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Return to Oz - Freakiest movie ever?


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#1 of 20 OFFLINE   Jason Pancake

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Posted September 20 2002 - 02:26 PM

I don't know what made me think of this movie today but everytime I do I get goosebumps. I mean just damn... talking pumpkin head, killer chicken eggs, the nome king, wacky robot thing, talking moose head, and the gallery of heads!

I'm 25 so when this movie came out I was pretty young and it had quite an impact on me. My wife hasn't seen it yet so I can't wait to find it and freak her out too. I'm curious to hear about other peoples' experiences with the movie.

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#2 of 20 OFFLINE   Ken Seeber

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Posted September 20 2002 - 02:35 PM

If you're talking about how freaky "Return to Oz" is, you can't leave Fairuza Balk out of the discussion.

#3 of 20 OFFLINE   Jason Pancake

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Posted September 20 2002 - 02:46 PM

How could I forget?!?! I can't believe I forgot to mention her. She added so much to that movie. She played a dark Dorothy very well!

I think it was in her eyes. That's what it was about her in that movie that just made me feel that much more uncomfortable.

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#4 of 20 OFFLINE   Bo Myers

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Posted September 20 2002 - 03:26 PM

I remember seeing pics of the "Wheelers" in Starlog magazine when I was 11 or 12. Man, talk about good old-fashioned nightmare fuel! I don't think I've ever seen this on home video in any form, and at the time it cost something like $50 million (adjusted for inflation: ungodly); I'm sure a few execs lost their jobs over this film.

P.S. Fairuza Balk is hot in a terrifying way.

#5 of 20 OFFLINE   Jason Pancake

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Posted September 20 2002 - 03:31 PM

Here it is! On DVD no less! I feel the urge Posted Image

http://www.deepdisco...temID=ABD010820

#6 of 20 OFFLINE   Michael St. Clair

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Posted September 20 2002 - 03:32 PM

'Eraserhead'? El Topo'?

'Return to Oz' is so far from freaky it isn't even funny!

#7 of 20 OFFLINE   Esten

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Posted September 20 2002 - 03:51 PM

The DVD is non-anamorphic,but don't let that stop you.It's a fantastic film.IMO better than 'The Wizard Of Oz'

#8 of 20 OFFLINE   Dome Vongvises

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Posted September 20 2002 - 04:38 PM

Yes, the wheelers are quite freaky. And that Mountain king. shudder.

#9 of 20 OFFLINE   george kaplan

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Posted September 20 2002 - 05:18 PM

I haven't seen the film, but what you describe are all things straight out of the Oz books (that followed the original). Having read those books, but not having seen Return to Oz, I can only say that they don't sound any freakier than singing munchkins, talking scarecrows, living axe-wielders built out of tin, melting witches, flying monkeys, etc. Posted Image
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#10 of 20 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted September 20 2002 - 05:25 PM

Return to Oz is one of the best fantasy films ever made. It perfectly captured the world of L. Frank Baum and was a unique experience. It's a shame that it wasn't a box office success, though that was due to Disney "dumping" the film during its release. It was green-lit by the old regime at Disney, but when Eisner & co. came in, virtually everything their predecessors worked on was "dumped" (a theatrical term that means the movie was given playdates in less-desirable theatres, TV advertising was cut back, talk-show and interview promotions were canceled at the last minute). They didn't want it to be a success - so it wasn't.

Anchor Bay's DVD is nice, but it's a shame that it doesn't have an anamorphic transfer. This is a title that deserves a special edition reissue.
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#11 of 20 OFFLINE   BrianShort

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Posted September 20 2002 - 06:14 PM

I'm going to have to give this movie another chance, since I think I'd appriceate it a lot more. The last time I saw this, I must have been like 9 years old, and I hated it. I guess I expected something more like the original Oz, and it wasn't.

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#12 of 20 OFFLINE   Rich Romero

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Posted September 20 2002 - 07:29 PM

Trust me george, Return To Oz has a very freaky tone to it and I've thought this way ever since I was about 6 years old. That's not a bad thing, because Return To Oz is awesome.
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#13 of 20 OFFLINE   Vickie_M

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Posted September 21 2002 - 01:08 AM

OOOOH! One of my favorite films! Yes it is freaky (not *the* freakiest, I think that was just a figure of speech) but brilliant in its use of color, sound (duh!), sets, costumes, makeup and acting. (I say duh, in case someone doesn't know, because Walter Murch, the famous sound man/editor, directed it).

George, you're right, this was based very closely on the books.

I think the bad (bad? try SCATHING) reviews it got came from one or two sources (or both):

It's dark. It's VERY dark. It's not a movie for small children or for people who prefer their fantasy movies light and uplifting.

It DARED to use the name "Oz" (never mind that it was far more faithful to the L. Frank Baum books than The Wizard of Oz) and it was perceived to be a remake or a direct sequel. It's certainly not a remake. It's only a "sequel" in that the events happen after Dorothy returns from her first trip to Oz. Usually, "sequel" implies that it will look and feel the same as the first movie, but Return to Oz throws away everything about the first movie except the fact that Dorothy had gone to Oz, and that there's a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion (though they look completely different than the first movie's characters, and don't really figure into the plot much). I liked Siskel, and I'm a fan of Ebert's writing, but I have never forgiven them for leading the charge of contemptuous reviews.

Saying that Return to Oz is "better" than The Wizard of Oz is dicey. For one thing, it makes Wizard fans very defensive. Wizard is a classic that deserves all the praise and love it's gotten over the years. I grew up with it, saw it every year on TV (in the days before video, that was the one movie we could always count on being shown once a year), I loved it. I love it still. However, I prefer Return to Oz and I prefer Fairuza Balk's Dorothy.


Peter, thanks for the information about Disney dumping this title. I agree that it deserves a Special Edition DVD. I think someday it will attain its deserved (IMO) classic status. I hope it comes before Walter Murch buys the farm. He never directed another movie, and film lovers are poorer for it.

I was in New York when this opened at Radio City Music Hall, so someone at Disney was trying. I was there on business though and couldn't see it until I went back home. I fell in love with it, indeed, it became an all-time favorite upon the first viewing. My husband and a friend had already seen and loved it while I was in NY (bastards!) and when it was over they looked at me for my reaction. I said "I want to see it again" and they knew, this movie would be a shared bond between the three of us. When it came out on video, we bought it (and yes, it was FREAKING EXPENSIVE!) and borrowed a projector and screen to watch it on. Our first home theater experience. That was the life for us!
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#14 of 20 OFFLINE   Michael St. Clair

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Posted September 21 2002 - 01:47 AM

Anybody who has read and appreciated the original OZ books knows that Judy Garland is not Dorothy Gale. Nope!

The fourth film version of the first novel featured Judy Garland and defined what 'OZ' is to most people.

When I was little I loved 'The Wizard of Oz', but after I saw it 2 or 3 times, I read most of the books and found I liked them much better than the 1939 film, which had become a sort of bastardization of the story in my mind.

'Return' is very true to the original books.

I still like the 1939 film.

#15 of 20 OFFLINE   Thi Them

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Posted September 21 2002 - 06:04 AM

This movie really scared me when I saw it in an elementary school class. I remember having freaky images stuck in my mind for a long time. The only thing I remember now is something about heads.

~T

#16 of 20 OFFLINE   Vickie_M

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Posted September 21 2002 - 06:32 AM

I found a (slightly cluttered) Return To Oz site with some good images, so the links in my random thoughts are from there.

Quote:
I think it was in her eyes. That's what it was about her in that movie that just made me feel that much more uncomfortable.


(random thoughts)

You've got it. Her eyes. Fairuza Balk's Dorothy is a deeply troubled and lonely girl. No one believes her, she has insomnia, and when she does sleep, she has bad dreams. You know things are bad for her when Auntie Em decides to take Dororthy into the city (a long journey) for what turn out to be shock treatments.

Oh dear, and that machine! The gears and winding mechanisms (later mirrored in Tik Tok) are supposed to look like a face (as the doctor points out to Dorothy), but they're just frightening!

The only one sadder, and with sadder eyes, is Ozma. She's so forlorn that even when she's freed she still looks desperately unhappy.

The scenes in the "Hall of Mirrors" are breathtaking. This could be done easily today with computers, but they had to do it with optical tricks.

I didn't know who Walter Murch was when I first saw the film, but I was so freaked out and impressed with the sound (even the silences) and the various sound effects (the creaking of the gurney as she's wheeled toward the surgery, echoed later when she meets the Wheelers).

This won't mean anything to anyone who didn't see (and notice) it in the theater, but the opening title was, on film, the most beautiful thing. The green was dark, but vibrant, and there was a subtle, velvety, shimmering texture in the letters. It isn't just the picture that doesn't show what I'm talking about, it also doesn't come through on DVD, let alone VHS. I saw this several times in the theater and the first thing I noticed about the video when we watched it was that those letters were flat and dull-looking. Since I'm sure I'll never see it on film again, I can only hope for an HD-DVD someday. Even then, it won't be the same.

The opening sequence is magical and mesmerizing to me. Dorothy is in bed staring out the window at the stars, then the camera moves back and you see that the shot of the window and the stars is actually the reflection in the mirror.


Walter Murch said that his earliest childhood memory is of his mother reading him the books. He grew up with them and considers himself a purist (his word), which is why the movie is so very close to the books.

The movie cost $25 million. In 1985. Even then, they had to cut out 20 pages of the script to keep it at that budget. One of the things that had to be cut was a complicated sequence of the characters "rowing" across the Deadly Desert in a boat. The effects crew had already worked on it for several weeks, but it had to go.


Toto - bud-ugly mutt, I tell you. I'm glad he stayed home. If I have any problem with the movie, it lies with Billina the talking chicken. She can be very irritating.

Creepy heads, wow. I do wonder what it would have been like to see this as a kid. I don't blame some of you for having nightmares. This is what you remember Thi.

Princess Mombi: "I believe I'll lock you in the tower for a few years 'til your head is ready, then I'll take it."
Dorothy: "I believe you will not!"

The Nome King, the talking rocks, the hands scooping out the opening to the ornament room - wonderful claymation from Will Vinton and his team.

Oh how I'd love to have a DVD with commentaries from all the people involved, plus behind-the-scenes docs. However, it's a movie I never thought I'd ever see at ALL on DVD, so thanks to Anchor Bay for the version we have now.

Practically every frame of this film is a work of art (well, maybe not the dog). I want to cry when I think of how it was treated.

There are more references to the first film than I remembered at first. Dorothy does find her old house, and points out the various rooms, and where they landed on the Wicked Witch of the West to Billina.

Favorite lines:
Dorothy: "His brains ran down!
Jack Pumpkinhead: "If his brains ran down how could he talk?"
Dorothy: "It happens to people all the time Jack"

Everyone who might appreciate Return To Oz should see it, but I think it's an absolute MUST for young girls. Dorothy is such a strong role model, I can't imagine any girl not liking it (I'm glad boys like it too). I wish I'd seen it when I was 10. I also wish I'd had films like The Secret of Roan Inish, Alfonso Cuarón's A Little Princess, The Secret Garden and The Iron Giant to watch when I was a kid.


(/random thoughts)
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#17 of 20 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted September 21 2002 - 06:47 AM

Great random thoughts, Vickie. Thanks for the links to that site as well.

I only knew of Walter Murch prior to RtO from his work with George Lucas on American Graffiti and F.F. Coppola on The Conversation and Apocalypse Now. When I read that he was directing the movie, I thought that was a strange choice. But, after seeing the film, it's obvious that he was an insprired choice. I know he ran into production problems in England while making the film - and Coppola and Lucas had to lend a hand. I've never been able to find out anything about their involvement. I'm guessing that it was studio problems with Disney's new regime and their uncertainty over a first-time director. My bet (purely a guess) is that they went there at the behest of Murch to be able to say to Disney that the film has back-up support from a couple of high-powered directors, in case he ran into trouble.

I think it's a great film for kids - my 7-year-old son loves it and has watched it numerous times. {'Proud Dad' mode on} He got into reading all of the Baum Oz books (by himself, mind you!) because of it, which, to me, is remarkable for a kid! {'Proud Dad' mode off}

It may be time for a double feature tonight or tomorrow - 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Return to Oz...
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#18 of 20 OFFLINE   JessV

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Posted September 21 2002 - 05:11 PM

I haven't seen this since I was pretty young and hardly remember anything about it. I've been reading the books though (I've finished the first five). Had Princess Ozma been raised as a boy in the movie?

#19 of 20 OFFLINE   Vickie_M

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Posted September 21 2002 - 05:55 PM

Quote:
I haven't seen this since I was pretty young and hardly remember anything about it. I've been reading the books though (I've finished the first five). Had Princess Ozma been raised as a boy in the movie?


No, this one is pretty much all about Dorothy. I can't help but think that if RtO had been popular, had been a hit, Disney and perhaps Murch, might have made others. I would like to have seen more, including more about Ozma.

Peter, good for your son! I didn't know that about Coppola and Lucas. Spielberg helped too somehow. IMDB Credits for the film lists him and Coppola as an uncredited "Assistant to the Director" and gives a "special thanks" to Lucas.

IMDB also lists Maurice Sendak ("Where the Wild Things Are") as uncredited preliminary artwork. I had no idea he was ever involved in any movie, let alone this one.
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#20 of 20 OFFLINE   MikeRS

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Posted September 21 2002 - 09:19 PM

Wow, George doesn't just TELL stories about Honor, Loyalty, and friendship. Posted Image

MURCH:......Anyway, on top of all that, the studio was so unhappy with the material that they were seeing, and the fact that we were falling behind schedule, that after five weeks they fired me off the film.
INTERVIEWER:That I didn't know.
MURCH:Yes. I only got back on board because George Lucas, who's a friend, heard about what happened and flew to England from Japan, where he was at the time. He met with me and looked at what I had shot, then met with the Disney executives and said “No, this is going to be great, you guys just have to be more patient with this process, let's see what can be done to facilitate it.” And he guaranteed the rest of the production—he said that if something else happened, he would step in and take control. That was enough to make the executives at Disney feel more confident about what was going on, and I was back directing again after a few days. It was a fantastic act of generosity and commitment on his part.





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