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Tag Archive: The Wizard of Oz


Review by C.J. Bunce

For the fifth time, writer, editor, and researcher J.W. Rinzler has gone behind the scenes of pop culture’s biggest films for an in-depth look at the creative process.  Following his “Making of” books for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the Indiana Jones films, Rinzler has tackled one of the most iconic of all science fiction franchises in The Making of Planet of the Apes, released this month from Harper Design books.  At last fans of the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, have a definitive, exhaustive look at the film from interviews with the cast, creators, and everyone else involved with the movie from its source in a Pierre Boulle novel to film idea to Rod Serling draft script to casting Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson in lead roles, then switching to Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Roddy McDowall.  Readers will get an immersive, inside account of studio politics and deal making leading to the ultimate production of the film, and from marketing the film to its enduring legacy.  We’ve included a 16-page preview of the book below, courtesy of the publisher.

Planet of the Apes is best known for its surprise ending and the groundbreaking makeup work by John Chambers.  Both topics are thoroughly covered in Rinzler’s account.  Through initial sketches, concept designs, storyboards, and rare photographs, readers will see the building of the climactic finale from the ground up, as executives, producers, and cast struggled to determine what would be the final scenes of the film.  Heston’s character Taylor did not survive in many of the draft screenplays (and he wasn’t called Taylor).  And Rinzler reaches back to film archives to trace the steps that led to John Chambers’ final designs for the chimps, the orangutans, and the gorillas–and why baboons were ruled out.  Beginning with techniques used to create the animated facial characteristics for the Cowardly Lion in MGM’s 1939 epic fantasy film The Wizard of Oz, Chambers expanded his own methods and created several iterations of the prosthetic masks and makeups before arriving at the designs we saw on film.

The Making of Planet of the Apes includes a spectacular two-page, detailed image of the specifications for the “ANSA” spacecraft that the three astronauts crash at the beginning of the film.  Perhaps the most eye-opening information about the film came from the late Charlton Heston’s personal archives.  He made detailed diary entries that reflect events during the filming process including scenes, discussions, concepts and people that he approved of and those he didn’t.  His entries, contemporary and recent interviews, and information from Fox and Warner Brothers’ studio archives, and records at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences fill-in the blanks, building a meticulously complete account of the production.

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With Spirited Away, director Hayao Miyazaki transported Japanese anime into the mainstream consciousness in the United States.  A dramatic fantasy story with gravitas and an incredible journey, Spirited Away would win the Oscar for Best Animated Film–Miyazaki’s only Oscar (except his lifetime honorary Oscar).  A modern fable in the classic tradition, 17 years ago audiences first met Chihiro Ogino, a brave ten-year-old girl not happy with her parents moving her into a new neighborhood.  But when she wanders off, she finds herself trapped in a world of spirits, beasts, and uniquely imaginative surprises.  Wondrous, curious, and even grotesque, something of everything is tucked into Spirited Away.

Spirited Away is not just any other movie.  Like Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, the film transcends the typical use of animated cinema, providing the kind of experience that will leave audiences discussing it long afterward.  Critics across the globe lined up in agreement–not only was it the highest grossing film in Japan’s history, the critical acclaim seems to know no end.  In 2016 it was listed as the fourth best film of the 21st century as picked by 177 international film critics.  Last year the New York Times called it the second best film of the century so far.

spirited-away

The film is back in theaters for a limited three-day release beginning tonight as part of the Fathom Events series, in partnership with Studio Ghibli and GKids.  Spirited Away follows the brave young girl who enters a spirit world to rescue her parents and herself.  It is an incredible fantasy, with dark undertones about real-world concerns including human greed, borrowing from classic children’s stories Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Pinocchio.  It offers spectacular characters and is a story of great courage.

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The most infamous, notorious, and maybe even most beloved of toymakers, Marty Abrams is back in the toy biz years after a stint in prison for fraud and the bankruptcy of his famous toy company (get the whole story on Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us).  The company he made famous–MEGO–gave kids the ultimate 1970s line of licensed 8-inch (1:9 scale) action figures, and it returned to stores with a vengeance this year.  Not to toy stores–since they seem to be a thing of the past after the bankruptcy of Toys R Us this year–but to the end cap at your neighborhood Target store.  Replaced in recent years by the 3 3/4-inch line of licensed small-scale action figured from Super 7, Funko, and Biff! Bam! Pow!, the classic MEGO figures are making a comeback.  Abrams has pulled in a bizarre cross-section of licensed properties to get his foot back in the door with kids, collectors, and anyone able to be sidetracked on their way to pick up school supplies and shampoo.  Abrams was a groundbreaking importer, manufacturer, marketing maven, inventor, and brand developer who founded MEGO Corporation, the first company to license action figures based on TV shows and comic book superheroes, and the first to sell dolls in clear bubbles on cards that hung on pegs instead of in boxes stacked on store shelves.  If you were a kid in the 1970s, you probably had at least one of his figures (I’m pretty sure we still called them dolls back then).  My three-year-old self was not excluded:

The first wave of figures are already on the discount shelves at Target.  Look around and you’ll find an eclectic mix of pop culture nostalgia, some figures resembling sculpts and costumes from the original MEGO figures, others representing characters that may leave you scratching your head, wondering who has been eagerly waiting to see this show in an action figure line.  So Wave One includes Sulu and Chekov from the original Star Trek series, Charlie’s Angels’ Kelly Garrett (complete with ’70s hairdo), Peg Bundy from Married with Children, Action Jackson (not the movie version) sporting a jumpsuit, NORM! Peterson from Cheers, Piper Halliwell from the original TV series Charmed, Dracula (sculpted after Bela Lugosi’s version), Alice the housekeeper and center square from The Brady Bunch, Tootie the youngest girl from Facts of Life, Jimi Hendrix in his Woodstock outfit, and probably the best of all (OK, besides Jim Hendrix): Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (aka Fonzie) looking like the original Mego figure from Happy DaysTwo dual figure sets feature Jeannie and Tony from I Dream of Jeannie and a Mirror Universe figure set of Kirk and Spock from Star Trek.  Mego also has a 14-inch (1:5 scale) DC Comics line, including Wonder Woman from the TV series, General Zod from the two original Superman movies, a classic style Harley Quinn, and a Golden Age Batman.

Wave Two, arriving this month at Target stores nationwide, includes Frankenstein, Greg from The Brady Bunch, John Ratzenberger’s Cliff Clavin from Cheers, Starchild from the band KISS, Alyssa Milano’s Phoebe from Charmed, Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham from Happy Days, Cheryl Ladd’s Kris Munroe from Charlie’s Angels, Spock and the Gorn from Star Trek, Samantha from Bewitched, Kelly Bundy from Married with Children, Jo from Facts of Life, and dual sets featuring Dorothy, Toto, and the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, DJ and Stephanie Tanner from Full House.  In the 14-inch DC Comics line look for Superman, Batgirl, Green Lantern, and Poison Ivy.

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When you think of iconic with respect to genre films from Hollywood, what first comes to mind?  The Wizard of Oz?  Star Wars?  Jaws?  James Bond?  Raiders of the Lost Ark?  Forbidden Planet?  Planet of the Apes?  Star Trek?  Terminator?  Maybe superhero movies?

Maybe your tastes are after less of the big franchises.  Like Edward Scissorhands, Spaceballs, American Graffiti, or Power Rangers?

Costumes and props representing all of these franchises made their way to booths of auction houses showing off their lots for fans of San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend.  Just how long is too long to become transfixed at the golden birds atop the actual Lost Ark (okay, one of the actual Lost Arks seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark)?

President Joe Maddalena and prop expert Brian Chanes from Profiles in History–the biggest auction house of Hollywood entertainment memorabilia–were on hand to walk visitors through some truly iconic props and costumes featured in its next big auction.  Nearby, The Prop Store (formerly The Prop Store of London) had COO Brandon Alinger and its Los Angeles staff and some members from its London branch onsite show off select pieces from this week’s Power Rangers auction and future auctions.

Some of the finest Star Wars props and costumes are coming to auction soon, including production models, Imperial helmets–including Darth Vader–multiple lightsabers, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story costumes including one worn by Felicity Jones as the film’s heroine Jyn Erso.  A jacket purported to be one of those worn by Harrison Ford as Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back was at The Prop Store display (they expect it to sell for $1 million or more).  One of the biggest sellers will no doubt be an original series command tunic worn by William Shatner in Star Trek and a Type 2 phaser, both with good provenance.  One of the hats used in the greatest fantasy film classic, The Wizard of Oz, for the Wicked Witch played by Margaret Hamilton, will be sold by Profiles in History.  And a full supersuit worn by Christopher Reeve in the original Superman films will be auctioned by Prop Store.

A weapon used by Leslie Nielsen in Forbidden Planet, Johnny Depp’s Edward Scissorhands outfit, a full-sized Terminator, props from Spaceballs, an Indiana Jones fedora, a director’s clapperboard from Jaws, a license plate with a familiar number from American Graffiti, a special effects doll used for James Bond in For Your Eyes Only, an original ape costume from Planet of the Apes, and an original Spider-man supersuit.  They are all coming up for auction soon.  Check out these photos from the Prop Store and Profiles in History booths:

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With Spirited Away, director Hayao Miyazaki transported Japanese anime into the mainstream consciousness in the United States.  A dramatic fantasy story with gravitas and an incredible journey, Spirited Away would win the Oscar for Best Animated Film–Miyazaki’s only Oscar (except his lifetime honorary Oscar).  A modern fable in the classic tradition, 16 years ago audiences first met Chihiro Ogino, a brave ten-year-old girl not happy with her parents moving her into a new neighborhood.  But when she wanders off, she finds herself trapped in a world of spirits, beasts, and uniquely imaginative surprises.  Wondrous, curious, and even grotesque, something of everything is tucked into Spirited Away.

Spirited Away is not just any other movie.  Like Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, it transcends the typical use of animated cinema, providing the kind of experience that will leave audiences discussing it long afterward.  Critics across the globe lined up in agreement–not only was it the highest grossing film in Japan’s history, the critical acclaim seems to know no end.  In 2016 it was listed as the fourth best film of the 21st century as picked by 177 international film critics.  Earlier this year the New York Times called it the second best film of the century so far.

spirited-away

The film is back in theaters for a limited three-day release beginning this weekend as part of the Fathom Events series, in partnership with Studio Ghibli and GKids.  Spirited Away follows the brave young girl who enters a spirit world to rescue her parents and herself.  It is an incredible fantasy, with dark undertones about real-world concerns including human greed, borrowing from classic children’s stories Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Pinocchio.  It offers spectacular characters and is a story of great courage.

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emerald-city

The Wizard of Oz–whether or not you may be a fan of L. Frank Baum’s classic book or one of the best fantasy films of all time, you may want to tune in for a new NBC series airing Friday nights this winter.  Featuring well-known actors Joely Richardson and Vincent D’Onofrio, Emerald City stars Adria Arjona as twenty-year-old Dorothy Gale, who is sucked into a tornado and transported to the otherworldly Land of Oz.  D’Onofrio plays the famous Man Behind the Curtain who runs Oz.

But don’t expect the bright and cheery world of the 1939 production or something like you’d see from Disney.  Look for a dark world in this modern-day retelling.  It’s gritty and somewhat dystopian as seen in the first trailer for the series, below.

Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ana Ularu, Mido Hamada, Gerran Howell and Jordan Loughran co-star in the series.  Series writers and executive producers include Shaun Cassidy, David Schulner, Tarsem Singh Dhandwar, Matthew Arnold, and Josh Friedman.  Dhandwar directs the series.

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Star Wars fans take note: Trisha Biggar, costume designer for the prequels and featured in the landmark book Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars, has created the costumes for the series.  Keep Padme Amidala in mind when watching the wardrobes of the various featured witches.

Check out this preview for Emerald City followed by several character posters released by Universal to promote the series:

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spirited-away-clip

He may be the world’s greatest living director.  Hayao Miyazaki, master storyteller and moviemaker, retired but rumored to be coming back for another film, and animator extraordinaire.  He is one of Japan’s national treasures and international film icon.  His catalog of works have garnered literally hundreds of awards and nominations.  Miyazaki’s only film to receive an Oscar, 2001’s Spirited Away, is returning to theaters next month to celebrate the 15th anniversary of its release.

Spirited Away is on many critics’ lists as one of the top five films of the century thus far, and it is Japan’s highest grossing film.  It’s the story of a brave young girl who enters a spirit world to rescue her parents and herself.  It is an incredible fantasy, with dark undertones about real-world concerns including human greed, borrowing bits and pieces from classic children’s stories Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Pinocchio.  It offers spectacular characters and is a story of great courage.

spirited-away

We have yet to be disappointed with any anime production from Miyazaki and the house of Studio Ghibli.  Whether it’s My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Whisper of the Heart (1995), Princess Mononoke (1997), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008), From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), or The Wind Rises (2013), you know you’re getting sumptuous visuals and a compelling story.

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labyrinth-the-ultimate-visual-history

Fans of Jim Henson are always waiting for the next pebble of gold about the beloved creator of the Muppets and other fantastical creations on the big and small screen. Whether via a retrospective image or a story from someone who worked with him, it’s as if we need to make up for the time stolen from us by his untimely death by seeking out every snippet of his life we can find.  The latest treasure chest of Henson memorabilia is Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann’s beautiful hardcover, 30th anniversary celebration Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History, published by Insight Editions.  Labyrinth, the 1986 fantasy classic that starred rock star David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly decades before she’d be awarded an Oscar, is in a small class of cult classic fantasies that came out of the 1980s that included The Princess Bride, Willow, and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. 

Like so many of those “vault” books published for big genre franchises, Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History is not simply a book of high quality photographs of behind-the-scenes views of the cast, creatures, and crew and images of concept art, it’s all that plus more. Like more than 20 inserts reproducing treasures from the Henson Archives, including a pull-out of the full-color, theatrical one-sheet movie poster created for the film by Ted CoConis.  You’ll find classic style tipped-in concept art, draft script pages, and memos from Henson, with many items showing his hand-written notes.  

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I streamed the digital edition of Labyrinth (available here) to re-familiarize myself with the film before reading this new work, and was pleased to see every human character, every creature (all those goblins!), every scene, and every magical effect discussed in detail in this volume.  Three key images came to mind from viewing the film years ago: Bowie walking the M.C. Escher room in the show’s climax with a crazy upward, almost Michael Jackson-inspired move (turns out a stuntman worked the scene), Bowie’s flawless contact juggling of crystal balls (we learnit was a professional juggler’s arm actually doing the trick), and the masked ball (a pre-Star Trek Gates McFadden helped coordinate the scene).  Each of the scenes and production steps are described through contemporary or recent interviews with Jim Henson, Brian Henson and his siblings, Brian Froud (whose incredible concept art is sprinkled through the book and incorporated into its layout design), Toby (the striped baby) Froud, creature makers and players Kevin Clash and Dave Goelz, executive producer George Lucas, and actors Connelly and Bowie, among many others.

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Jimmy Stewart Lindbergh Spirit of St Louis

It’s the second time TCM and auction house Bonhams have teamed up to offer screen-used and production-made costumes, props, and other relics from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  A November auction, TCM Presents: There’s No Place Like Hollywood, will feature a large private collection of rare items from Casablanca, including the piano featured prominently in the film where Sam plays “As Time Goes By.”  A lesser seen piano from another scene in the film sold in 2012 for more than $600,000.

One lot features a mannequin display with costume components worn by Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, said to have been used in several scenes in the film.  Many of the costumes and props appear to be the same lots that have been featured in other auctions in the last few years, including various dresses from the Debbie Reynolds collection of items offered by auction house Profiles in History.

Casablanca piano

Costumes from several classic films are on the auction block, including a Clark Gable jacket from Gone With the Wind, Marilyn Monroe’s saloon gown from River of No Return, Jimmy Stewart’s Charles Lindbergh flight suit from The Spirit of St. Louis, Faye Dunaway’s dress from The Towering Inferno, a Jane Russell costume from The Outlaw, and a John Wayne Union Army coat from Rio Lobo and The Undefeated.  Sci-fi and fantasy fans aren’t forgotten in the TCM auction, as there will be costumes worn by Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall in Planet of the Apes, a background crewmember astronaut jumpsuit from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a test dress for Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and a Saruman staff and Aragorn sword from The Lord of the Rings films, both from Sir Christopher Lee’s personal collection.

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Wizard of Oz in IMAX 3D

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

When I was little, they showed The Wizard of Oz on TV once or twice a year, usually at holidays.  Back then, genre fan that I have been since birth, I was fascinated and baffled by the change from black & white to Technicolor.  I knew it was an old movie–what I didn’t understand was that it hadn’t always been shown on TV.

And if that’s the only way you’ve seen it, you haven’t.

If you’re a diehard Oz fan, feel free to skip this and come back tomorrow.  You don’t need it.  You’re already in the theater.  But if you’re just a casual fan, an admirer in theory… or even if you think you couldn’t care less about the 75-year-old film classic, do yourself a favor and clear two hours some evening this week.  Get thee to a SPECIAL ONE WEEK-ONLY FIRST-EVER IMAX 3D THEATER SHOWING and don your IMAX 3-D glasses. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

What have we missed, all these years of cramming Victor Fleming’s vision onto the small screen?

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The special effects that stand up to any modern CGI. It starts with a tornado more terrifying and realistic than anything in Twister and continues with the appearances and disappearances of the witches in a plume of red smoke and ethereal bubble, flawlessly woven into the film.  The matte painting backdrops throughout the film convey a sense of scale and scope to make Oz seem like a complete world, far bigger than just the parts Dorothy visits.

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