Friday, August 04, 2017

This Week's Oz Movie

I seem to have stumbled across a movie-of-the-week vibe here. Well, that's fine, I actually have a few I haven't watched yet, maybe I can continue this a little before school starts again. But a friend of mine kindly bought the Rifftrax edition of The Wonderful Land of Oz, so I felt it was time to watch it.

But first, a little background. The Wonderful Land of Oz was a cheap film version of the second Oz book meant to be shown as a kiddie matinee. It didn't do at all well at the box office, and made little impression outside of Oz circles and bad movie lovers. (Fun fact: Mike Thomas, who played the Scarecrow and may be the most competent actor in this, went on to a long and successful Hollywood career as a make-up artist. One of the films he worked on? The Wiz, where he is rumored to have worked on Michael Jackson's Scarecrow.) This movie is also one of the best counterarguments for those Oz fans who bemoan how so many Oz movies deviate from the book too much, and they should stick as closely as possible to what's on the page. Well, the script is actually a pretty good, faithful adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz, but everything else really lets it down. I first saw this movie at my first Oz convention, back in 1980. Despite that, I kept going back to the convention. Anyway, it quickly became obvious just how bad this was, so a few people started shouting out silly comments, talking back to the characters and the like. Fast forward a couple of decades or so, and a bunch of former Mystery Science Theater 3000 performer-writers got together and formed a company to do just that, only legally and for sale to the public. In many cases (including their version of The Wizard of Oz), they sell you an mp3 track to play. But with this movie, they sell you a digital copy of the movie and incorporate their wisecracks into the soundtrack.

I will say this, their jokes sure livened up the movie! If anything, this movie just gets worse with age (it looks even more like a relic of its time than it did in 1980), but the Rifftraxing sure livened things up. There are many comparisons to The Wizard of Oz, of course, and they even get in a sneaky reference to the Scarecrow's questionable version of the Pythagorean Theorem. And there's lots of pointing out the absurdity of it all. So yes, I enjoyed watching it this way.

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