Return to Oz

June 21st, 1985


Return to Oz

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Still of Fairuza Balk in Return to OzStill of Jean Marsh in Return to OzStill of Fairuza Balk in Return to OzStill of Fairuza Balk in Return to OzStill of Fairuza Balk in Return to OzStill of Fairuza Balk in Return to Oz

Dorothy, saved from a psychiatric experiment by a mysterious girl, is somehow called back to Oz when a vain witch and the Nome King destroy everything that makes the magical land beautiful.

Release Year: 1985

Rating: 6.7/10 (10,244 voted)

Critic's Score: 42/100

Director: Walter Murch

Stars: Fairuza Balk, Nicol Williamson, Jean Marsh

It has been six months since Dorothy has returned home from Oz and she still cannot sleep. She has been going on about imaginary places and people so much that Aunt Em takes her to see a doctor. She promptly escapes from the mental hospital and wakes up in Oz where her pet chicken, Billina, can now talk. There she meets a whole new bunch of friends and they set off to rescue the Scarecrow from the evil Nome King who has found her ruby slippers and used them to lay waste to the Emerald City and take over Oz.

Writers: L. Frank Baum, Walter Murch

Fairuza Balk - Dorothy
Nicol Williamson - Dr. Worley / The Nome King
Jean Marsh - Nurse Wilson / Mombi
Piper Laurie - Aunt Em
Matt Clark - Uncle Henry
Michael Sundin - Tik-Tok
Tim Rose - Tik-Tok
Sean Barrett - Tik-Tok (voice)
Mak Wilson - Billina
Denise Bryer - Billina (voice)
Brian Henson - Jack Pumpkinhead (voice)
Stewart Larange - Jack Pumpkinhead
Lyle Conway - Gump (voice)
Stephen Norrington - Gump (as Steve Norrington)
Justin Case - Scarecrow

Taglines: If there's one thing you must do this summer, it's "Return to Oz..."

Release Date: 21 June 1985

Filming Locations: Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England, UK

Box Office Details

Budget: $25,000,000 (estimated)

Gross: $11,137,801 (USA) (1985)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | Finland: (uncut)  | Finland: (cut)

Did You Know?

Director Walter Murch invited friend George Lucas to visit the set one day. During that visit Lucas wandered to different sound stages where he came across producer Rick McCallum working on a small film. The two became friends and later collaborated on the "Star Wars" prequels.

Audio/visual unsynchronized: After Mombi switches her head to the brunette (head #4) her lips are out of sync while telling Dorothy about the Scarecrow, clearly indicating that it's a voice over by Jean Marsh, the original nurse/Mombi.

Jack Pumpkinhead: [to Dorothy] May I call you Mom, even if it isn't so?

User Review

Yep, dark and disturbing

Rating: 9/10

After reading about 40 of the other comments here, all of whom say RETURN TO OZ is dark and disturbing, I will make a different comment. In the early 80s Disney certainly were off the cash trail with a range of films, each expertly produced, that were box office disasters. One may recall SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, TRON, THE BLACK CAULDRON, ONE MAGIC Christmas and a few others that had much to offer any thinking crowd,and each had special effects that were quite astonishing. Disney were in a very bleak period and the films, attempting to reflect perhaps a more mature or even grown up perspective chose, oh dear I have to say it: a dark and disturbing theme. At the time of release every critic bleated at the grim and melancholy tone of RETURN TO OZ, and sadly themselves neglected to celebrate the original book look, a choice Disney execs applauded themselves for. One Exec infamously said to us theatre owners: "We're going for the Frank L Baum book illustrations and nothing like that 1939 vaudeville thing". Oh dear, I thought at the time. You mean the world's most popular kids film? Well. $27 million dollars later in production costs returned maybe a quarter in theatre film rentals and RETURN TO OZ for all its merit and lavish production care and superb scary special effects....was consigned to the Disney dud bin. At the time I was irritated by the fixed goony expressions on Jack Pumpkinhead and the Scarecrow (loved Tik-tok, though, a fascinating and completely compelling design and movement piece) This time around I didn't mind it and actually appreciated the fact that they were 'book' expressions. Viewed 20 years later on a Disney DVD of dubious quality, I have to say it is a film more suited to these dark and disturbing times and if released today would certainly get a better reception and better crits...and possibly make a lot of money. I think the world is tuned into this type of family film more now than in the Flashdance 80s. The production values of RETURN TO OZ are simply breathtaking. Scene after scene perfectly realised: the green walled horror of the psychiatric asylum in reel one, the amazing claymation of the Gnome King, and especially the glittering halls of Mombi's castle. One genuinely screamworthy scene in the hall of Heads with a headless Queen rushing about in a nightmarish vision is almost only for adults, so intense is it's genuine horror. The glittering climax of a restored Emerald City is a triumph of green and silver/gold set design, I defy any viewer not to rewind it several times just to see each and every part. Yes nominated for 5 Oscars, it won none and vanished for 20 years. The no-marquee name Fairuza Balk didn't help the public embrace, no matter how exquisite she is. At least she wasn't named Soleil Moon Fry. In the same class as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, RETURN TO OZ now deserves its place there as part of a trilogy of superbly crafted fantasy for smart kids and astonished adults. That 'vaudeville thing' it certainly isn't. But not a failure either. The DVD is lacking trailers and production material that should and could be included. Bad Disney! Good film! I also defy any viewer not to shriek with laughter at the Gnome King revealing he is wearing the ruby slippers, a sly joke well presented.


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