Launched by Disney in 1985, “Return to Oz” is the primary and, up to now, solely movie directed by venerable editor Walter Murch (“Apocalypse Now,” “The English Affected person”). The script he and “Stroll the Line” scribe Gill Dennis wrote was impressed by L. Frank Baum’s Oznovels fairly than director Victor Fleming’s traditional 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.” It leans heavier into the weirder points of Baum’s supply materials whereas injecting it with an additional dose of horror. Critics had been fairly combined on Murch’s don’t-call-it-a-sequel film, which bombed on the field workplace.
As a child, nevertheless, “Return to Oz” was very a lot my jam. There are photos within the movie — the corridor of shrieking heads in Princess Mombi’s (Jean Marsh) fort, the faces of the Nome King’s shrieking servants bursting out of partitions and attempting to strangle Dorothy as she and her pals run away — which have continued to stay rent-free in my head since I stayed up late at evening to look at the film on the Disney Channel for the primary time when I used to be youthful. For as a lot as I loved “The Wizard of Oz” rising up, it is Murch’s nightmarish imaginative and prescient of the titular land that I am truly nostalgic for.
You possibly can think about my delight after I revisited the movie as an grownup and located that it is nonetheless fairly dang good, in my humble opinion. Its pre-CG visible results (stop-motion, sensible puppetry) have a handmade and unrefined look befitting the jagged edges of its story, which is sort of intense for a household film however nonetheless makes room for moments of mild levity right here and there. It is also a thematically refined movie that respects its target market, like so many different cherished but distressing (if not downright depressing) fantasy adventures made within the ’80s.