“Surrender? I’ve never heard of such a thing in my whole life.”
Justin’s rating: How did they film my nightmares?
Justin’s review: I strongly feel that someone needs to stand up and say that it’s high time we all acknowledge that the entire Wizard of Oz franchise is creepy, disturbing, and not actually that interesting. And I’m not just speaking of Return to Oz here, but of pretty much every entry that’s come to TV or the silver screen. It’s not some whimsical fantasy world, but rather a parade of pure nightmare fuel and horrible aberrations that somehow manage to be both terrifying and dull.
As of 2021, there have been 32 movie adaptations and 15 TV versions, not to mention stage plays and video games and homages and the rest. I guess we can thank name brand recognition and public domain laws for all of this, but trust me, nobody’s asking for it.
And certainly nobody was asking for the freakish 1969 low-budget Wonderful Land of Oz, but we got it anyway and the screams haven’t stopped since. Despite having a runtime of about 70 minutes, it’s a pure slog from start to finish. A slog with ’60s hairstyles, sets made of drapes and cardboard, and songs that the Cenobites from Hellraiser are using to torture victims.
Wonderful Land of Oz starts with Tip, a boy on the verge of puberty who fills his days by creating a pumpkin-head golem (who calls him “Father” in such a way that you feel violated) and chatting with puppet cows. One day Tip decides to run away from home, possibly because his witch landlord is going to turn him into a stone statue, and he takes Jack Pumpkinhead with him to go to the Emerald City.
Along the way, Tip falls in with a group of miniskirted revolutionaries (“who are tired of doing housework”), while Jack becomes best buds with the Scarecrow, who is now ruling Emerald City for some reason. The revolutionaries then take over the city — to collect the jewels for their earrings, mind you — and Tip, Jack, and Scarecrow escape to recruit the Tin Woodsman and Mr. Wogglebug to retake the town. I’m sure that you’re so riveted by this premise that you’ve already ditched this review to go rent it.
One might imagine that random people were polled on the streets, “Would you like to be in a Hollywood film?” and found themselves in wardrobe the very next day if they indicated any interest. But by far the worst is Tip, who warbles and twitches with a visible fear that suggests he’s always on the verge of wetting himself. His frilly collar, giant bow tie, and knickers do him no favors. After two scenes with him — including a solo song in which he barely could get through his lines — I could understand why the witch wanted to make sure he’d never sing again.
Seriously, you have to see this movie — or perhaps sample it — to understand how cheaply all of the sets look, how and how abysmal all of the roles are acted. And it’s hard to imagine how all of these meandering, dorky songs entertained kids in 1969 — or any era, for that matter.