Return to Oz (1985) Reviewed

Return to Oz promo still

Return to Oz promo still

The yellow brick road is busted up rubble; the Lion and Tin Woodsman have been turned to stone, the Emerald City is a wasteland and Auntie Em (Piper Laurie) has committed Dorothy to shock therapy in hopes of curing her delusions regarding an imaginary land called Oz. A sequel with more ties to the Oz books than the MGM classic, RtO plays out like a child’s nightmare and is at times far more disturbing than you’d expect for a Disney-released matinee. Fairuza Balk (woefully underused in her prime as a child actor) is pitch-perfect as Dorothy Gale, playing opposite a talking chicken, a clockwork soldier, a flying couch with the head of a moose (?!) and a pumpkin head with a mommy complex. The villain is a princess with dozens of detachable heads she keeps encased in glass (one of the movie’s most disturbing images). The effects, though primitive by today’s standards, were ahead of their time in 1985. It probably should have been nominated for a production design Oscar because it looks that good. Considered a huge bomb in its initial release, RtO suffered for the public’s inability to accept anything Oz that wasn’t a Judy Garland musical. (Mercifully, this adaptation is not a musical.) It has since earned a modest cult rep. ***

Watch the exceptional original trailer:

~ by Number5ive on April 9, 2009.

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