Frank L. Baum‘s Land Of Oz series is one of the most popular books of all time; better known for being adapted into a 1939 MGM film – one of the first to use technicolour. Almost 75 years later, the prequel to the Judy Garland fronted musical Wizard Of Oz has taken form in Sam Raimi‘s adventure Oz: The Great and Powerful. Starring James Franco, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams it has been reviewed as a more light-hearted affair compared to the much-loved original and the bizarre follow up, Return To Oz starring Fairuza Balk. Whilst this generation will remember Oz as a beautiful and curious place full of magic, the generations before may have forgotten why that distant land somewhere over the rainbow is actually the scariest place that ever existed. Here’s why… .
10. Its Entire Population
Kind of like a fantastical Crips versus Bloods, to the West you’ve got Munchkins, to the right you have Winkies. Without discrediting the actors who played them, many have declared the munchkins to be the most terrifying thing about the Wizard Of Oz. Really they’re not that scary at all compared to the horrors across the border. Winkies are the green faced guards of the Wicked Witch of The West so they spend a lot of their time hanging out with flying monkeys and the like. Then you have a host of races not mentioned in the films such as talking animals, Bunny people, people who are actually utensils etc. In fact the only ‘normal’ people live in the Emerald City and they worship a demonic false deity known as ‘The Wizard’ so really, they can’t be trusted.
9. You Have To Travel There By Twister
In the 1939 version, Judy Garland is swept up in a vicious twister which takes her to Oz. In the 1990s film Twister Bill Paxton almost gets sucked up into a twister – though does not travel to Oz and instead watches them flatten mid-west townships . The very idea that a spinning cyclone of dirt and hot air can lift a house, a cow and the old bat next door on her bicycle and thus transport them to another realm should be evidence enough that nature truly is destructive force… if not a fast way to travel.
8. The Environment Is Messed Up
Speaking of nature, the wildlife and ecological infrastructure of Oz requires some serious investigating. Aside from the poisonous poppy fields which act as a sort of chloroform there is also a Deadly Desert which MELTS you and there are evil trees who talk. These trees are not only verbally abusive they will also actively attack you.
7. Everything Is Alive, Talks or Is Made of Thrift Store Tat
If not brought to life by some magical being or substance, a block of cheese would just be a block of cheese. Yet in Oz, that block of cheese has a personality and its own neurotic insecurities. Take the Cowardly Lion for example; he is a lion. He can talk and if we’re honest, gets kind of weird half way through. This is not just geographically but physically impossible in the real world. Taking into account the Tin Woodsmen, a clockwork army, scarecrows who aspire to be human and creatures made of couches, it turns out that you’ve got yourself some perplexing questions about evolution.
6. It Has These Things Called Wheelers
In Return To Oz when they decide Dorothy is crazy and she is sent back to Oz to rescue Princess Ozma, she finds that Oz is a very different place without laughter and song and yellow brick roads. Instead, there are these guys in horrible 80s throwback jackets and creepy masks who have wheels for hands and feet. Concentrate on this freakish detail too long and you’ll begin to criticise how they go about their daily business. You’ll also find yourself sympathising as to why they are quite evil. Imagine the frustration? However, you also have to consider what damage they can do with those wheels, which, when put into perspective, is not that much except the ability to fully commit to a kickflip.
5. It Also Has Flying Monkeys
One of the most truly horrible scenes in the history of children’s cinema is watching the Scarecrow being pulled apart by the flying monkeys. One has to wonder what it is like living in a world where pigeons the size of toddlers dominate the airspace and can also throw their faeces at you. It’s like something from The Island of Dr. Moreau. It might seem cute if you’re one of the few who haven’t seen the movie but outside of a circus environment, monkeys with wings aren’t funny at all – even when wearing fez’s and tiny little waistcoats. They are the stuff of nightmares.
4. … and Witches
The title is a giveaway; for every ‘wizard’ of Oz, there’s got to be a witch. Or several. The image of the stereotypical Wicked Witch as we know it; the black cape, the broomstick, the green skin and hooked nose was first portrayed memorably by Margaret Hamilton. Whilst the Wicked Witch was not a pretty picture, she was also not much of a forgiving soul. When Dorothy accidentally crushed her sister and took her ruby slippers, the Witch pursued Dorothy relentlessly in a quest for revenge, threatening a small terrier in the process. After nearly seven decades of haunting children’s dreams and adult reassurance that witches can easily be banished with a garden hose, we discover in Oz: The Great and Powerful that there are more, both good and bad… and some even look like Mila Kunis. In short, witches were a staple of the Oz economy long before Dorothy started dropping her two-bedroom semi-detached all over them.
3. Did We Mention Nome Kings?
Deep in the underbelly of Oz is the subterranean kingdom of The Nome King who is obviously a giant man made of stone rather than a small guy with a beard and a fishing rod. He can spy on you through rocks so that’s pretty scary, especially for geologists, considering that rocks are all around us. The Nome King also has a fondness for precious metals, gemstones, ornamental vases and eating people. His palace is much like a horrifying Antiques Roadshow that has no payoff. Much like witches, Nomes have a rather interesting Achilles Heel – they are afraid of eggs. Eggs are poisonous to Nomes you see. Perhaps you might want to read that sentence again just to gain the full hilarity of the notion that there is a near invincible, ancient creature who is afraid of eggs. Eggs.
2. Headless Princesses
Much like the British Royal Family, the royal families in Oz and across the neighbouring kingdoms are quite odd and curious beings with strange practices. Perhaps the most disturbing of all, whom, I stress, is featured in a kids film, is the headless Princess Mombi. Mombi is not actually a Princess, but a witch who has trapped the teenage princess Ozma in a mirror to take her thrown – so you gather the kind of crazy that witches can be. Furthermore she has been awarded with 30 different heads for her feat, which she keeps in glass cabinets and wears interchangeably depending on her mood. Something that may just be the creepiest memory of your entire childhood film-going career is the scene where they all wake up and scream simultaneously.
1. If You Go There, You Might Be Crazy
The problem with magical realms is that you can never be sure if they are real or if it was all just a dream. Just ask Dom Cobb. Oz is such a beautiful and strange, if not grotesquely murderous, place that when Dorothy returns, people don’t believe her when she nostalgically tells her Uncle’s how they were ‘there’ and how she came home by clicking her sparkly heels three times. So much so that in the sequel, despite her being like 12 years old, they think she’s an insane nut-job, commit her to an asylum and give her electro-shock treatment. Poor Dorothy goes from being a dreamy eyed pre-teen wanting to venture outside of Kansas to a potential schizophrenic faster than you can say “follow the yellow brick road”. Then again, if you go to Oz and start blabbing about all the talking lions, killer trees, witches and people who live inside mirrors, you are treading that fine line.