The Wonderful Land of Oz (1969)

The Wonderful Land of Oz PosterBarry Mahon was a prolific filmmaker, oddly vacillating his directing chores between cheap sex movies like Fanny Hill Meets The Red Baron and Run Swinger Run! and cheap kiddie flicks like Jack And The Beanstalk (also on this DVD from Something Weird), and Santa And The Ice Cream Bunny. This two pronged approach Barry took to his career puts us in the unfortunate position of not knowing exactly what his movie The Girl With The Magic Box is about. With The Wonderful Land of Oz though, Barry is clearly aiming at the cut-rate kiddie matinee market, but manages only to hit his poor son Channy Mahon.

The back of the DVD case claims this was filmed at an old amusement park down in Florida, but I could have sworn that it was filmed on the stage of my junior high auditorium. Watching poor Channy utilize an acting style that alternately wobbled between whiny and surly, but never veered from a delivery that was entirely robotic, I couldn’t help but be transported back in time to 1983 to the Walsh Junior High presentation of Bye Bye Birdie whenever Channy attempted to sing.

The movie wisely uses a lip synch technique that allows for a studio-bound version of the song to be used complete with accompanying instruments, however the movie unwisely retains the actors from the movie as the singers.

While no one can really be described as having a voice that should be heard outside of their own very loud shower, it is Channy himself who is far and away the worst of any of these singers as he is prone to a unique singing style that sees him choking on the last word of each line he sings. That’s not to say that he could carry a tune the rest of the time, it’s just that at least he got all those words out before he ran out of breath.

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I suppose that the benefit of the studio recording is that the memory-impaired Channy could sing the song until he got all the lines right, unlike in the movie where he seems to momentarily forget his lines and muffs them slightly.

The worst offender though has to be Glinda the Good who manages to stumble over a few lines in her big speech after the interlopers are run out of Oz. Her speech serves to explain everything that’s going on, but between Glinda’s botching of her big speech, her silly poofy pink dress, Toys R Us tiara, and her noxious singing voice, I never could figure out why she was called “the Good”. Glinda the Good Riddance I get. Glinda the Good is a mystery to me though.

I was also reminded of my junior high play because of Barry Mahon’s idea of set design. His sets looked like painted cardboard and wood and he didn’t even bother with backgrounds. When the movie you’re watching opens up with a purple papier mache cow and has all the articulation of a homecoming float, you know that the guy who played Pumpkinhead and the gal who played Glinda the Good most likely had the tool belt strapped on and the paint brushes in their hands between takes.

With all the elements in place for a kiddie flick of historically abominable proportions all we needed was a story to go with it. Barry doesn’t disappoint us there either.

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Showing a lack of judgment matched only by Chan agreeing to appear in the film in the first place, Tip (Chan) decides that he should play a prank on his evil witch stepmother Mombi.

Tip’s prank involves making a pumpkinheaded guy that he christens Jack Pumpkinhead. I wasn’t too sure of the point of the prank, but the next thing I know, Mombi has dumped magic powder on Jack and brought him to life.

She also told Tip that his prank was going to get his dumb ass turned into a statue in the morning. Showing that he’s not fall down stupid, Tip promptly runs away, enlisting Jack (who annoyingly calls Tip “father” the entire movie), and they make their way to Oz to get some help from the Scarecrow.

Along the way, they meet up with various people such as General Jinjur (pronounced “Ginger”), a gal in a drum majorette uniform who is leading an army of similarly clad chicks in an effort to overthrow the Scarecrow for some reason.

Tip also meets the Tin Woodsman who now has a heart bolted to his chest, and a pointless dude named Wogglebug. He is distinguished by the fact that he wears the worst make-up in the film. (Remember – he’s competing against a guy with a funnel on his head!)

None of this is very interesting as they basically stand around yattering at each other in their absurd voices (the Scarecrow and the Pumpkinhead are the worst offenders) trying to remember their lines while the sets try to remember not to fall on them.

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You can’t help but laugh when it’s finally revealed that Tip is really a girl in disguise and is in fact Ozma, the rightful heir to the throne of Oz. The ultimate in parental humiliation is visited upon Chan as he is forced to admit that maybe it won’t be so bad being turned back into the girl he always was deep down inside!

Along with the previously mentioned Jack and the Beanstalk, Something Weird has loaded the DVD with extras including a featurette made by H.G. Lewis and some cartoons, but the best extras are the numerous trailers for other kiddie movies from some of the same people!

While I’m sure that it stinks just like this Oz flick does, how can I watch a guy in a skunk costume named Stinky the Skunk mucking around with Little Red Riding Hood, a wolf, a vampire, a Frankenstein monster, and Siamese twins in the classic Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters and not desperately want to see it?

The Wonderful Land of Oz is really hideous and reeks of something that I think would be quite enjoyable if you were fairly inebriated. Unfortunately I was stone cold sober when I watched it, but even that didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of trailers for not one, but two versions of Puss In Boots! Guys in cat suits wearing boots hanging around a castle with their pal in a chicken outfit? How do I get invited to that party?

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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