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Latest Member: SalpetL Forum  |  Information Exchange  |  Movie Reviews  |  Return to Oz (1985) « previous next »
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Author Topic: Return to Oz (1985)  (Read 3595 times)
Bad Movie Lover

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« on: March 10, 2007, 06:48:35 PM »

Return to Oz
Rated: PG
5 slimes
Disney/Anchor Bay
Submitted by Fausto


Dorothy - Fairuza Balk! Troubled 9 year old, either a total nutcase or an actual visitor to a land over the rainbow

Billina - Dorothy's pet hen, has somehow mastered the ability to talk, but not to shut up

Tik Tok - The robotic royal army of Oz; possibly the bastard result of a mating between R2-D2 and C3PO

Jack Pumpkinhead - Gangly man constructed out of twigs and a jack o' lantern, searching for his real mother

The Gump - Mooselike hunting trophy tied to a sofa and brought to life with magic powder; pretty useless regarding matters other than transportation

Princess Mombi - Vain and evil sorceress of Oz; found an interesting route around the "bad witches are ugly" rule.

Ozma - The original king's daughter and the rightful ruler of Oz; appears as a ghost in Mombi's castle.

The Nome King - Arch villain of Oz; seeks to become human by transforming citizens into tacky ornaments, has a secret fetish for wearing high heels

The Wheelers - Mombi's personal army, Cirque de Sole rejects from hell with wheels instead of hands and feet


* There is nothing wrong with talking to chickens, as long as they talk back
* Shock therapy is an acceptable cure for bad dreams
* In certain respects, claymation kicks CGI's ass
* Nomes are not fans of poultry
* You should always tell a woman she looks beautiful, especially if she happens to be a witch with interchangeable heads
* Michael Eisner is a c***sucker


Dorothy: "Why do you have to tie me down?"
Nurse Wilson: "So you dont fall off."
Dorothy: "I rode here all the way in the buggy and didn't fall off."

Dorothy (to Billina): "If you dont start laying eggs, Aunt Em's gonna stew you up for supper."

Tik-Tok: "I have always valued my lifelessness"

Mombi: "You will be rather attractive, one day...not at all beautiful, you understand, but you have a certain prettiness...different than my other heads...I believe I'll lock you in the tower for a few years, until your head is ready. Then I'll take it."


In 1959, the Disney company bought out the film rights to L Frank Baum's remaining Oz books (The first having been made into the classic "The Wizard of Oz" in 1939) with the possible intent of producing a series of television specials, presumably starring the then popular mouseketeers. For whatever reason, the project was shelved and forgotten about, and it wasn't until the early 80's that Disney thought to do something with the rights before they expired. Walter Murch, Academy Award winning cinematographer of films such as Apocalypse Now, was given his first (and, to my knowledge, last) directorial duties, working the second and third books (The Marvelous land of oz and Ozma of oz) into a useable script. With puppeteering and effects by the Jim Henson company and Will Vinton's claymation, the resulting film was released in 1985...and was both a commercial and financial disaster.

Dorothy Gale has problems. Its been six months since the tornado that trashed her family's farm, and her continuing stories about talking scarecrows and yellow brick roads are beginning to cause her Aunt and Uncle to question her sanity. Aunt Em has a plan, though: she's going to take the girl to Dr Worley, who's famous "electric cures" are supposed to be effective in such cases. Unfortunately, Worley turns out to be a quack, and Dorothy's escape from the hospital of horrors (with the aid of a mysterious girl) into the darkness of a storm lead her back over the rainbow.

Oz, however, is nothing like she left it. The munchkins have vanished, the yellow brick road is torn up, the emerald city is now a dirty slum and all the residents have been turned to stone. What remains is now under the rule of Princess Mombi, an evil woman with a collection of 30 heads, which she can wear interchangeably on her neck ("Number four will do for this afternoon..."). With the aid of Billina, a talking chicken, Tik-Tok, a one-robot army, Jack Pumpkinhead, a...whatever the hell he is, and the Gump, Dorothy escapes the witches castle and makes her way across the deadly desert (which turns anyone who touches it into sand) to the mountain of the Nome King, a tyrant who Kidnapped the scarecrow as punishment for allegedly stealing emeralds. The motley crew is then forced to play a dangerous game: if they win, the scarecrow goes free, and its a happy ending. If they loose, they spend the rest of eternity as furniture.

This is one of those movies that you see as a kid and it stays with you for the rest of your life. I could never understand why it wasn't more popular in its time, especially considering it was released in the decade of films like the Labyrinth, the Neverending Story, and the Dark Crystal. There are three explanations for this: first, the film was widely considered to be too scary for children, with its themes of severed heads, eerilly realistic characters, and disturbing situations (in its defense, all of these elements, from concept to character designs, are taken directly from Baum's books, although there they were more whimsical than scary). Second, the comparisons to The Wizard of Oz, which is a classic and which no other film could ever measure up to, especially one made decades after the fact (once again, this is strictly an adaption of the books and not meant to emulate or outdo the original in any way). The third, and arguably the most important factor in the film's failure is studio politics. At the time of the film's release, Michael Eisner was taking over as head of Disney, and the new regime had to justify their existence with a process known as "dumping", in which good reviews are discouraged, advertising funds are cut, and theatrical releases are shortened considerably. As a result, the work of the old regime looks bad, and a film that could have succeeded fails miserably.

Anyone interested in a deeper, psychological look at the film should check out this:
« Last Edit: March 19, 2007, 09:24:50 PM by Fausto » Logged

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Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2007, 10:35:54 PM »

I do not think that "Return to Oz" was ever going to be a box office success (at least, not when it was released).  However, like some other films, it found its legs with the home market and is a memorable film.  I dislike Eisner as much as anyone, but putting it on his foul head might even be stretching too much.

Well done feeling of loss and decay in this one, as if Oz is becoming one of those neglected areas you see in big cities.  I also found the witch with her head collection to be twisted, along with Dorothy being sent to a clinic for shock treatment.  I hope that they do not remake it, because Balk seems to "fit" the role so well.

Andrew Borntreger
Joe the Destroyer
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2007, 10:59:06 PM »

I used to rent that movie pretty often as a kid.  I actually enjoyed it because of how imaginative it was. 
Captain Tars Tarkas
Bad Movie Lover

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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2007, 04:05:01 AM »

The shock treatments weren't from the books, but the movie did a good job of both being a sequel in mechanism to the famous movie while combining two of the better sequels into a darkly unique story.  It is completely different from most things Oz.  Granted, Ozma of Oz is my favorite of the books, and I prefer their light-hearted tone compared to this film, but overall I liked Return to Oz as well as a lad.

Bad Movie Lover

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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2007, 06:34:37 AM »

Those wheelers used to freak me out as well.
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

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« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2007, 02:10:21 PM »

Alot of people confuse the novel with the 1939 film with Judy Garland. The film is not the book. Actually, the 1985 sequel is closer to the novel than the 1939 film in at least two ways. The dark mood of the 1985 film is closer to the novel than the 1939 film. And Dorothy's age in the novel is closer to Fairuza Balk's in the 1985 film, than Judy Garland's in the 1939 film.
Sarah M.
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2007, 11:53:17 AM »

"You will be rather attractive, one day...not at all beautiful, you understand, but you have a certain prettiness...different than my other heads...I believe I'll lock you in the tower for a few years, until your head is ready. Then I'll take it."   (my sentiments exactly)
Sarah M.
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2007, 11:54:33 AM »

Thanks for the link into the deeper psychological aspect, that rules.  Cheers
Bad Movie Lover

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Only my head is tiny...

« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2007, 09:47:11 AM »

Claymation is a form of animation that unfortunately didn't age very well past the 1980's.  So, it kind of bogs down Return to OZ slightly.  Other than that, it's a highly original film that I loved watching repeatedly when I was younger.  Sure, it had some creepy moments, but I was also familiar with the original OZ novels, which my late father read to me, so I also knew what I was getting into. 
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