We recently crowed here about how The Wizard of Oz is our favorite movie. And in 2013 we went into a tizzy about the dreadful and unworthy Oz the Great and Powerful. There have been other horrible sequels, too. I remember strongly disliking Disney’s Return to Oz in 1985, and was more than unimpressed with the Rankin-Bass animated adaptations of the ’60s, which are roughly at the level of the 3 Stooges, Abbott and Costello, and Beatles cartoons of the era: strictly assembly line fodder.
But there have been some Oz sequels which, while not at the level of perfection of the 1939 original, at least didn’t strike me as a complete waste of time, and even managed to recapture some of the old magic.
The Land of Oz (1960)
This was a one hour adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s The Marvelous Land of of Oz produced for The Shirley Temple Show (formerly known as Shirley Temple’s Storybook). I’ve loved every episode of this show I have watched, a fully worthy continuance of the star’s childhood career that ought to be better remembered, some truly innovative and well produced television. Almost all of the episodes were adaptations of literature, usually children’s books, with all star casts. The format resonates; several of Temple’s films of the ’30s had been adapted from children’s books, and she had even been considered for the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Here she finally makes it to Oz, playing the leads of Ozma and Tip. And the rest of the cast is socko, full of show biz vets not unlike the ones from the 1939 classic: Agnes Moorehead as old Mombi, Sterling Holloway is Jack Pumpkinhead, Mel Blanc the voice of the Sawhorse, Ben Blue is the Scarecrow, Gil Lamb is the Tin Man, Jonathan Winters is the villainous General Nikidik, with Arthur Treacher as his butler, and Glinda is played by Frances Bergen, wife of Edgar Bergen and mother of Candace. It being live television and all, the sets are minimal, but the costumes and make-up are quite magical, and because this was one of the earliest color television shows, the visual element must have seemed especially fabulous at the time. Winters and Moorehead truly chew up the scenery!
Journey Back to Oz (1971)
Filmation’s first feature Journey Back to Oz was begun in 1962 and not finished until almost a decade later. The art is crude, but it sticks close to the original book (The Marvelous Land of Oz) and like the original film has a magical all-star cast: Judy Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli as Dorothy, Margaret Hamilton as Aunt Em, Paul Ford as Uncle Henry, Milton Berle as the Cowardly Lion, Mickey Rooney as the Scarecrow, Danny Thomas as the Tin Man, Herschel Bernardi as the Sawhorse, Paul Lynde as the Pumpkinhead, Ethel Merman as Mombi, Rise Stevens of the Metropolitan Opera as Glinda, and Mel Blanc, Jack E. Leonard, and Larry Storch in minor parts.
The Wonderful Land of Oz (1969)
Okay, I love this one for all the wrong reasons. It is a grade Z home movie made for $50,000 by Barry Mahon, whose previous credits are all nudie cuties with titles like The Adventures of Busty Brown (1967), The Diary of Knockers McCalla (1968) and Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico (1969). Shot on exceedingly cramped sets in Florida, the film stars Mahon’s sullen, catatonic looking son as Tip, and several enthusiastic amateurs as the other principals, including about 20 chicks in mini-skirts as General Jinjur’s army! “Oh, you kid!” I found the make-up for the Wogglebug to be particularly disturbing:
This proved to be a transitional film for Mahon, as he went on to make several more children’s movies after this. The Wonderful Land of Oz must have turned a profit! And by the ’70s the porn industry had gotten hardcore; a lot of the earlier purveyors of simple innocent nudity like Mahon got out of the sex biz at this time. One of his later films Thumbelina (1970) has become notorious in repackaged form as Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972), held by some to be the worst movie of all time — but so many movies vie for that title!
At any rate, these movies are available to watch on Youtube. I’ve stopped doing direct links here as they frequently go dead. But you’re a 21st century adult. I have every faith you can find these films. Just follow the Yellow Brick Road.