Monday, January 23, 2017

Six of the weirdest versions of Oz

So, what are the weirdest versions of Oz? Besides Emerald City, that is. Well, there's a lot, really. And it depends on what you mean by weird. In this blog, here's six versions of Oz that just went weird. This means they did something very unusual with their adaptation. Low budget doesn't count as "weird" here, so The Turkish Wizard of Oz is off the hook tonight.

Also, I'm not saying any of these versions of Oz are bad or are to be avoided. By all means, if the weirdness about them interests you, go ahead and seek them out!

Oz: A Rock 'n' Road Musical - So, what if the Wizard was the lead singer of a band? What if Dorothy was a groupie? And what if Oz was Australia? This film reimagines the story (generally the MGM break down) as a groupie of a band waking up outside a strange little town after an accident with the band's van. She gets a pair of red sequin-studded pumps from a gay shopkeeper called Glen, threatened by an imposing truck driver, and meets a dimwitted surfer, an uptight mechanic and a timid biker on her way to the City to see the Wizard's retirement concert.

Basically, before Emerald City, here's an Oz with sex, drugs and profanities, and also absolutely no fantasy trappings.

Oz/Dark Oz/The Land of Oz comic series - This long-running comic series began with a rather traditional version of Oz that is suddenly attacked by the Nome King with help from Mombi. The series features Oz characters and new friends from the Outside World forming a resistance and after a long, hard fight, they finally take back Oz.

What's weird?

The fact that characters suddenly start using not quite old English words that give the dialogue more of a European feel.

Just... No...

The Wiz (1978) - How on earth do you take the Tony Award-winning best musical of 1975 and then throw out the script and utterly change it? That in itself is strange as the original play was more or less an African-American update of the original L. Frank Baum book. However, when Diana Ross was cast as Dorothy, the original concept of a young girl lost in a fairyland had to be changed. Now it's not enough for Dorothy to get home, but to also get the courage to get a better teaching position and take new risks in her personal life. An interesting angle, but one that is easily forgotten as you watch the rather lengthy film.

The weirdest thing was to create Oz as a fantasy version of New York City. However, instead of crowded or bustling streets, the Oz we see in the film is remarkably empty. Even more disturbingly, it's not a clean empty. There are signs that people used to be there, such as a shot where Dorothy and her friends dance past a pile of trash bags.

When you see the Emerald City, it is entirely sealed off from the outdoor environment. Is it a giant bomb shelter and this is a post-apocalyptic world? The Munchkins, the Poppy Girls and Evilene's slaves are seemingly just few remaining groups of people. Maybe Dorothy's very lucky that the taxi cabs refuse her.

The Wizard of Oz (1925) - Aside from some illusions made by the Wizard, again, we have a version of Oz with absolutely no fantasy trappings. This Wizard features Dorothy as the lost princess of Oz, who Prime Minister Kruel tries to keep from returning. Most of the movie is a series of slapstick jokes involving the farmhands, particularly writer/director/star Larry Semon. Also lots of racist stereotypes and jokes aimed at actor Spencer Bell, billed as G. Howe Black.

Os Trapalhões e o Mágico de Oróz/The Tramps and the Wizard of Oroz -Three tramps pack up their house on a wagon and along their way to the town of Oroz, are joined by a Scarecrow and Vat the Tin Can Man. In Oroz, they are arrested by Sheriff Lion for stealing bread for hungry children, but they are offered freedom if Didi, Scarecrow and Vat led by Sheriff Lion can find a new source of water for the town. After fighting a rancher's men in the desert, the four ride a giant bone to Rio de Janeiro, where they take a giant faucet back to Oroz riding in a car shaped like a giant red sneaker.

Also, this is one of the few foreign Oz films to have English subtitles available.

The film was a parody of the MGM Wizard of Oz (and possibly The Wiz as well), intended to help keep spirits up for people suffering from drought in the Northeast region of Brazil as well as to raise awareness for them as the government looked for ways to help the people. But even with that noble cause, a house being put on a wagon, a giant bone and a shoe-shaped car for transport and Didi's method of fighting Sheriff Lion by biting his posterior gets it a spot on this list.

Return to Oz in Japan - "But wait, you love Return to Oz!" you might say, and yes, I do. However, considering it's one of few adaptations that tried to hew very close to the world of L. Frank Baum's books, that might make it weird. But that's not the reason. Mixing The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, maybe kind of weird. Using shock treatment for Dorothy? Well, yeah, I do have to admit that was weird.

But it's not Return to Oz itself that makes the list. It's because the version showed in theaters in Japan was a little different from the one we've seen today. It was the same right up until the end credits. The version we know has a beautiful score by David Shire playing. In Japan, they instead used a pop song titled "Keep on Dreamin'" by Yukihide Takekawa, which is a rather stark contrast to the rest of the music in the film. Now that is weird!

2 comments:

rocketdave said...

Coincidentally, I was digging through my closet just the other day and found a few issues of that Land of Oz comic that I got for cheap years ago, but never bothered to read. It sounds like I should be glad that I didn't waste my time on them.

Sam Milazzo said...

How "weird" would you find the 1987 PanMedia "Ozma" episodes?