The 1939 Technicolor musical The Wizard of Oz is one of the most culturally significant and arguably the most watched Hollywood film ever made. Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, The Wizard of Oz, which starred Judy Garland and Frank Morgan is the most commercially successful adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
The film grew steadily and took several cinematic re-releases in the 1950’s before it became one of the greatest films in cinema history and a certified classic. However, 46 years after Dorothy Gale first sailed over the rainbow, Disney released an unofficial live-action sequel to the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz.
Disney’s often overlooked 1985 sequel, Return to Oz, starring Fairuza Balk as Dorothy wasn’t exactly what parents expected when they took their children to the theaters. Often described as one of the scariest children movies ever made, Return to Oz took a darker tone and received a cold reception.
Directed and written by Walter Murch, Return to Oz was loosely based on The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, the second and third books in the series.
Return to Oz finds 9-year-old Dorothy six months after she has returned from the Land of Oz. Dorothy is so depressed that she can’t even sleep and her Aunt Em is worried because “all she ever talks about is some place that just doesn’t exist,” so she decides to take Dorothy off to a psychiatric clinic for electroshock therapy.
However, just before Dorothy receives the electroshock therapy a lightning storm knocks out the power, and Dorothy is left alone strapped to the bed. She is saved by a mysterious girl who unstraps her and implores her to run. She almost drowns in a river while she is trying to escape, but somehow floats off into safety and finds herself again in Oz, but this isn’t Judy Garland’s Oz.
She finds the Emerald City in ruins, the Yellow Brick Road dismantled, and her old friends turned to stone by the Nome King. But what is even more disturbing the residents in the ruins of the Emerald City, known as the Wheelers, look horrifying and have wheels instead of hands and feet. The Wheelers who chase Dorothy into a dead-end hallway, work for the Nome King and threaten that they will tear her into little pieces and throw her in the deadly desert.
However, what seems to be more horrifying than the Wheelers is Princess Mombi’s Castle and her room of heads. There is no doubt that the scene in the room of heads is one of the scariest in the history of film.
Dorothy meets many new friends including Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the flying Gump. They set off to defeat the evil Nome King and Mombi the evil princess, and restore the rightful ruler of Oz to her throne.
While the viewer might think at first that Dorothy avoided being electroshocked, it seems that she didn’t. When lights went out in the room, where she was taken by Dr. Worley and Nurse Wilson, the horrific process of trauma-based mind control started, and Dorothy became a stranger in her mind which was disconnecting from reality.
Dorothy is still physically in the asylum and everyone she saw there before the procedure had started, actually exist in the Land of Oz. Dr. Worley is the evil Nome King, who has found her ruby slippers and used them to take over Oz. Nurse Wilson is the evil Princess Mombi in Oz. Her room is full of heads, and she can change her head whenever she wants, but her original head looks like Nurse Wilson. The male nurse who strapped Dorothy is a “Wheeler” in Oz.
The Electroshock Therapy Machine is her friend Tik-Tok in Oz. It seems that Dorothy was programmed to believe that the Electroshock Therapy Machine is her friend. Dr. Worley tells her that the machine is harmless since it looks like it has a face.
If you think that Return to Oz is scary you are wrong- it’s horrifying. It is not just a regular family-friendly fantasy movie but it is also about a trauma-based mind control, and it is the scariest Disney movie ever made.