Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Wiz VS OZ

Prior to my viewing of the 30th Anniversary DVD of The Wiz, I re-watched probably the worst Oz movie of all time: Oz: A Rock 'n' Roll Road Movie from Australia. Well... I couldn't help but draw some comparisions, so here we go.

1. Dorothy is older
In Oz, Dorothy is played by Joy Dunstan, and the character is a supposedly 16 groupie for a band called "Wally & The Falcons." (I think she looks about 18-20.) In The Wiz, Diana Ross portrays her as a 24 year-old schoolteacher (Ross herself was 34... and she was really pushing it.)

2. Modern-day setting, not in Kansas
In Oz, Dorothy is a native Australian, as are all the characters. The pre-Oz sequence is in 1976 Australia. In The Wiz, Dorothy is in 1978 Harlem.

3. Re-imagined storyline
This applies to both, but while The Wiz is an original adaptation, Oz is a moment-for-moment remake of the classic MGM movie.

4. Oz is based on a real place
In The Wiz, Oz is a re-decorated version of New York City. In Oz, Oz is in Victoria, Australia, and the City (no longer Emerald) is Melbourne.

5. Dorothy's quest is altered
In The Wiz, Dorothy is not just returning to Harlem: she is learning to become self-reliant. In Oz, Dorothy wants meet the Wizard, up close and personal. VERY personal.

6. Dorothy's friends have different backstories than the original book
(Assuming you know how the book goes...)
OZ: Surfie, a dull-witted surfer who worries about sharks. A bump on the head helps him think clearer and solve many of the group's questions.
THE WIZ: This time around, the Scarecrow has been picked on all his life by the crows who he's failed to scare. He reads bits of literature, but eventually realizes how to think for himself.
OZ: Greaseball, "a greasy mechanic who's real uptight," he will go so far as to damage other people's engines to achieve his own desires. Later, he accepts Surfie, then Killer as his friends, and begins to really care about Dorothy.
THE WIZ: He seems to have been working in carnivals and fairs and seems to be completely mechanical. He claims "dashing good looks and irresistable attraction to all the wrong women." Later, he realizes he really does care and love his friends.
OZ: Killer, "a biker too scared to fight" is all bark and no bite, but he's the one who knocks Truckie (this version's Wicked Witch of the West) out cold and later gets them into the Wizard's party.
THE WIZ: Drummed off the throne of the Forest for posessing no courage, his real problem is that he doesn't realize he should stop running from his fear, until he takes torture from Evilene and withstands it, even telling Dorothy not to give in.

7. The Wizard is different
In Oz, the Wizard is a rock superstar. In a theory I have of this movie, Dorothy is actually living in an alternate future where Wally of "Wally & The Falcons" has made it big (revealing to Dorothy that his singing is not that great, but it sounds awesome when amplified and synthesized).
In The Wiz, the Wizard is more neurotic and cowardly than his book counterpart. In addition, he is a failed politician from Atlantic City. When Dorothy tells him at the end that he needs to let the people know the truth (in the book, in my opinion, it was all right for him to do so because the Wicked Witches were dead and there was no longer an imminent threat to the Emerald City), he shies off, showing Dorothy someone who is even more scared to interact with people than she was.

8. Glinda's arrival has changed
In Oz, Glinda (and the Good Witch of the North, remember, beat for beat remake of the MGM movie!) has been replaced by a gay shopkeeper named Glin who gives Dorothy the Ruby Slippers from his shop, then later picks her up from a beach and drops her off in the City. Later, he enters the bathroom at the Wizard's party, where Dorothy and the Wizard are in the shower together, revealing that he is also the Wizard's publicist, and telling Dorothy the truth: "There's thousands of you and only one Wizard," leading Dorothy to realize "Fame and fortune **** you up!"
In The Wiz, Glinda seems to be responsible for Dorothy's trip to Oz (as she is seen in the heavens near the beginning, with the twister in her hand, which she blows away), and later arrives at the end, telling Dorothy the truth of the Silver Slippers, and telling her that "Home is knowing, knowing your mind, your heart, your courage. If we know ourselves, we're at home anywhere." (This speech is followed by the number "Believe in Yourself.")

So, all in all, here are two movies, from the same time period (Oz was released in 1976, The Wiz in 1978), based on the same story. Which one is a finer film? For once, The Wiz wins hands down for reasons not previously discussed, there are things in Oz that make it lose: sex, nudity, profanity, drug and alchohol use, oh, and extremely offensive lyrics in the song "Living in the Land of Oz": "350 years ago, the black man lived in peace and the land was tilled, now a city of millions covers the soil, the blacks have all been killed." So, throwing in a song that advocates genocide... Yeah... Never thought I'd say it, but The Wiz is better.


Nathan said...

I haven't seen Oz, but the lyric you mention certainly doesn't sound like it's ADVOCATING genocide.

Jared said...

Okay, how about this lyric later in the song?

"If you're white, you can come all right, but if you're black, you'd better turn back. We had a lot of trouble just to kill 'em all off, don't want to have to do it again."

Nathan said...

I'd say that's definitely a better example. My gut reaction would be to say it's supposed to be ironic, but maybe that's just my own optimism in this regard.

gclot said...

I think you should look at the character that is singing the song. He is supposed to be the Great & Powerful OZ who if memory serves me well advocated genocide - of witches. It's a Fantasy film not an example of Australian politics.
The Wiz (for godzilla's sake it's called taking a leak)is a film full of twisted evil human beings playing "nice characters" - in my opinion it's awful.

Nathan said...

I don't know that asking someone to kill ONE witch is the same as advocating genocide. Unless that was a plot element of the Australian film, which I haven't seen.