Review: Taking the Yellow Brick Road to Hell
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From Reviewer Paul Tatara
(CNN) -- Forget the seemingly endless string of vampire and slasher movies that we've been forced to endure lately, I'm here to argue that the scariest movie to hit our theaters in 1998 is "The Wizard of Oz." The film has been reissued for its fast-approaching 60th anniversary, in a hallucinogenic new print with colors that practically leap off the screen at you.
It scared the hell out of me when I used to watch it between my fingers when I was a kid, and (though it might say too much about my own emotional development) I still get the heebie-jeebies from a lot of it. I can feel a vague twinge in my stomach during particularly troubling moments, and there's more of them than you might remember.
It seems a little ridiculous to have to convey the entire plot. In fact, one of the main things that struck me while finally seeing it on a big screen is just how iconographic many of the movie's key images are. Over and over again you get really terrific songs and dance numbers, and then there's stuff like "Surrender Dorothy" and those ruby slippers that are so surprisingly impervious to removal. (I think a magic shoehorn would've been a great plot device.)
Check out the frightfest
So I guess the best way to deal with this is to explore the individual characters and moments that make me want to hide. Frankly, all of the characters are a little bit out-of-whack all of the time, except when they're so far gone that they're actually a flying monkey or a murderous tree.
They're also way too enthusiastic, if you ask me. The mean old witch was just killed, fair enough. But, hell, it happened right there in front of them and two minutes later they're gettin' down like it's Fat Tuesday. I refuse to even discuss the full-bodied horror of The Lollipop Guild.
There are several tremendously frightening witch moments, particularly when she overtakes Auntie Em's plaintive image while Dorothy has her face crammed right up against that crystal ball. Then she actually mocks the way Dorothy's crying! And mocks her good, too. I also like the shot where she's standing by the window, egging on squadrons and squadrons of flying monkeys. This particular image used to pop up in my nightmares when I was kid. Honest. I should sue the Mervyn LeRoy estate.
Actually, you can get some fresh mileage out of the movie by comparing the plot to "Apocalypse Now" while you watch it. Our tormented hero (Dorothy) goes on a dangerous mission up-river (The Yellow Brick Road), all the while wondering what she'll do when she meets Col. Kurtz and his followers (The Wizard and all those crazy bastards at The Emerald City).
There's nothing to worry about, though, because the Wizard turns out to be a big, fat guy who's full of himself and realizes that you can't play God forever. You could even dub "The Ride of the Valkyries" over the flying monkey attack. (No napalm, though. That might freak out the Scarecrow.)
"The Wizard of Oz" is "The Wizard of Oz." There's not much more that I could tell you. This is not a director's cut with previously censored nude footage of Miss Gulch. It really is quite a trip to see this new print, though. Rated G. 101 minutes.
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