you decide to."

Odd that no one so has brought up the literary ancestor of both these interpretations, namely Clara's "Uncle" Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker. Herr Drosselmeyer is a councilman and Clara's godfather so he's clearly much older, though also quite respectable and OK with Clara's parents. But (somewhat oddly for a councilman) he's also a maker of amazing clockwork toys. And, as it develops in the night, also a magician who conjures up all the fantastic action and events of the story for his "niece" Clara's, uh, amusement. (The attack of the Mouse Army is pretty damned scary, considering that Clara, like Alice, has been shrunk to mouse size).

The ballet has only two acts and the entire second act is given over to Drosselmeyer magicking a relieved Clara off to the Land of Sweets. Would you like a piece of candy little girl?
posted by jfuller at 8:40 AM on March 12, 2013


I hope you're all proud of yourself - this thread inspired me to re-watch Labyrinth, and now I'm worried I'll never get Magic Dance out of my head.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:22 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


DANCE

MAGIC

DANCE

MAGIC

DANCE
posted by The Whelk at 7:59 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Haunted by David Bowie fondling his balls forever...
posted by Artw at 8:03 AM on March 13, 2013


Haunted by David Bowie fondling his balls forever...

Technically speaking, it's a ball-professional giving Bowie a reach-around.
posted by Theta States at 8:04 AM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's hard to concentrate with Bowie throwing his balls in your face.
posted by The Whelk at 8:05 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I rewatched this again for the first time in years. It's amazing how much I remembered.

That soundtrack by David Shire is fantastic though. I had a look around and found it available for download here.
posted by Start with Dessert at 3:30 AM on March 18, 2013


I found this a most distressing movie. The Gnome King is the victim of the machinations of an evil outsider - one Dorothy Gale.

The Gnome King's only aim was to become human. Whereas this is seen as a noble goal from characters as diverse as Data and Pinnochio, here it is seen as a perversion. Why should anyone begrudge him seeking a condition that we ourselves naturally and effortlessly possess?

All of the emeralds in the Emerald City were stolen from the Gnome King's mountain. They stripped the mountains of their wealth so as to bejewel their city. By what right do the people of Oz have to demand that the Gnome King must give up his own property? Dorothy complains that the Gnome King "has so much" but that does not give her or anyone else any right to steal them. And what about the RUBY slippers - could they have possibly been made from Rubies that originated in his mountains?

And before you try to tell me that Dorothy is good and not evil just remember that Dorothy "accidentally" killed yet another inhabitant of Oz. She started with the Witch of the East by landing her house on her. Then it was the Witch of the West by throwing water on her - which terrifyingly dissolves her as though it were acid. Just how much of this is actually accidental? No! Dorothy knows exactly what she's doing. Finally she tricks the naive Pumpkinhead into letting Dorothy plant a chicken in his head so as to launch an egg assault and poison the Gnome King. Dorothy has a knack for killing. (The monster even lets Pumpkinhead call her "Mom"!)

Not only this but Dorothy has the nasty habit of installing dictators in Oz and then leaving. At first, it was the Scarecrow - literally a puppet - someone so stupid as to be easily controlled. When Dorothy returns she reinstates the autocratic hereditary monarchy in Princess Ozma (the daughter of the previous dictator). Of course, Ozma isn't given free reign by Dorothy who promises to keep close tabs on her by watching her from her mirror. Dorothy herself has become the "man behind the curtain"!

When will the people of Oz get democratic representation? When can they expect to be free from the manipulations of this murderous outsider? Only time will tell.
posted by Start with Dessert at 10:22 PM on March 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Start with Dessert speaks to power.

Truth.
posted by Mezentian at 4:28 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older Top Secret Drum Corps...  |  More than just pictures of ele... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments