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June 9, 2014 12:26 PM   Subscribe

The Sad, Century-Long History of Terrible Wizard of Oz Movies. Would you like an exhaustive list? Sure you would...

104 Years of Oz on Screen

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910 short film, silent)
This adaptation was made to settle L Frank Baum's bankruptcy, though without his direct involvement. Drawing on a previous 1908 multimedia presentation Baum had made (that included some no-longer extant film clips), this short takes some liberties, including the inclusion of Hank the Mule and Betsy. Most notable is that the Scarecrow comes to life on Dorothy's farm, then is swhisked away with her to Oz.

The Patchwork Girl of Oz
His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz
The Magic Cloak of Oz

L Frank Baum himself wrote and produced the next set of Oz adaptations, a trio of feature length silents he made for his own Oz Film Manufacturing Company. The first of which, The Patchwork Girl of Oz featured the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Woodman, as well as iconic Baum creations like Ojo the Unlucky, the one-of-a-kind Woozy, Ozma, and the guilt-ridden carnivore The Hungry Tiger. Although based on the book of the same name, the intertitles featured little to no dialogue from the book, relying instead primarily on physical comedy. The film flopped so horribly that the second film, His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz saw limited release. That film, which brought back Dorothy and the Wizard, along with perpetually lost but cheerful Button-Bright and the evil witch Mombi would, in a reversal, later be used as the basis for a new book by Baum, The Scarecrow of Oz. The company's third and final Oz film, The Magic Cloak of Oz was also made in 1914, but only saw release in 1917, carved up into two shorter films, which were later reassembled as well as possible. Although based on Baum's favorite story he had written, Queen Zixi of Ix, the story actually takes place in "neighboring regions" to Oz and features none of the familiar Oz characters.

The Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum's eldest son Frank Joslyn Baum concocted his own story for this 1925 silent feature that had little to no connection with the book, focusing instead on the battle between Prince Kynd and Prime Minister Kruel, subtlety be damned. This film also received limited distribution as its production company went bankrupt. Trivia: the film co-starred a young Oliver Hardy.

The Wizard of Oz
The first animated take on the book came in 1933 and introduced to film the idea of showing Kansas in black & white and Oz in color. Though drawing on familiar aspects of the story, the cartoon eventually focuses on a magical egg that won't stop growing.

The Wizard of Oz
You've, uh, probably familiar with MGM's big budget musical Technicolor feature version with Judy Garland. You may not, however, have seen Ray Bolger's magnificent deleted dance sequence from "If I Only Had a Brain." You also probably had no idea there was a deleted song, Jitterbug. You probably did know that you can watch it synced up to Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon in an experience beloved by stoned college freshmen everywhere known as The Dark Side of the Rainbow.

Rainbow Road to Oz
Hot on the heels of the television debut of the 1939 film version, Walt Disney went out of his way to promote his own planned live-action television Oz adaptation, Rainbow Road to Oz, but despite even going so far as to shoot and air preview segments, the project was never completed.

The Shirley Temple Show: The Marvelous Land of Oz (Hulu)
Shirley Temple's eponymous variety show devoted its debut episode to an adaptation of Baum's second Oz book, with an adult Shirley playing the role of Tip, the little orphan boy who, in a noteworthy twist, would later become Oz's beautiful and kindly ruler, Princess Ozma.

Tales of the Wizard of Oz
Videocrafts, the company that would later become a household name as Rankin-Bass (the fine people who gave us holiday traditions Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Year Without a Santa Claus, and the like), brought Oz to television with 200 short cartoons featuring Dorothy and friends. Sample the first episode or go straight to this YouTube playlist of 64 different episodes.

Return to Oz
The same creative team behind TV's Tales of the Wizard of Oz reunited for the animated tv special Return to Oz, a sequel-cum-remake to the 1939 film done in the same style as the 1961 animated series. It's not currently available online, though some dude did record the opening sequence from his tv set with a camcorder.

Off to See the Wizard
Dorothy and her friends also made it to tv in the short intros and outros for a tv anthology that featured family films.

The Marvelous Land of Oz
Baum's Wizard of Oz sequel got a low budget feature adaptation for the kiddie matinees. This fairly faithful musical version was directed by Barry Mahon (who also made Errol Flynn's last film, the b-movie Cuban Rebel Girls.)

Aysecik ve Sihirli Cüceler Rüyalar Ülkesinde
In 1971, the "Turkish __________" phenomenon, in which American films were cheaply and cheerfully remade/ripped off in Turkish came to Oz. (see also Turkish Star Wars, Turkish Star Trek, Turkish Superman, etc.) The resulting film Aysecik ve Sihirli Cüceler Rüyalar Ülkesinde is complete but w/o subs here, or you can just watch this clip of the Lollipop Guild being slaughtered by dancing cavemen for a representative taste of WTFery.

Journey Back to Oz (Pt 1) (Pt 2) (Pt 3) (Pt 4) (Pt 5) (Pt 6) (Pt 7) (Pt 8) (Pt 9) (Pt 10) (Pt 11) (Pt 12)
The "spiritual sequel" to the 1939 Judy Garland version, this animated musical, also based on Marvelous Land of Oz, began its trouble production in 1962. Casting a young Liza Minnelli in her mother's iconic role as Dorothy, the production had ongoing financing issues that made production drag on for a decade. It featured an entire album's worth of' songs from Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen (authors of standards such as "High Hopes" and "Call Me Irresponsible.") A failure on its initial release, the film found success in syndication in the 1970s, with Filmation adding bizarre live action sequences with Bill Cosby as the Wizard to pad the running time.

Oz (aka 20th Century Oz)
Australia brought us a theatrical "reimagining" of Baum's original talein the form of this "rock n' roll road movie." (trailer; short clip featuring a, um, different take on the idea of "the Good Fairy").

The Wiz
A film version of The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical, the hit Broadway show that reimagined Baum's Oz in the context of 1970's African-American culture, The Wiz featured Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow and was directed by Joel "Bat Nipples" Schumacher. Watch the trailer or this clip of its signature song, "Ease on Down the Road."

Thanksgiving in the Land of Oz
(Pt 1) (Pt 2)
Dorothy and her friends somehow end up in an animated Thanksgiving special with Sid Caesar. In addition to the popular characters from the 1939 film, this special also featured favorites from the books such as Tick Tock and the Hungry Tiger.

The Marvelous Land of Oz (Pt 1) (Pt 2) (Pt 3) (Pt 4)
This stage musical by Thomas W. Olson, Gary Briggle, and Richard Dworskywas taped and shown on television. Briggle also plays the Scarecrow.

The Wizard of Oz (Pt 1) (Pt 2) (Pt 3) (Pt 4) (Pt 5) (Pt 6)
This time, Japan's Toho studios had its turn with Baum's classic tale. This feature-length anime version was dubbed into English for home video and syndication in the US. Aileen Queen (the star of the then-recent Annie film) played Dorothy and sang the songs, by Sammy Cahn and Allen Byrnes.

Return to Oz (YT preview with link to rental)
1985 saw the most ambitious yet to film a theatrical sequel to The Wizard of Oz, in the form of Disney's Return to Oz, starring Fairuza Balk. The lone directorial effort from Oscar-winning film editor and sound designer Walter Murch, the film ingeniously sidesteps popular complaints about Baum's novels The Wonderful Land of Oz (no Dorothy) and Ozma of Oz (not actually in Oz) by combining the two into a rollicking adventure starring Dorothy and her trusty cohorts the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, as well as Billina the Talking Chicken, Jack Pumpkinhead, and others. While wonderful in its way, it's also um... sort of terrifying. Starting off with Aunt Em depositing Dorothy at an insane asylum for shock therapy, the film also features the hideous, cackling Wheelers, Princess Mombi's interchangeable heads, and various other traumatizing moments. See also the doc Return to Oz: The Joy That Got Away (Veoh). (previously)

Oz Mahotsukai, English title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
A 52 episode Japanese anime adaptation of Baum's first four books, this series was dubbed and brought to HBO by actor/producer Tim Reid (aka "Venus Flytrap" from WKRP in Cincinnati) with Margot Kidder (Superman's Lois Lane) as narrator. Outside of redubbing, the pernicious earworm of a theme song, and accompanying abysmally dated CGI intro, the show was left mostly intact. Though some substantial changes do occur (the addition of Dorothy to The Marvelous Land of Oz storyline, for example), the series is considered by and large to be one of the most far-reaching and faithful of Baum/Oz adaptations. The first episode is online, as are scattered others. The complete set is not currently legitimately available in English, but there are condensed "film" versions on DVD.

The Wizard of Oz (animated series)
Just a few years later, ABC aired a new animated series based on the 1939 film. It featured the songs and vocal characterizations of the classic film while putting Dorothy and friends on an adventure to save the Wizard from the Wicked Witch.

Here's that series in its entirety:
"Rescue of the Emerald City": (Pt 1) (Pt 2) (Pt 3) (Pt 4)
"Fearless" (Pt 1) (Pt 2)
"Crystal Clear" (Pt 1) (Pt 2)
"We're Not in Kansas Anymore" (Pt 1) (Pt 2)
"The Lion That Squeaked" (Pt 1) (Pt 2)
"Dream a Little Dream" (Pt 1) (Pt 2)
"A Star is Gone!" (Pt 1) (Pt 2)
"Time Town" (Pt 1) (Pt 2)
"The Marvelous Milkmaid of Mechanica" (Pt 1) (Pt 2)
"Upside-Down Town" (Pt 1) (Pt 2)
"The Day the Music Died" (Pt 1) (Pt 2)
"Hot Air" (Pt 1) (Pt 2)

The Wonderful Galaxy of Oz
This is pretty much what you'd guess it is: an anime sci-fi remake of The Wizard of Oz. Although a 76 minute feature version was made for US audiences, it's a tough one to find in English. Here's the intro to the English-language version.

Adventures in Emerald City (Pt 1) (pt 2) (Pt 3) (Pt 4)
Are you a Russian person, afraid you're being left out? You're not. Alexander Melentyevich Volkov's "loose translation" of Baum's book ("cheeky rewrite" might be more accurate) had been adapted as an animated series in 1976, but there isn't much of that to find online. You can, however, watch this movie in its entirety. For those who don't speak Russian, watch this musical sequence which should work for all of us, because awesome doesn't need translating.

The Oz Kids
In the "tradition" of such execrable 90s phenomena as "James Bond Jr." The Oz Kids gave us the animated adventures of Dot and Neddie (Dorothy's children), along with the children of various other Oz characters. Here are some clips from that show.

Lost in Oz
Around 2000, Tim Burton tried and failed to get a film project called Lost in Oz off the ground. David Hayter (X-Men screenwriter) and Mick Garris (the guy who directs most of the Stephen King tv movies) managed to get a project with the same name to pilot stage. It starred Melissa George and Mia Sara and would have followed an adult woman who gets thrown into Oz. Here's the pilot. Some pilots get picked and become television programs. Some don't, become nothing. This is one of the ones that became nothing.
The Lion of Oz (Pt 1) (Pt 2) (pt 3) (pt 4) (Pt 5) (Pt 6) (Pt 7) (Pt 8)
You know how the families of some deceased writers are fiercely protective of their relative's legacy? Roger Baum isn't like that. His series of books all but disregards his great-grandfather's books after the first one. This low-budget direct to DVD feature of his prequel story for the Cowardly Lion was the first adaptation of one of his books. The second, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return just finished stinking up your local multiplex.

The Muppets Wizard fo Oz
The post-Disney acquisition of The Muppets saw Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang take on The Wizard of Oz, along with Ashanti, Queen Latifah, and, for some reason, Quentin Tarantino. Remember how excited we all were when Jason Segel and the guys from Flight of the Conchords helped the Muppets make a comeback? This is what they were coming back from.

Apocalypse Oz
This little oddity uses only dialogue from Apocalypse Now and the 1939 MGM version of The Wizard of Oz. (Pt 1) (Pt 2)

Tin Man (trailer)
This "dark reimagining" of Dorothy's story, aired as a miniseries by the Sci-Fi Channel. Variety called it a "semi-surreal adaptation of The Wizard of Oz stitched together from bits of The Matrix, Blade Runner, and Snow White to create a brooding fantasy that—understandably given the variety of influences—proves a bit of a mess" and whose "look and action sequences don't fully deliver the goods" to the "target audience of fanboys and their imaginary girlfriends." It starred Zooey Deschanel and Alan Cumming.

After the Wizard
Here's a trailer for this low-budget independent film setting the familiar characters in the present day.

Oz, the Great and Powerful (trailer)
A big budget "prequel" to Dorothy's adventures in Oz, this blockbuster from last year stars James Franco, Michele Williams, and Mila Kunis. While not based on Baum's work, this film drew inspirations for a variety of characters and settings from Baum's beloved series. With the film a worldwide hit, a sequel is in the works.

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
We've covered this turd on the blue before. Here's the trailer, should you wish to subject yourself.
posted by DirtyOldTown (75 comments total) 104 users marked this as a favorite
You are a real wizard, DirtyOldTown. This is absolutely amazing.
posted by queensissy at 12:34 PM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Good work, DirtyOldTown!
posted by JHarris at 12:35 PM on June 9, 2014

Well, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking don't they?
posted by gwint at 12:35 PM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

posted by blue_beetle at 12:38 PM on June 9, 2014

The Wiz was (inexplicably) directed by the great Sidney Lumet, not Schumacher.
posted by octothorpe at 12:38 PM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

octothorpe: "The Wiz was (inexplicably) directed by the great Sidney Lumet, not Schumacher."

Ack! You're right. That should say "written by."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:39 PM on June 9, 2014

Great post though. I had no idea that there were so many (mostly bad) versions.
posted by octothorpe at 12:41 PM on June 9, 2014

Good gravy.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:44 PM on June 9, 2014

The Tin Man title cries out for a Tin Cup mashup: "A washed up wizard working in an old castle tries to qualify for Hogwarts in order to win the heart of Glinda, the Good Witch."
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:45 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, wow, Tin Man was so bad.
posted by jeather at 12:47 PM on June 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I did leave a few off because they don't really exist online and either didn't sound that interesting anyway, haven't ever been in English, or are only barely kinda sorta Oz adaptations. If a Polish-speaking person could find evidence of W krainie czarnoksiężnika Oza or a Russian-speaking person could find the 1974 Volshebnik Izumrudnogo goroda, that would be very cool. I probably don't care if I ever see bullshit Sugar & Spice: The Wizard of Oz or the Denise Van outen tv movie version.

Though I absolutely wish there was filimic evidence of the play The Wizard of A.I.D.S., which is a thing, I shit you not.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:48 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed The Wiz, when I saw it back in the day. The cast was a veritable Who's Who. And some of the songs are still in occasional rotation in my iTunes--Ease On Down the Road is a perfect striding-to-the-morning-train tune.
posted by theatro at 12:51 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

:slow clap: Great post. I am looking forward to the Wicked movie!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:51 PM on June 9, 2014

If there's a TL;DR for this, it's that yes: almost all of these suck.

You should totally see the 1985 Return to Oz if you haven't, and the 1986 tv show The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is aces if you have a young'n who wants to see more Oz stuff (excepting the horrible intro/theme the US version tacks on). The episodes are mostly not on YouTube and the DVDs for sale are incomplete, but there are a, um, torrent of other options for finding that one.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:51 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh man. Seems like there was a time in my youth when The Wiz was on some high numbered cable channel every other Sunday afternoon. The creepy bouncy subway creatures, bleahgh.
posted by calamari kid at 12:52 PM on June 9, 2014

The essential problem with Oz movies is: you're always in a position of either having to remake one of the most beloved movies of all time or if you choose to do other Baum/Oz material, people will still skewer you for how it stacks up to the MGM film.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:55 PM on June 9, 2014

I recall The Wiz and the animated show from the 60s but geez, I had no idea there were so many other versions or that the 1939 movie wasn't the first one.

Amazing how the incredible number of flops doesn't seem to have deterred anyone.
posted by tommasz at 12:56 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I remember quite liking The Wiz, though I was a pre-adolescent so my tastes were probably not very sophisticated.
posted by tavella at 12:58 PM on June 9, 2014

> I had no idea that there were so many (mostly bad) versions.

When you have a legendary film that uses only a fraction of the entire milieu, there are bound to be innumerable successors trying to tap into the magic.

Just like the remakes that plague the movie theaters today, your audience already knows the source material, so there's some guaranteed ticket sales just for reusing the name.
posted by ardgedee at 12:59 PM on June 9, 2014

I was born in 1987 but apparently I really need to see Return to Oz?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:59 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

OMG someone had to wade through an enormous quantity of crap footage!
posted by Mister_A at 1:01 PM on June 9, 2014

Bonus: Phineas & Ferb - The Wizard of Odd. There are about 30 tv show parodies, but this is one of my faves.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:03 PM on June 9, 2014

This is too cool. Maybe I'll have an Oz day with these continuously on in the background.
posted by painquale at 1:03 PM on June 9, 2014

apparently I really need to see Return to Oz?

You really do, it's dark and creepy and wonderful.

When I'm in the glassware section of the thriftstore I have to stop myself from running around and touching all the green ones.
posted by echo target at 1:06 PM on June 9, 2014 [10 favorites]

Let me venture a reason why virtually all adaptations of the Wizard of Oz have failed: The underlying mythology isn't that good.

Let's face it: Dorothy's not that interesting a heroine. She wanders into the world of Oz and her primary motivation is to wander back out of it. The Tin Man, the Scrarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion are thinly drawn--each has one thing they need to be whole, like no one you know in real life, ever. The Wicked Witch is evil, but not evil for any real reasons; the converse is true for the Good Witch. The Wizard is kinda interesting, in the way that hucksters and con artists always are, but he's not the hero of the story in most versions.

More broadly, the world of Oz just doesn't strike the cosmic chords that, say, Narnia or Hogwarts do, to name comparable mythologies. It all feels like the product of turn-of-the-20th-century midwestern America that it is, which constrains how much influence it can have on people today. The real question should be, not "Why are there so many lousy adaptations of the Wizard of Oz?" but "Why did the 1939 version succeed?" And that's fairly easy to find explanations for: the old Hollywood studio system being at the height of its powers, the innovative use of color, Judy Garland's charm, etc. But the success of the 1939 movie seems to have convinced folks that it was the mythology we loved, not the moviemaking.
posted by Cash4Lead at 1:08 PM on June 9, 2014 [17 favorites]

Looked for Volkov, was not disappointed! If you want more background on the Soviet ripoff/homage, see my 2005 post (and note that the last comment, by Faze, says: "Frank Baum actually directed silent film versions of his own OZ books in the early 1900s. They absolutely stink to high heaven. Worst effect: some big bruiser dressed as the Patchwork Girl, doing back flips.").
posted by languagehat at 1:09 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

That Volkov post is great, languagehat!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:12 PM on June 9, 2014

I was born in 1987 but apparently I really need to see Return to Oz?

Oh my goodness yes. Spectacular movie. Amazingly well done on all levels.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:12 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't forget 2011's mostly forgettable Witches of Oz, a TV miniseries re-edited into a feature complete with tacked-on post-credits twist ending.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:20 PM on June 9, 2014

Another problem with the Oz 'verse is that the whole thing is explained handily at the end of the first book/movie as a dream. A very obvious dream, with the various characters portrayed by actual individuals Dorothy knows in real life. Which is A) dull as shit, and also B) leaves no "scope for imagination". You can't really get Oz back without lots of hand-wavey retconning of the dumb dream ending.

And if you do, as you said, the whole story was easily wrapped up even without the dream sequence. Dorothy can go home anytime she wants; thus she no longer has any reason to be there. (And she hated it the whole damn story, so why would she want to go back?) All the side characters got their Quest Item and are whole again, so they are no longer compelling. The major villain is dispensed with.

The thing about Narnia and Hogwarts is that they are sort of independently existing, and have ongoing storylines that aren't clearly resolved, or if they are resolved, can be easily rekindled into another adventure. And they're fun places you want to go, not horrifying places you're swept into.

Alice In Wonderland has the same underlying problem, as an imaginative universe.
posted by Sara C. at 1:23 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, watch Return to Oz. As long as you aren't a somewhat sheltered 9 year old, it's great.
posted by jeather at 1:23 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion are thinly drawn--each has one thing they need to be whole, like no one you know in real life, ever.

Having read the book after seeing the 1939 movie, I actually disagree- the movie made it SEEM like they needed these things, but in the book it becomes more clear that in reality, the three of them simply suffer from a broken self-image and crippling doubt, and so they THINK they need them, but they really don't. They prove themselves to be very kind/smart/brave before they ever get to the Wizard, but they still don't see their inherent self-worth. That really got to me, and it made me like the movie less in retrospect because it was such an interesting theme that was totally neglected.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:25 PM on June 9, 2014 [12 favorites]

nthing '85 Return To Oz. Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Ozma of Oz were my favorite Oz books, and this included (mostly) the best of both of them. AND it's the first of I don't know how many movies where Fairuza Balk got electroshock therapy.
posted by queensissy at 1:29 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fantastic post, thanks! They just showed the 1925 version on TCM the other night.
posted by Melismata at 1:29 PM on June 9, 2014

Baum's Oz sequels are wildly uneven. There are some fantastic characters (like The Hungry Tiger, who explains repeatedly that he's miserable because he'd really like to eat himself a nice fat baby, but the guilt would kill him, so he doesn't), some memorable worlds (that really cool all-porcelain people world that was a highlight of Oz, The Great & Powerful was all Baum), and occasionally profound insights ("We consider a prisoner unfortunate. He is unfortunate in two ways—because he has done something wrong and because he is deprived of his liberty. Therefore we should treat him kindly, because of his misfortune, for otherwise he would become hard and bitter and would not be sorry he had done wrong.")

But he also spends a great deal of time making up silly, rambling bullshit because kids like it and he gets paid. Many of his books can be dismissed as "Dorothy gets lost (again), meets more weird people (again), stumbles into another magical land (again), gets home via magic (again.)"

That said, there is tremendous opportunity from these books for someone to depict a rich, quirky universe of memorable stuff. The problem is that 1939 movie. Are you going to set yourself up for a fall by remaking it? Or adapt one of the later books and take the heat when your story doesn't work as a sequel to the Judy Garland musical?

I really think it ought to be a tv show and someone should try and get the loopy, intermittently dark/internittently silly tone of the books down and just forge ahead, "Over the Rainbow" be damned.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:32 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I seem to recall seeing the Tin Man series and quite liking it. Similar to the Alice series that was done in the past few years.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:34 PM on June 9, 2014

If you want awesome Oz adaptations--or if you even doubt such things could exist--just check out Eric Shanower's comic-book adaptations of Oz for Marvel.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:35 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was so obsessed with Return to Oz as a kid. I hunted down a VHS copy on eBay in the early 2000s and loved it just as much. It was such a screwed up story, and I had so many nightmares about the room of heads. I am totally watching it again tonight. Great post!!
posted by elvissa at 1:39 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

> Alice In Wonderland has the same underlying problem, as an imaginative universe.

posted by ardgedee at 1:39 PM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you want awesome Oz adaptations--or if you even doubt such things could exist--just check out Eric Shanower's comic-book adaptations of Oz for Marvel.

Hell yes. Skottie Young's art is bizarrely perfect for it.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:40 PM on June 9, 2014

Cash4Lead nails it. I've been reading the original books - am about five into the series at the moment though I've kind of stalled. Even the first one isn't that great, but it benefits greatly from my memories of the film. The others so far are really just awful, each less appealing than the last, and getting more dated and embarrassing with every passing year. There's just not much good stuff to work with.
posted by Naberius at 1:46 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Wizard of Oz has more depth if viewed as an allegory of the 1896 US election.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 1:58 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

My kid and I just restarted the Oz books with The Lost Princess of Oz. He was really into them for a long time, but Rinkitink of Oz was such loopy, not-at-all-related to Oz or to Dorothy or her friends bullshit, that he got burned out for a while. Great stuff in these books, but Baum does that a lot: abandon the characters you like; set things in "neighboring lands" rather than in Oz proper. It gets annoying.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:04 PM on June 9, 2014

Another problem with the Oz 'verse is that the whole thing is explained handily at the end of the first book/movie as a dream

Not in the book, no. The "it was all a dream" was all MGM.

Also, for the Wiz, it's easy to forget that the Broadway musical was popular, so it's not entirely surprising that a movie was made. The music in the movie is really great, but the film itself is too long and making it an obvious vanity project for Diana Ross was a bad idea.

I've read about the allegory but it seems pretty likely that that wasn't Baum's intent.

I remember reading on an Oz message board and I was amazed at how much resentment there was amongst the book fans in regards to the 1939 movie. They believed the popularity of that film has done a huge disservice to the public embracing the full canon.
posted by girlmightlive at 2:06 PM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Let me venture a reason why virtually all adaptations of the Wizard of Oz have failed: The underlying mythology isn't that good.
I tend to agree; I read a few of the Oz books when I was little and I remember having a really hard time getting a sense of Oz as a place. The characters never really resonated with me either. The thing that sticks with me about the Oz universe is that it's really kind of dark, lonely and menacing; not a place I'd want to visit! The 1939 Wizard of Oz, The Wiz and Return to Oz are wildly different imaginings, but all three of them give me that same creeping dread of being stuck in an unfamiliar and hostile place.
posted by usonian at 2:11 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also: did anyone else think Oz, the Great and Powerful was essentially Raimi doing a family-friendly remake of Army of Darkness?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:14 PM on June 9, 2014

That Ray Bolger sequence should have been kept. It would now be in the...director's cut.
posted by datawrangler at 2:39 PM on June 9, 2014

Best Oz adaptation is still the Oz Squad comic.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:41 PM on June 9, 2014

posted by oonh at 2:48 PM on June 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

I never read the Oz books (except I started some weird fanfic thing by Martin Gardner(!) once, and Diana Wynne Jones put an extract in an anthology she edited), but in terms of ~worldbuilding~ I really enjoy these interpretations by Evan Dahm (for example).
posted by rollick at 2:54 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Honorary Oz-remake status should probably go to the Sid and Marty Krofft series H. R. Pufnstuf. It's way beyond merely influenced, about half those Oz films listed here have fewer similarities.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:32 PM on June 9, 2014

Amazing post!

This thread has made me remember how much my wee sister and I loved Return to Oz. (And also made me realise it's about 25 years since I last saw it. Ack.) I think a Silver Jubilee viewing is in order...
posted by billiebee at 3:33 PM on June 9, 2014

Damn, I forgot to include Tom and Jerry's Wizard of Oz.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:34 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whenever I hear Michael Symon laugh I think of Wheelers. Shudder.
posted by slipthought at 3:47 PM on June 9, 2014

Not in the book, no. The "it was all a dream" was all MGM.

Interesting. I read the book as a kid and clearly entirely forgot the different ending.

Either way, my favorite thing about the entire Oz conceit was the original book illustrations. I remember the cover of Ozma Of Oz just seemed so fucking cool, and I was disappointed that the book has basically nothing to do with Dorothy or her companions.
posted by Sara C. at 3:50 PM on June 9, 2014

OMG the Wheelers are even creepier than I remember them being when I was little.
posted by Sara C. at 3:51 PM on June 9, 2014

You can't really get Oz back without lots of hand-wavey retconning of the dumb dream ending.

Return to Oz pretty much refutes this. It has a bit of a slow start because they spend time introducing the Kansaa-World versions of the Wheelers, Mombi, the Nome King and Tik-Tok. Then Ozma turns up, which means Oz is a real physical place. Some sort of parallel dimension, but it's really there.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 3:54 PM on June 9, 2014

Sara C., Ozma of Oz features Dorothy as a main character. Maybe you're thinking of The Marvelous Land of Oz, which has frustrated children for more then a century by being the sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, even though it does not star Dorothy. The drag with Ozma of Oz is that it's not really in Oz.

The 1985 Return to Oz solves both problems by combining the books.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:55 PM on June 9, 2014

The amazing thing about Ozma of Oz is that the titular character literally changes sex, starting as farm boy Tip, then being transformed by magic back into her true form as Princess Ozma.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:06 PM on June 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Maybe you're thinking of...

Eh, I was like six years old. It was a long time ago, and they all kind of blend together for me. I just remember the full series being at my grandparents' house and just never being able to get into any of them despite thinking they looked really dope, visually.
posted by Sara C. at 4:09 PM on June 9, 2014

The Marvelous Land of Oz was my favorite when I was little and I never understood why there wasn't a movie of it, even though the 1939 Wizard had disappointed me by being too different from the book.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:10 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can't sleep. Wheelers will eat me.
posted by mediocre at 4:13 PM on June 9, 2014

Great post!

The Angry Video Game Nerd did a review of Return to Oz that's worth checking out (if you like the AVGN).
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 4:24 PM on June 9, 2014

Tin Man was so bad.

I didn't think it was ALL terrible. Alan Cumming as the Scarecrow character was inspired casting. Zooey Deschanel stank up the place as is her want, being a piss poor actress and all. And the Tin Man as PTSD afflicted veteran cop was pretty dumb. But Richard Dreyfus as a carny charlatan Wizard was pretty interesting, I could see how James Franco's character in OTGAP could age into a man like Dreyfus.. not that the two take place in the same continuity or anything.. just that there was some continuity of character happening between the two..

I always got the feeling that if the same "reimagining" were to have happened in a comic book, it wouldn't have gotten so much flak.
posted by mediocre at 4:26 PM on June 9, 2014

posted by oonh

Heh. If Zardoz is part of this list, then we surely should also include Under the Rainbow!


*feels dirty* *logs off to take a shower*
posted by BeBoth at 5:11 PM on June 9, 2014

posted by therealshell at 5:54 PM on June 9, 2014

The Wizard of Mars ?

posted by therealshell at 5:58 PM on June 9, 2014

I cannot believe no one has mentioned what was one of the better Supernatural episodes of this season, Slumber Party. Who knew that Baum was actually one of the Men of Letters and his daughter Dorothy was a hunter? Bonus, Felicia Day's utterly fantastic Charlie was on board and ended up going to Oz with Dorothy.
posted by Ber at 6:09 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I showed the movie to my daughter about a year too early (five?). I had to put it on a shelf in the closet so she knew she was safe. I don't know whether it was the talking trees or the flying monkeys, but The Wizard of Oz is pretty hard core.

She also saw The Ring, at a friend's house, a year or two too early. She was one of those rare kids who was never afraid of under-the-bed or in-the-closet monsters…until The Ring.
posted by kozad at 6:44 PM on June 9, 2014

Must once again namecheck the webcomic Namesake, which posits that all imaginary worlds require real-life people to be sucked into them (usually with the same name; thus when an old Alice dies, new Alice goes to Wonderland from our world). But there's a lot more to it than that (and it can get very dark; some worlds are deadly and Namesakes don't last long). Anyway, the writers are HUGE Oz fans and do a lot with that world; that storyline starts here.
posted by emjaybee at 7:52 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow. What a wonderful post. I am going to join The International Wizard of Oz Club.

Almost by default, though, Oz the Great and Powerful is still one of the least-terrible Oz movies ever made... It's not good, but it's not nearly as bad as what's come before it.

According to MGM records, during the film's initial release it earned $2,048,000 in the US and Canada and $969,000 in other countries throughout the world resulting total earnings of $3,017,000. While these were considerable earnings, the high production cost, in associated with various distribution and other costs, meant the movie initially recorded a loss of $1,145,000 for the studio.[1] It did not show what MGM considered a profit until a 1949 re-release earned an additional $1.5 million (approximately $15 million today).

If a Studio would produce a version of Oz, going all in, knowing that they won't make a profit until ten years later-at the earliest-then they might make something good. Oz, the Great & Powerful had to make a profit within the first 6 weeks.
That's how movies are made in a world of instant gratification.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 8:45 PM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I remember watching that Australian movie 'Oz' way back in the early 80's when Dad bought our first vcr (a beta!) which come with a year's worth of rentals from the crappy video store he bought it from.

Terrible movie but I had a horrible fascination with it and made Dad get it out every couple of months. I was trying to remember the name of it not that long ago so I was extremely happy when you mentioned it in the last thread.

Shame I can't see the whole thing again - the trailer is really bad but the movie is worse!
posted by h00py at 11:11 PM on June 9, 2014

I don't know why, but I always associate 'Sucker Punch' with the '85 version 'Return to Oz'.

Girl in insane asylum has elaborate hallucinations as an escape from the tortures she's enduring.
posted by exparrot at 5:55 AM on June 10, 2014

Sure, "Return to Oz" was a bit too scary for most kids, but the character effects are fantastic. I loved it. I had just gotten done spending years hunting down several dozen Oz books in Michigan's inter-library loan system, and longed to see the concepts on screen. I'm glad they didn't tone it down.
posted by matt_arnold at 6:40 AM on June 10, 2014

The problem with that is: studio executives don't keep their jobs that long and nobody cares whether what they're doing will make money during the next exec's tenure.

posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:56 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

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