As a longtime fan of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books (I couldn’t read them fast enough growing up) people are always coming up to me asking what I think are the best of the various Oz related movies produced over the last hundred or so years. Because so many of the adaptations veer so far away from the original spirit of the thing, it is actually an easy task to assess. Here is what I’ve come up with, ranked in order of superb-ness.
(#1) RETURN TO OZ (1985). Walter Murch finally fulfilled Walt Disney’s long-held dream of bringing a Disney Oz film to the silver screen in this fantasy masterpiece. Ethereal Fairuza Balk is outstanding in this early role, and John R. Neill’s original book illustrations are faithfully brought to life in all their grandeur. My favorite movie to watch at Halloween time.
(#2) THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939). Victor Fleming really made something for the ages with this little number. Lots of vaudeville humor like L. Frank Baum would have wanted, and topnotch songs too. All the hype is well-deserved. A perfect movie from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Judy Garland is another breathtakingly lovely Dorothy Gale.
(#3) THE WONDERFUL LAND OF OZ (1969). Barry Mahon made a slew of kiddie matinee films during this time, and while he always worked on a shoestring budget (often filming his movies in children’s amusement parks to take advantage of the cool fairy tale sets) he actually pulled off a very faithful adaptation of the second Oz book “The Marvelous Land of Oz.” A forgotten gem fans of Ed Wood and Ray Dennis Steckler would certainly appreciate, and it actually has the famous Woggle-bug in it too! (a character often left out of film versions for some reason, even though he has always been one of the most famous Baum creations. Go figure).
Well, that’s all for now, and remember: Freedom Is Ink on The Page!