“Your Majesty! SHE has returned to Oz!” – Remembering “Return to Oz”
Sometimes there are movie that frighten you so badly as a child that you are almost afraid to watch them again as an adult. Sometimes you pluck up the courage to watch them again and find yourself wondering what in the world was so scary about them.
Sometimes you watch them again and realize exactly why they were so scary back then and why they are creepy even now.
“Return to Oz” is one of the latter for me.
I remember being terrified of various parts of this movie when I was little. It’s probably the reason that I have a serious fear of psychiatrists and those weird electrical pulse machines they use in physical therapy. Yet after watching “Lady in White” which frightened me back then and now makes me wonder why I decided it was time to brave “Return to Oz”…with the help of a friend.
Over the holidays I sat down with my friend Amanda and we watched this movie that she had never seen all the way through and that I hadn’t seen in years.
I wasn’t all that surprised to find that it was still extremely creepy. From the doctor’s electrical machine in the beginning, to the Wheelers and Mombi (and her heads!), to the Nome King, it’s easy to understand how it could have given kids nightmares when watching it. Yet in watching it I remembered certain things that I also loved about it.
The movie is set not long after the end of “Wizard of Oz” and combines several of the Oz books into one movie. The plots revolves around Dorothy who can’t sleep and talks and dreams of Oz and her friends there after her return. Her aunt and uncle are worried about her and scrape together the money to take her to a doctor who claims to have a new invention that can help those with troubling dreams. Dorothy escapes from the hospital with the help of a strange girl and winds up back in Oz with a hen from her farm, Belina, who can now talk. Unfortunately it’s not Oz as it was. Instead it’s a hollow and ruined shell of what it once was, deserted and quiet.
The movie relies on puppetry, highly imaginative costumes and stop motion animation to convey the strangeness of Oz and its inhabitants but still manages to avoid being “hokey”. My favorite character is easily Jack Pumpkinhead (voiced by Brian Henson) whose appearance, voice and manner of speaking makes you wonder if Tim Burton based Jack Skellington off of this older character. The Nome King is insane and scary enough to give even adults the shivers and might even make them start looking twice at various rocks that they pass outdoors.
It’s still an amazing movie and if you’ve never seen it or haven’t seen it since you were young, check it out. It’s easy to find on DVD and worth the watch.