“I Have Always Valued My Lifelessness.”

We’re going back inside the Disney Vault today. Let’s bypass the movies about princesses and mermaids and talking teapots, though, and focus on the ones about electroshock treatments and evil witches who have cabinets full of stolen, interchangeable heads.

. . . I feel that this poster does not accurately capture the tone of this movie at all. And for heaven’s sake, is that really supposed to be Fairuza Balk?

Yes. This is a movie from my childhood, and it’s . . . well, it’s an odd one.




Six months after the events of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale is suffering from insomnia and can’t stop talking about her time in Oz. But no one believes her, and — more importantly — she can’t do her work on the farm if she’s not sleeping. So Auntie Em drops  Dorothy off at a medical clinic from Hell, which she thankfully escapes from and quickly floats her way back to Oz. But Oz has kind of gone to Hell too, and it’s up to Dorothy and her new companions to restore it back to its former technicolor glory.


1. It’s been years and years since I’ve seen this movie, but I loved it as a kid. Which is funny because parts of it are disturbing as hell, and I mostly despised scary movies until I was eleven, but what can I say? I was an inconsistent child.

I was also a child who was a little hard on her toys. Now, I didn’t decapitate or dismember anything on purpose (because I was never that kid), but April from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lost a leg, The Wicked Witch of the West lost an arm, and Glinda the Good Witch lost her head. I bring this up because when it happened, I just decided to turn Glinda into Mombi — who, for those of you who have not seen this movie, is that evil witch I mentioned who swaps out heads.

Because seriously. In the battle between Glinda the Crazy, Stoned Fairy and Mombi the Headless Wonder?

I think we all know Mombi wins.

2. So, theres a lot in this movie that I really love, and a lot that I really don’t. Obviously, Mombi and her ridiculous amount of spare heads are just awesome.

And I adore the game that the Nome King plays at the end, where Dorothy has to guess which inanimate objects her friends have been turned into. I think these two scenes nestled into my psyche as a child, and I am deeply envious that I didn’t write them first — although, I do wish that Dorothy didn’t just have to find green ornaments, that there was some slightly more clever reasoning behind the transformations. You know, that way it’s kind of like a game for the audience too — what object would the Nome King turn the Scarecrow into? (This desire is surely an extension of my childhood pride from correctly guessing that the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade was the crappiest cup in the room.)

3. I also like the warning ‘BEWARE THE WHEELERS’ and now have an incredibly strong desire to paint it on my living room wall.

However, it should be said that the Wheelers themselves are really not intimidating in any way, shape, or form. And for God’s sake . . .

4 . . . we have to get rid of Bilina.

I hate this fucking chicken. I hate her so much.

Billina is a hen from Dorothy’s farm. She shows up in Oz because . . . well, I really don’t know why. Dorothy escapes the asylum clinic by falling into the river and floating down it . . . so unless Dorothy managed to float right past her house, where Billina was feeling like a midnight swim, I’m not sure how this happened. Also, Dorothy is surprised that Billina can suddenly talk but decides it would make sense if they had travelled into Oz. And . . . no, no, it really wouldn’t because while animals from Oz like the Cowardly Lion can talk, Toto couldn’t talk when a tornado threw his ass into Oz.

All of this probably wouldn’t very seriously bother me if Billina didn’t also have the most annoying voice in the whole world. She also has the worst jokes. I really kept hoping something would just eat her.

5. And about the whole ‘I will defeat Evil by shitting an egg into its mouth? thing’

Can we all just pretend that never happened?

Seriously, look, I know that Return to Oz at least bothered to set up the One Thing That Can Defeat the Bad Guy — unlike its predecessor, which didn’t apparently feel the need to ever make mention of the “water equals acid” equation for wicked witches, nor explain why said wicked witch has a bucket of water just lying around for passing heroines — but you know, this movie still bothers me more. Every time someone ominously mutters about the deadly threat of a hen, or the Nome King quavers and cries out, “A chicken!” . . . I mean, how am I supposed to take that seriously? It’s impossible. For the remake, I think we need to find a better way to take out the Nome King.

6. Because Return to Oz is the kind of movie that I think could benefit from a remake, keeping some of the awesome creepy elements, eliminating some of the things that don’t work, and updating all of the special effects. Even though I was the only person on the planet who apparently didn’t care for Coraline (at least the movie), I think the fact that the film did so well indicates that people are readier for darker, quirkier children’s films, and it’s possible that Return to Oz could find a bigger audience now.

Other things to change in the remake:

A. Cut down on the bad jokes. For example:

Dorothy: “Look, Billina, these over here lost their heads.”
Billina: “Now that’s what I call just plain carelessness.”

B. Scarecrow shouldn’t strike fear in the hearts of small children just by looking at him.

This is creepy but not in the good way.

C. A better ending. Seriously. Dorothy comes back from Oz only to discover that the evil clinic has burned down because of Reasons. Also, Evil Nurse (Jean Marsh) is being carted away as a prisoner. Other than as a parallel to Mombi (Jean Marsh) also being a prisoner, this shot makes no sense whatsoever because unless the police suddenly discovered what was happening in the clinic, they have no reason to arrest her. And even if they did, I’m not certain that they even would have arrested her . . . I doubt very much the standards in patient care were the same in 1899 as they are now.

I’d like the movie to end happily, but this is all a little much to swallow.

D. Give me some explanation for how Ozma escaped from Mombi long enough to leave Oz and help Dorothy escape from the clinic in the first place. It doesn’t even have to be a good explanation, just something.

E. Don’t have six foot tall Jack Pumpkinhead call a ten year old child “mommy.” It’s disturbing.

Also disturbing? Jack Pumpkinhead. Seriously, Ozma. Who even creates something like this?

7. About Jack Pumpkinhead, though, and the other companions . . . it’s hard not to watch this movie and draw arrows between the new characters and their counterparts in The Wizard of Oz.

Mombi = The Wicked Witch of the West
Wheelers = Flying Monkeys
Billina = Toto
Jack Pumpkinhead = Scarecrow
Tik-Tok = Tin Man
Gump = Cowardly Lion (I’ll admit, this one is more of a stretch, but they’re both talking animals who exhibit signs of fear and reluctance, even if one has a sofa for a body.)

The Nome King as the Wizard of Oz is probably too much of a stretch, though, since I don’t think you can really argue that the Wizard is an outright villain, even if he is extremely unhelpful. But still, I think when you can so easily draw parallels like this between a film and its (unofficial) sequel, there might be some problems.

8. Although come to think of it, you know who doesn’t have a counterpart? Glinda. There’s absolutely no mention of her or why she isn’t there in the first place. And good riddance, too. Honestly, that woman is of no use at all. I think Dorothy should have slapped her across the face when she realized she could have gotten home before she left Munchkinland.

9. One of my favorite things about this movie? The costuming. I hope that when I go to a sleep clinic for insomnia, my nurse is wearing this:

Yeah, Auntie Em. There’s no cause for being suspicious at all. I would totally leave my niece here overnight by herself.

10. Auntie Em, by the way? Played by Piper Laurie. So while Dorothy grew into Nancy from The Craft . . .

Auntie Em was once Carrie’s evil mom from Carrie . . .

Sheesh. No wonder this movie is a little fucked up.

11. I forgot to mention before — if they ever actually do remake this movie, I totally think they should film an alternate ending for the DVD. You know the part where Ozma pops up in Dorothy’s mirror and puts her finger to her lips, warning Dorothy not to tell Auntie Em?

Okay, I didn’t get the exact shot. But she’s in the mirror, dammit, and with the most annoying chicken in all existence too.

I think Ozma should follow that up by doing a Calvin & Hobbes (via Robot Chicken) and telling Dorothy, “Your parents don’t believe. We’ll have to kill them.” And then the next (and last) scene is a bloodspattered Dorothy standing in her house with a knife in her hand and a big grin on her face.

That would be awesome.

12. Finally, Toto?

You remember Toto. He’s a little shitstarter who causes nothing but trouble, but at least he doesn’t talk.

Toto is apparently still alive, and clearly, that’s just a big, dirty lie. Everyone knows that five minutes after the credits rolled on The Wizard of Oz, Miss Gulch came by and said, “Look, Dorothy, I’m sorry you hit your head in the twister and all, but . . . yeah, I’m still going to need to kill the shit out of your dog.”

Maybe she can travel over to Oz and kill Billina too. Just for the hell of it.


Nostalgia movie that doesn’t entirely hold up on adult viewing. Still, pretty weird and creepy and awesome at parts, though.


Jean Marsh


Auntie Em




Fear not. All you need to defeat evil? An egg.

One thought on ““I Have Always Valued My Lifelessness.”

  1. To be frank, I don’t remember it standing up that well on childhood viewing. I think any of the real life stuff felt particularly strange. The ending just seemed completely unconnected from the rest of the film. Still, I’d be interested in checking this out to see the detachable heads and the wheelies again. I think I must have been 6 or something when I saw it the first time.

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