Sam Raimi's "Oz the Great and Powerful," which opens this week, appears to be an amazing look at the life of the Wizard before he ruled the Emerald City. L. Frank Baum's Oz books have been made into many films other than 1939's "The Wizard of Oz," and here are a handful worth checking out.
"The Wizard of Oz" (1982)
Directed by Fumihiko Takayama, this animé version is actually one of the most faithful adaptations of the novel out there, restoring many scenes that were cut from the 1939 movie such as the journey to Glinda after the Wizard flies away and a harrowing jump across a ravine by the party. There's also a tremendous score from Studio Ghibli's master composer Joe Hisaishi. Though no longer in print, the movie can be seen in parts on YouTube.
"Journey Back to Oz" (1974)
If any film can truly be considered a direct sequel to the 1939 move, it's this animated feature from Filmation. Loosely based on Baum's second Oz book, "The Marvelous Land of Oz," the movie is a musical with Liza Minnelli as Dorothy and a score by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen.
"Aysecik ve Sihirli Cüceler Rüyalar Ülkesinde" (1971)
The Turkish film industry is famous for borrowing stories uncredited and filming them using budgets so small they would insult a high school drama club. Tunç Basaran's "Little Ayse and the Magic Dwarfs in the Land of Dreams" is an unintentionally surrealist masterpiece you can watch for free thanks to the magic of YouTube. Stream it at parties and watch your guests slowly become hypnotized.
"Tin Man" (2007)
The Syfy Channel's original miniseries turned the classic story into a grim, dystopian tale that was exceptional, if occasionally overacted. Alan Cummings' analogous Scarecrow character, Glitch, is worth the watch alone, and Neal McDonough's Tin Man is the perfect chiseled lawman looking for redemption. It's hokey at times, but enjoyable for the fresh take on the story.
"Return to Oz" (1985)
When "Return to Oz" came out, people considered it too dark, and thus it tanked. That was truly unfortunate because it's a fantastic film. There's no denying the darkness. Dorothy is committed to an insane asylum, the witch, Mombi, casually switches heads, and the Nome King is a terrifying stop-motion creation. That said, Fairuza Balk is a brilliant Dorothy, and the film ranks with "Labyrinth" and "The Dark Crystal" in quality and execution. If the director of "Evil Dead" can helm "Oz the Great and Powerful" and Tim Burton can goth-up every fairy tale he sees, then it's time "Return to Oz" takes its place as a great, if spooky, film.
Jef Rouner is a freelance writer.