Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Return To Oz (1985)

Written by Gill Dennis And Walter Murch
Directed by Walter Murch

Ozma: "Why did they bring you here, Dorothy?"
Dorothy: "Because I can't sleep, and I talk about a place that I've been to, but nobody believes that it exists."

I'm going to start this review with a potentially controversial statement - Return To Oz is not only as good as The Wizard Of Oz but it's actually better. There I said and yes, I absolutely mean it. I absolutely cannot get enough of this movie for various reasons. One it's just turned 30 years old (as I have recently) and two - it's bloody fantastic.

A sort of sequel to The Wizard Of Oz, six months have passed and Dorothy's wonderful adventures aren't being believed by her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry (the latter whose taking his time to fix up the new house), so the former decides to have her spent the night at a creepy asylum headed up by Dr Worley (Nicol Williamson) and the similarly not nice  Head Nurse Wilson (Jean Marsh). That is, until Dorothy meets a mysterious girl (Emma Ridley), prompts escapes from the asylum on a stormy night and then ends up back in Oz with her chicken, Billina. Sadly Toto got a bit of demotion for this movie but Billina's pretty great though.

Once in Oz again, Dorothy realises that everyone has been turned into stone and the place is being ruled by Princess Mombi (also Marsh) - a head changing witch and the rather fearsome Nome King (also Williamson). Like in the first movie, Dorothy isn't soon making other friends - metal soldier Tik Tok, the sweet but somewhat dim Jack Straw and the newly created for escape purposes, Gump.

With this gang, it isn't long before Dorothy isn't watching her step, facing off against the Wheelers (how scary were they as a child watching this?) before her rather volatile encounter with the head changing Mombi and final confrontation with the Nome King in his underground lair.

Much as I loved the Wicked Witch of the West, I actually think both Mombi and Nome King are a little better drawn out as antagonists and the respective downfalls they suffer at the hands of Dorothy and her motley crew are pretty effective. Whether it's being poisoned by eggs (Billina, you badass) or being stripped off magic (miserable creature indeed), the comeuppances both Mombi and the Nome King receive are truly brilliant.

Of course, brilliance is something this movie has in spades. It might have been unimaginable for anyone other than Judy Garland to give an iconic portrayal of Dorothy Gale but Fairuza Balk (who would later appear in The Craft and Almost Famous) is a revelation in the role. I'd actually go as far as to say that she's even better than Garland throughout the whole movie.

As for the denouement, a part of me had wished that Dorothy had stayed in Oz (Billina had the right idea) but her reunions with Toto/Em/Henry were beautifully handled as was her goodbyes to both sets of friends she made in both movies along with her freeing of Ozma (also Ridley) as well.

As a movie, it's a truly incredible piece of cinema. A sort of sequel that (in my opinion) is actually better than the original, a children's movie that is both genuinely heartfelt and a little scary at times and an adventure definitely worth getting immersed into. One of my all time favourites.

Rating: 10 out of 10.


Anonymous said...

"I'd actually go as far as to say that she's even better than Garland throughout the whole movie."

Well, she's closer to the age Dorothy is in the books.

Nice to see praise for Return to Oz! One of my favorite childhood films. I have it on DVD.

Anonymous said...

My favorite track is "Mombi's Hall of Heads": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_jzUunzyUQ

Of course, "Princess Mombi" is a combination of Old Mombi, the Wicked Witch of the North, from "The Marvelous Land of Oz" and Princess Langwidere of Ev from "Ozma of Oz".