15 April 2013

Ding Dong The Witch Was Killed

The Wizard of Oz is a film that most people experience during their childhood. Sadly though, it has taken me until the age of twenty-four to catch up with it. I'm not sure what it says about modern society that I've once fallen asleep whilst stoned and mid-tug before having an opportunity to see this classic but personally I'd always blame the parents. People who saw it as a youngster often talk about how scary it is with the evil witch and flying monkeys and- they're sort of right. The film is scary, but not for those reasons. Before killing his victims, Jeffrey Dahmer liked to drill holes in their heads and melt their brains with acid. I suspect the fevered hallucinations those poor people would have suffered before being raped and eaten would have looked something like this film. For a kids movie, The Wizard of Oz isn't half fucked up...

Fucking lock it in the cellar.
The film starts in Kansas and introduces us to some antisocial bitch called Dorothy. Having allowed her dog to maul an innocent member of the public, the stroppy little mare runs away to hang out with a magical man that in no way came across like a paedophile. Having never seen Judy Garland in anything before, when listening to her sing and hearing what sounded like Liza Minnelli's voice come out of her mouth, I couldn't help but be reminded of The Exorcist. After the song ended I wasn't sure whether to applaud or throw holy water at the screen… thanks to good old English reserve though, I obviously did neither. Still, as first impressions go, both Garland and her little dog Toto do give fairly good performances. In fact I would say I liked Toto so much that he's probably become my favourite movie dog since seeing Lassie in Lassie, Beethoven in Beethoven and Madonna in Die Another Day.

Unfortunately, things go a little wrong for Dorothy when she's caught in the middle of a tornado. Quickly, she runs back home where she receives a bump on the head and is knocked unconscious. From this point on the film is ambiguously either depicting a fantastical journey into a magical land or more likely the dying dreams of a teenager with a brain haemorrhage. Whichever you believe however, what we see is the wind lift up her house and fly away with it. A while back, a close friend of mine was telling me the top five places he'd been sick, with the number one spot being an aeroplane runway after landing at an American airport. I think he liked that whilst the yanks would kiss the ground of their beloved country the first thing he as a Brit did was puke over it. In terms of disrespect however, Dorothy goes one further with her arrival in Oz and promptly sets about killing people.

Benjamin Button on the right.
The first of Dorothy's victims in this new world is The Wicked Witch of the East who was crushed beneath the falling house. Now, I know that this was clearly an accident but considering that somebody has just died, Dorothy acts as though she couldn't give a fuck. If I unintentionally stand on a snail I'm overcome by waves of guilt but this pigtailed psychotic shows so little concern that you'd only conclude that she was a fucking sociopath. Instead of suffering any negative consequence to this however, the local residents instead simply applaud her vigilantism as though she's just ripped down a statue of Saddam Hussain and rubbed her genitals in its face. I should point out that these locals are known as Munchkins and look a bit like a gumpy race of children born in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse.

In an attempt to flee the crime scene, Dorothy decides that she wants to go home. To do this however she is told by Glinda the Good Witch that she must visit the respected Wizard of Oz. Personally I'm not sure if I'd trust Glinda considering she looks like a Scouse alcoholic enduring a particularly painful comedown but Dorothy decides to listen anyway. The instruction that she receives is to simply follow the Yellow Brick Road which, to be fair, sounds easy enough until it turns out to be longer than the fucking M6. By the time she's gotten to the end of it, she's befriended a brainless Scarecrow, a cowardly Lion and most worryingly, a Tin Man without a heart. I say most worryingly because unlike Dorothy, I've seen The Terminator and so know to stay well away from any axe wielding sentient cyborg that openly admits to being heartless.

"Killing makes me sticky"
Eventually, they reach the Emerald City which looks like a racist’s depiction of Ireland and they finally meet the Wizard. He says that he will help the girl get home to Kansas but only if she'll steal him a broom belonging to The Wicked Witch of The West. To cut a long story short, Dorothy has no qualms with this and so casually trots off to commit yet more crime. However if killers such as Ted Bundy and Peter Sutcliffe have taught us anything, it's that just like Pringles or heroin, killing people can be a little addictive. Having gotten the taste for it earlier on, Dorothy can't just steal the old lady’s broom but has to murder the shit out of her too. Once again the nutter form Kansas claims yet another victim and once again she does so with a glazed, unaffected look in her cold, soulless eyes.

Having said that, I do have a few questions about the death of the Wicked Witch of the West with the main one being, err what the fuck? If you can be killed by something as simple as a bucket of water, don't keep a bucket of fucking water lying around… which is assuming that it was even water in that first place. At no point does anybody confirm that's what it is, so for all we know Dorothy has just casually flung a load of acid into the old hags face. Kind of like when religious people go mental and punish their daughters for not agreeing to an arranged marriage. For what is supposed to be a kid’s film, I once again can't help but find Dorothy's lack of empathy somewhat disturbing. If you like the idea of a film which is an exact cross between Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Taxi Driver then I strongly recommend The Wizard of Oz.

Like I say though, although it's taken me a long time to get around to this film, I'm happy to report that I enjoyed it. I really loved the vivid imagery and the ambiguity between what is either a dream or reality. I was obviously fully aware of every aspect of the story due to it's seepage into popular culture but it was still a treat to see the original in all its glory. In fact it contains so many iconic moments that it has been homaged in things as diverse as The Simpsons, Wild At Heart, Life on Mars and the absolute classic porno The Wizard of Ass. Actually just as a slight tangent but whilst we're on the subject, any fans of that last example should definitely also check out the epic Chitty Chitty Gang Bang. They actually make a great double feature assuming you have enough tissues to get through them and then cry at how shit your life is.

Thinking about it, although I did enjoy The Wizard of Oz, I think I appreciate it just because of how much I love the things that it's inspired. One thing that surprised me for example was how much of Star Wars I could see in it. The second Witch’s death looked kind of like Obi Wan's in terms of an empty cloak falling to the ground. The Emerald City's Gate was similar to Jabba's Palace's with its small peep hole to allow interrogation and perhaps light cottaging. The scene where the Munchkins proclaim Dorothy as a hero was like when the Ewoks decide C3PO is their God. The Wizard’s floating head converses like a giant hologram reminiscent of how Palpatine chats to Vader. Oh, and after their films release, both Judy Garland and Carrie Fisher had a merry descent into alcoholism which was cheerfully topped of with a dangerously expensive smack habit.

"I do not take Political Prisoners!"
If I have any criticism of the film it's that perhaps the pace is a little bit laborious at times. Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, which was such a long walk that I'm surprised Peter Jackson hasn't tried to adapt it into a trilogy, there was also all of the exposition. It wasn't enough to have someone just tell us the plot but instead they had to repeat it over and over and over again. “We're going to see the Wizard! He will know what to do because he's a Wizard and we're going to see him by going to the Emerald City to get some answers from the Wizard... who we're going to see”. I know some films like to spoon feed their audience the plot but this goes one further and holds our nose closed so it can shovel information in Bobby Sands-hunger-strike style. Speaking of which, I promise it is a complete coincidence that I chose to do a blog on The Wizard of Oz in the same week that Thatcher has died. Genuinely it was. For anybody unaware of the connection, her death has prompted our great public to go out in their droves and buy copies of the song Ding Dong The Witch is Dead. I know that she was both equally loved and reviled and so in an attempt to please everybody, I'll keep my own views on the community-destroying replicant to myself.

If you've not seen this film then I do strongly recommend it. Not only does it deserve its place as a classic, but Dorothy may also be one of the greatest anti-heroes along with Hannibal Lector, Patrick Bateman and Norman Bates. If you want something that could psychologically damage a child then this is certainly more legal than allowing Grandpa to flash them. If only more films would display the same level of creativity, then cinema would be in a much healthier state. I hear if you listen to Pink Floyd's Dark of the Moon whilst watching The Wizard of Oz then you'll notice that they coincidentally synch up. Also by coincidence if whilst watching a Michael Bay film you listen to that same album and then decide to turn the television off and stare blankly at a wall you'll actually have a much better time. 

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