From the diary: “June 3, 1985
“I’m reading Joan D. Vinge’s novelization of Return to Oz [the Disney sequel to The Wizard of Oz]. This is rather too dark. The whimsy and simplicity of the Baum books is gone. The predicaments pound on & on with little humor. But then I hate movie novelizations.”
How many movie novelizations have I read? This one. Any others? A movie picture book or three, but any other prose novels? I’m not saying none but none I can remember. So this “hate” was mostly prejudice; I didn’t (& don’t) like the idea of movie novelizations. Aren’t they just redundant? And what sort of leeway does the author have to make the tale interesting prose, rather than a writing out of the screenplay with a few he-saids and glancing descriptions of the landscape? I’ve heard William Kotzwinkle’s adaptation of E.T. is worth reading.
The Return to Oz movie brings the 2nd and 3rd stories of the Oz series to the screen. Dorothy does not appear in the second book, The Land of Oz, but nobody’s gonna want to see an Oz movie without Dorothy (Baum found that out with the books), so the producers mixed Land together with Ozma of Oz in which Dorothy gets washed off a ship in a big storm and drifts off to fairyland. Although Return is not a musical the moviemakers knew they had to include elements from MGM’s Wizard of Oz. So they picked up the idea of Oz-Kansas analogs – to a fault! Just about everything (or everyone) that Dorothy sees in Kansas ends up in Oz in a new guise.
But the reason I found Return disturbing was the electroshock. They made an Oz movie in which Dorothy is to be tied to a table, her brain zapped with electricity? Why? So she’ll stop talking all this Oz nonsense? Brr.
The electroshock machine seems to have a face and makes a clock-like tick tock. After escaping from the sinister quack to which the concerned Aunt Em and Uncle Henry have brought her, Dorothy and another escaping little girl are swept away in a storm-swollen river. When Dorothy washes up in Oz the other girl has disappeared. But Dorothy comes upon a friendly clockwork man whose works go tick tock; thus his name, Tik-Tok. The scary electroshock machine has become our old Ozian friend Tik-Tok. Brr. And what of the other girl swept away in the storm? In Oz she turns out to be Princess Ozma. But in Kansas? A figment of Dorothy’s imagination? Or a girl who actually was lost and drowned in the river? When the story in Oz ends happily and Dorothy is returned to Kansas via Ozma’s magic why is it Dorothy wakes up muddy and disheveled on the bank of the river, as though she has dreamed the whole thing? If she weren’t crazy and Oz were a real fairyland why didn’t Ozma have the grace to return Dorothy clean and dry?