Also known as: Oz, The Adventures of the Devil In the Sky (working titles)
Release Date: June 21st, 1985
Directed by: Walter Murch
Written by: Gill Dennis, Walter Murch
Based on: Oz books by L. Frank Baum
Music by: David Shire
Cast: Fairuza Balk, Nicol Williamson, Jean Marsh, Piper Laurie, Deep Roy
BMI (No. 9) Ltd., Oz Productions Ltd., Silver Screen Partners II, Walt Disney Pictures, Buena Vista Distribution, 113 Minutes, 110 Minutes (“uncut”), 109 Minutes (cut)
“I have always valued my lifelessness.” – Tik-Tok
I saw this in the theater when it came out. I’m not sure how this was a kid’s movie because it scared the shit out of me. Granted, it scared the shit out of me in that really cool way that made me re-watch the film again and again once I copied it onto my own VHS after renting it. Yes, I was a bootlegger creating my own entertainment library at six years-old.
Anyway, usually things that I found scary as a kid aren’t scary in adulthood. However, the two key creepy scenes in this film still hold up and are actually still effectively creepy. In a time when kids are much bigger pussies than my generation, this movie would wreck six year-olds’ brains.
The two scenes I’m talking about are the introduction of the evil Wheelers and the hall of severed heads, especially when their headless host awakes and the heads all come to life in their glass display cases.
In fact, that latter scene is pretty over the top and kind of a mindfuck even though I know it’s coming and honestly, that’s incredibly rare for a movie rated PG.
Moving beyond those two moments, the film itself is still pretty damn dark. I mean, any film that starts with a child being locked up in an asylum and about to receive electroshock therapy is quite unsettling.
Unfortunately, despite a few moments with some imagination and potential, the picture as a whole is kind of drab and definitely fifteen or so minutes too long.
The whole third act is really drawn out.
Once Dorothy and her friends get to the Nome King’s mountain, things screech to a halt. It’s not that this portion of the film is uninteresting, it’s just dragged out to an ungodly length and moves at a snail’s pace.
I still really enjoy the flick as a whole and it’s worth a watch for fans of L. Frank Baum’s Oz stories. However, it lacks energy in most places and getting from one sequence to the next can be like waiting for an elderly turtle to pull his dangling balls across a pool of molasses.
Pairs well with: other Oz films, as well as ’80s family fantasy movies.