Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why "Return to Oz" (1985) is the Scariest Film Disney Ever Made.

People who think all Disney films are sentimental sod buckets are wrong. Dead wrong. Many of them have the dubious honor of traumatizing many a child. Bambi, The Black Hole, The Lion King...and this film. I have seen this for the first time about a week ago, and boy, was I overwhelmed.

6. The Deadly Desert
This surrounds the Marvelous Land of Oz. Anyone who is unlucky enough to touch it is turned into sand. You only see this happen to the horrible Wheelers, but still...

5. The (Practically) Deserted Emerald City
Just showing Dorothy wandering through the ruined City, with its crumbling walls and eerie statues of what used to be people, is just plain eerie. It doesn't help to know what it contains as well....

4.The Wheelers

This creatures may stink at capturing Dorothy (I blame their lack of hands), but that does not prevent them from being utterly terrifying. This is where sound effects help to add to the fear factor. The squeaky wheels and their sharp screams to alert their fellows, and their echoing laughter is enough to make any child eye their bike with more than a little dread.

3. The Nome King and his Minions

The Stones.....they are watching you. No puggy humanoid creatures from the Oz books are these. The Nomes are Rocks with faces. Or are they faces that so happen to be attached to rocks?  What can be said about them is that they are just plain malicious. And you don't want to get the Nome King mad....

2. Mombi and her Heads

Mombi is a witch. She collects heads. This heads can scream if you cross them. Did I mention that Mombi can walk around without a head?

1. Dorothy's Trials

She nearly goes through electroshock therapy, drowns in a monstrous rainstorm, gets beheaded, falls to her death, get turned into an ornament...and oh so much more. You would have to hard pressed to find another child who goes through so many near-death experiences in a film (unless it is part of the Harry Potter Series). It is no wonder that she spends half the film with a terrified look on her face.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Little Experiment: Part 2

I did it. I rewatched Man with a Thousand Faces (1957), fulfilling the plans of my past post. It is rather strange, viewing something from my youth, at the dawning of my interest in old films. And what can I say about this second viewing experience?

Well, for one thing, I now know what it must feel for a baseball fan to watch The Pride of the Yankees or  Fear Strikes Out: plenty of (mostly fictional) elaboration on the personal life of the real-life protagonist, and not enough visualization of what made them great. Now, sometimes that it understandable. Lord knows how much more I could stand to watch Anthony Perkins play ball like a girl when portraying Jimmy Piersall.

But I digress. I am not here to discuss baseball biopics, but an actor biopic, specifically of the legendary  Lon Chaney Sr. And boy, is this a whopper. It begins with Chaney's youth, raised by deaf-mute parents.

He works in Vaudville with his wife (Dorothy Malone), who is unlikable because she:

1. Has a paranoid fear of their unborn child (and future Wolf Man) being born deaf

2. Puts her singing career before her family

Because she is such a bad mother, Chaney divorces her, and gets a relatively steady job getting extra work and bit parts in the picture business. He gets married to a wonderful woman (Jane Greer), and his carer takes off after his work as a fake cripple in The Miracle Man.

I guess that I should point  out that Cagney was about 56 when he made this film, 9 years older than Chaney was when he died. While age differences between actors and their real-life counterparts are far from unusual, in this case it is especially jarring.

There are reenactments of scenes from such classic Cagney films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, and Laugh Clown Laugh. This would cool, if they got the frickin' reenactments right! But I could let those pass by, were it not for one thing...The make-up.

Good Lord, the make-up. Or should, I say, the really crude rubber masks that bare no resemblance to Chaney's original classic designs. I know that Cagney's face was rounder than Chaney's, so that they would not look similar, but still...the horror, the horror.

My memories of the film were pretty close, considering it had been about 10 years since I last saw it. I don't why certain parts stuck out so much. It wasn't because I considered it a particularly great film at the time, and I still don't, but there must have been something that intrigued me. At the time I first watched it, I must have already known about Chaney and his make-up creations. It is quite possibly my first bio-pic.
Overall, I thought that it was an okay, if disappointing film.