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Return to Oz

October 5th, 2007 by unkle lancifer · 6 Comments

Alright, perhaps the makers of the original Oz can be given the benefit of the doubt. They weren’t intentionally trying to curdle the child audience’s peace of mind. But what in blazes were the makers or “Return” thinking? Unflappable Fairuza Balk’s journey is unquestionably grim and horrific and there’s no musical reprieve in sight. Poor Dorothy is immediately sent to the nut-house for jabbering about her previous visit to Oz, these ramblings are diagnosed as delusional and intensive shock therapy is suggested. (Kudos to the madman who designed the shock machine because they were clever enough to make an atrocious happy face out of its dials and knobs.) Mother Nature again intervenes though this time she mixes things up by sending a deadly flash flood Dorothy’s way. Once returned to Oz, she finds her old friends turned to stone, an indescribably twisted marauding gang of thugs known as “wheelers” and an equally misanthropic Witch who collects decapitated heads like Imelda Marcos collected shoes. Her new pumpkin-headed pal Jack seems nice enough but not exactly the kind of figure you’d want tucking you into bed at night. Obviously great effort was made to duplicate the feel of the original L. Frank Baum book’s illustrations by W.W Denslow, and the results are gorgeous but undeniably creepy. Although considered a major misstep upon its release, “Return” has garnered much favor over the years. It may be one hell of a twisted vision but that just might be what makes it so unforgettable to its fans and perhaps one of the most underrated films of all time.


  • Mombi’s screaming heads coming to life followed by her headless body
  • The attack of the screeching, maniacally laughing wheelers.

Tags: Repeat Offenders

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sbdNo Gravatar // Aug 21, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I just saw this movie and I don’t even know where to begin.  I think I was prepared for weird and creepy, but not at Will Vinton levels and not with huge touches of THE WIZ and with an utterly depressive atmosphere thrown in.  I’m still trying to sort out what, if anything, I want to keep in my head and what I want to try to purge forever.  Oddly enough, despite Unkle’s observation of “no musical reprieve in sight” I think the only thing that keeps this film from going completely over the edge is David Shire’s excellent sound track.  The movie kind of begs a discussion of age-appropriateness and I think the conclusion of that conversation will be that there is no appropriate age to see RETURN TO OZ.  I’m over 40 and I feel pretty traumatized.  I think you just have to dive in when you think you’re ready and take your chances.

  • 2 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Oct 1, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I only first saw this a few years back in my late twenties. I liked the early Dorothy-in-the-sanitaium stuff better than the OZ stuff and  I HATED the Talking Chicken!
    I bought the DVD for my kid a few years ago and still was not impresses with the movie. BUT…that mombi and her head room WAS pretty cool! I was surprised that didnt totally freak my kid out – it sure freaked ME out!

    Question: Did they choose Fairuza Balk cuz she was freaky or is Fairuza Balk freaky cuz she made this movie???

  • 3 djalicatNo Gravatar // Oct 18, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    friends of mine named their band ‘headless’ after this movie.
    they’ve broken up now but still have stuff on myspace if ya wanna take a listen.

  • 4 blueroc85No Gravatar // Jul 28, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I saw this movie as a kid and the Wheelers totally freaked me out! They are still creepy in my opinion. Strangley, the living severed heads did not bother me……

  • 5 icysugarspikeNo Gravatar // Oct 8, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Wildly misunderstood sequel that will always be disliked by comparing it to the musical. If one can take it on its own terms and realize how much more closely they stuck to the Baum series of books, perhaps people wouldn’t be so critical. It’s also ahead of its time and probably influenced a lot of modern “morbid fairy tale” stuff  like American McGee’s Alice and the like. Is it for children? Hmm. Probably not, but a lot of society these days doesn’t seem to think that kids can handle an awful lot, either.

  • 6 AngelaNo Gravatar // Feb 22, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    It’s strange. I was never creeped out by this movie. I remember thinking I’d rather be in this version of Oz then the original. I remember liking the wheelers and even feeling bad for the one that fell in the deadly desert. I was a really weird kid.

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