Every Friday I recommend an entertaining, slow-paced movie from no later than 1985 to help you unwind at the end of the week in our fast-paced world.
It’s Halloween soon.
“Return to Oz” is a superbly-crafted combination of the second two books in L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” series—“The Marvelous Land of Oz” and “Ozma of Oz,” brilliantly faithful with some original stuff thrown in for good measure. In short, it’s what an adaptation should be.
“Return to Oz” is great to watch anytime of the year, but a chilly fall evening makes it even better, regardless of your age. If fall hasn’t found you yet, or if you’re reading this article at another time of the year, never fear! “Return to Oz” creates an elegant fall atmosphere on its own.
Many of the reviews you’ll read about this film will focus on its surprisingly dark moments, as well as how it’s usually been blasted by critics for deviating too much from 1939’s classic musical adaptation of the first book in the series. Even many viewers who like the movie can’t get over the dark parts.
The movie is indeed dark. But had it been released today, I think it would have been much more widely appreciated, not just because fairy tales and darkness are popular right now, but because this fairy tale and darkness support tremendous thematic material.
“Return to Oz” takes the world of Oz (technically, it’s a country) and Dorothy’s emotional connection with it very seriously. Because of this, everything about the movie, from its drama to its humor, from its characters to its scenery, can be legitimately taken to heart.
The atmosphere of the entire movie is incredibly vivid, especially once Dorothy returns to Oz, and this is a testament to every part of its production. The performances are terrific. The cinematography finds a cool way of updating the whole black-and-white-to-color convention. The music brings each moment out beautifully. And the effects are amazing achievements of practical artistry.
“Return to Oz” is not a perfect movie by any stretch, and it could have benefited from more support from the studio, but it’s a beautiful film just the same. Everything in it supports everything else, fluidly weaving together in and out of expected production roles, and brings the story to triumphant, believable life. It has a purpose, and it earns its finale.
And that’s a good movie night.
After all that, if you still need something retro to satisfy your movie appetite until next week, check out my previous recommendations:
Let me know what you think of this week’s recommendation and stay tuned!
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