If you weren’t scared enough by Coraline, move up to an even darker film which shares some of Coraline’s bloodlines.
Walter Murch directed Fairuza Balk as the lonely little girl who can’t get adjusted to life back in Kansas. Auntie Em decides she needs electric shock therapy.
And that’s just the first act. That’s before Dorothy arrives in a bombed out, deserted Emerald City ruled by a headless psycho, played by Jean Marsh, who also plays the psychiatric nurse, back in Kansas.
Will Vinton Studios here in Portland provided the clay animated part of Nicol Williamson’s Nome King, Dorothy’s ultimate antagonist.
Lavish production values cannot wallpaper over the deep sadness of the story of a little girl confronting total devastation with only a pet chicken to help her. Dorothy negotiates a minefield of formidably evil adults without the help of the Tin Woodsman, Cowardly Lion, or Scarecrow.
See this film for Fairuza Balk’s tremendous performance, if not for those given by her assorted costars, some of which are animatronic puppets created by Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson. Henry Selick drew storyboards for this dark, sumptuous fairy tale.
This gentle, sad, scary film rewards Dorothy in the end with triumph. Children can see it, mostly because they do not understand what electroshock treatment is.
I hereby claim Return to Oz as an Oregon film, based on the contribution of Oregonian Will Vinton, and Will Vinton Studios.