Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is the eighteenth film set in Oz. Or the seventeenth, if you discount 1978’s The Wiz, which doesn’t exactly take place there, but rather in a fantastical Oz-fitted New York City. Or maybe Dorothy’s Return is actually the nineteenth, if you count the 1921 silent film adaptation which never actually made it to movie screens.
The point is, over the last century, filmmakers have been drawn back to L. Frank Baum’s magical source novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; there’s something fundamentally cinematic about Dorothy, Toto and her colourful troupe of friends skipping down a yellow brick road to an emerald-green city. Here’s a brief look at the most successful big-screen adaptations – and a few of the very worst.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
When you think ‘The Wizard of Oz’, you think 1939’s pop culture-spewing, endlessly iconic The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland singing those first two notes in ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’; a sky blotted out with flying, blue-faced monkeys; a sinister twister looming in the background of a Kansas farmhouse; the moment we first step into the technicolor world of Oz. Each segment of Victor Fleming’s masterpiece is instantly memorable – nay, unforgettable – and as a result sparked the imaginations of millions of children (and adults) everywhere, and continues to do so today.
Of course, no stalwart of cinema is without its problems, as Oz went through its fair share during production; only nine days into shooting, original director Richard Thorpe, himself replacing Norman Taurog, Victor Fleming came onboard to finish the job, juggling the project with Gone With the Wind (which was also released in 1939). The original Tin Man, Buddy Esben, suffered a reaction to his aluminium powder make-up, ending him up in an iron lung. Despite the chaotic production, The Wizard of Oz was quickly touted as a classic, and is somewhat obligatory viewing for children from age five to ninety-five.